The Effects Of Anxiety On The Body
Anxiety is a normal part of life. For example, you may have felt anxiety before addressing a group or in a job interview.
In the short term, anxiety increases your breathing and heart rate, concentrating blood flow to your brain, where you need it. This very physical response is preparing you to face an intense situation.
If it gets too intense, however, you might start to feel lightheaded and nauseous. An excessive or persistent state of anxiety can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.
Anxiety disorders can happen at any stage of life, but they usually begin by middle age. Women are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men, says the National Institute of Mental Health .
Stressful life experiences may increase your risk for an anxiety disorder, too. Symptoms may begin immediately or years later. Having a serious medical condition or a substance use disorder can also lead to an anxiety disorder.
There are several types of anxiety disorders. They include:
Effects Of Stress On The Body
Its normal to feel stressed sometimes, but if you always feel under-the-pump it can have a really negative impact on your mind and body. This is because stress is supposed to be a short-term response to danger and not a constant state of being. If you know the signs that youre experiencing stress, youll be better placed to keep it under control.
Halitosis Gas And Secondary Scents
Also, what you may see as body odor may be some other type of smell. Bad breath is a common problem in people with anxiety for a variety of reasons, including increased breathing through the mouth, acid reflux, and dry mouth as a result of anxiety. Flatulence is also more common in people with anxiety. While these smells that are not technically body odor, if you are frequently gassy you may begin to associate the smell with your normal scent.
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How Is Stress Diagnosed
Stress is subjective not measurable with tests. Only the person experiencing it can determine whether it’s present and how severe it feels. A healthcare provider may use questionnaires to understand your stress and how it affects your life.
If you have chronic stress, your healthcare provider can evaluate symptoms that result from stress. For example, high blood pressure can be diagnosed and treated.
A New Book Explains How Anxiety Can Give Us Clues About What Would Make Our Lives Better
Anxiety can feel like a heavy weight that we didnt ask to carry. Who wouldnt love to get rid of it?
But neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki wants to challenge the way we look at our anxiety. In fact, her new book is called Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion.
If youre skeptical, so was I. But Suzukis point is that anxiety is a natural human emotion, one that evolved to serve a purpose. We feel anxious when there is some kind of danger it primes our body to fight or flee from that danger, in hopes that well end up better off . In the same way, our modern anxieties can be a warning signal for things that are wrong: not enough rest, too much multitasking, isolation from others. Our anxious energy alerts us to change our lives for the better, she argues.
If we simply approach it as something to avoid, get rid of, or dampen, we not only dont solve the problem but actually miss an opportunity to leverage the generative power of anxiety, she writes.
To do that, we first need to turn down the volume of our anxiety, so that we can listen to what it has to say. Meant for people with everyday anxiety , Good Anxiety explains how to do that in order to make your life more productive, creative, and connected. In our Q& A, Suzuki highlights some of the ideas from her book.
Kira M. Newman: How is good anxiety different from bad anxiety?
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Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The defining feature of generalized anxiety disorder is excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least six months. The intensity of the anxiety or worry is out of proportion to the actual likelihood or impact of the anticipated event or events.Other symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include the following:
- Difficulty controlling worry
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Psychosomatic symptoms: Headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, pins and needles
- Physical symptoms: Shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain
- The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning
Find Out What Could Be Making Your Anxiety Worse
Everyone gets anxious, restless, and frazzled but if you constantly feel worried, tense, or on edge, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time.
Examples of other anxiety disorders include:
- Specific phobias
According to the Mayo Clinic, you can have more than one anxiety disorder.
Research shows that a combination of environmental and genetic factors likely increase a persons risk for developing an anxiety disorder, notes the National Institute of Mental Health. Like so many health conditions, anxiety appears to run in families.
In addition to underlying disorders, anxiety may be caused by stress, whether from a major life event or the accumulated effect of small everyday stressors. Anxiety can also come with a medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or thyroid disorders that need treatment. Theres a clear link between caffeine and anxiety and alcohol and anxiety. And certain medications may cause anxiety. In this case, avoiding caffeine and alcohol or changing medications may reduce the anxiety. Its important to note that while all these things can cause anxious feelings, this type of anxiety is distinct from a psychiatric diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
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Chest Pains And Other Panic Symptoms
Not all aches and pains are in your muscles either. Some anxiety disorders can cause other symptoms, like chest pains, a painful tingling in the hands and feet, and more. These are often the result of hyperventilation, which occurs during panic attacks and severe anxiety.
Headaches are tricky. Most anxiety headaches are actually just a form of tension, known as a “tension headache.” Your muscles tense up, and your head experiences pain as a result. But anxiety is also known to cause migraines, and migraines can lead to immense discomfort around your head, as well as symptoms that may create more anxiety.
Another thing to keep in mind with anxiety is that not all aches and pains are caused by anxiety. Every day you experience very small discomforts all over your body for many reasons. Someone who is anxiety-free may be able to ignore them and find that they quickly go away.
But those with anxiety tend to suffer from what’s known as “hypersensitivity.” Hypersensitivity is when you become too attuned to the way your body feels, to the point where you notice nearly every physical sensation in your body. When you pay that much attention to those sensations, your mind has a tendency to amplify them, and that makes them more likely to cause more pain than they would have naturally done.
Stress And Your Health
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.
Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health.
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Caffeine And Anxiety Make You Feel Jittery And Nervous
Caffeine is a stimulant and that can be bad news for someone with anxiety. Caffeine’s jittery effects on your body are similar to those of a frightening event. That’s because caffeine stimulates your fight or flight response, and research has shown that this can make anxiety worse and can even trigger an anxiety attack.
Other research suggests that while caffeine can increase alertness, attention, and cognitive function, overdoing it can increase anxiety, particularly in people with panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. And as with the symptoms of anxiety, one too many cups of joe may leave you feeling nervous and moody, and can keep you up at night.
How Much Stress Is Too Much
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, its important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is too much differs from person to person. Some people seem to be able to roll with lifes punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include:
Your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. When you have people you can count on, lifes pressures dont seem as overwhelming. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.
Your sense of control. If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, its easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your lifethat youre at the mercy of your environment and circumstancesstress is more likely to knock you off course.
Your attitude and outlook. The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If youre generally hopeful and optimistic, youll be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, believe in a higher purpose, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.
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Cortisol And Weight Gain
Chronic stress can add pounds as well as worries. The chemical cortisol acts like a foot on the gas pedal of stress. It is also responsible for some of the physical changes stress can bring on, and some of these are unwanted, especially when stress lingers for weeks or months.
Cortisol puts a high demand on your body’s resources. You need this in the face of danger. But in the modern world stress is more likely to be caused by money problems than dangerous animals. This causes problems that can lead to unwelcome weight gain.
Since cortisol taxes your body’s energy stores, it also makes you hungry–especially for sugary and fatty foods that give you a quick burst of energy. If your stress isn’t prompting physical exercise in response, you’re likely to gain weight. What’s more, cortisol encourages your body to store excess energy as fat.
How much cortisol causes weight gain likely varies from person to person. Tests on sheep show that some are more responsive to cortisol than others. These high-cortisol responders eat more than other sheep when stressed and also gain more weight. Some researchers think this could help identify people who are prone to stress-related obesity.
How Does Anxiety Impact Your Body
Have you ever watched a nature show where a zebra flees from a ferocious predator like a lion? Its not by chance that the zebra takes off running for its life in less than a second. The mammalian anatomy of zebras is primed to respond to threats that quickly.
And the way a human body responds to perceived threats is very similar. In fact, your bodys threat response system actually bypasses conscious thought. Its an involuntary response that takes place in just fractions of a second.
How does it work? In an emergency, your brain triggers the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which elevate heart rate and prime muscles while simultaneously shutting down non-essential functions like reproduction, healing, and repair.
Like zebras, humans possess mammalian anatomy that responds rapidly to emergency situations. But unlike humans, zebras dont get ulcers.
Why? Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford biologist who studies stress-related illness, explains why zebras dont get ulcers. Its because they only need to manage immediate physical stressors like predators but dont experience chronic emotional or psychological stress the way humans do.
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The Physical Side Of Anxiety
The brain is a powerful organ. So much that the anxiety, the depression, and the fear can turn mental fears into actual physical pains.
Most people actually experience anxiety as a physical problem, said Jason Conover, social worker for Intermountain Healthcares Utah Valley Hospital. It often doesnt get recognized because the physical symptoms are so apparent and quite troubling that they might think they are experiencing something else for instance, a heart attack.
Anxiety builds tension throughout the body. Conover said in the brain can react to thoughts of fear and turn to the muscles to brace for a moment that is not happening. Much like if you were about to get in an accident or protecting your body to get punched. The action never happens but chemically you just experienced it just from a random fear thought that crept in.
Treating anxiety is important for better mental health and physical health as well. Inflammation builds up from the stress, and inflammation is a culprit in numerous chronic conditions such as heart and gastrointestinal conditions.
Here are several ways that anxiety manifests in physical problems.
Breathing Due to the tension, your breathing can change, Conover said. Breathing can become shorter, shallower, or even holding your breath too long. The lungs do not fully exhale due to the tension. Relaxation and breathing techniques can help.
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Shoulders Head And Jaw
The effects of stress in your body can move through the tension triangle, which includes your shoulders, head and jaw.
Stress can trigger tension headaches, tightness in the neck and jaw, and knots and spasms in your neck and shoulders, says Dr. Lang. It also may contribute to TMJ, a jaw disorder.
Ask your doctor about remedies such as stress management, counseling or anxiety-reducing medicine.
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When Should I See My Doctor
If you or someone close to you is experiencing an emergency, or is at risk of immediate harm, call triple zero . To talk to someone now, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you have tried relaxation techniques and reaching out to someone you trust, but still feel overwhelmed, you can check in with your doctor or speak with a mental health professional.
Stress is not itself a diagnosis but rather a clue that something else is going on. Chronic stress could be a sign of depression, anxiety or a symptom of another mental health condition. GPs and psychologists are trained to know how to recognise when stress is a sign that you need extra support, so dont hesitate to reach out for advice.
What Are The Signs Of Stress
When your body senses danger, it releases stress hormones that cause short-term physical changes. These changes help you to stay focused and alert until things are under control. However, if stress is constant and these changes persist, they can lead to serious problems in the long term.
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Simple Strategies Can Reduce The Headaches Upset Stomach And Shortness Of Breath That May Be Triggered By Emotional Stress
You’ve had headaches on and off, or possibly nausea, or muscle pain. It could be emotions, rather than a physical illness, driving your symptoms.
Blame your autonomic nervous system. This is a system in your body that you don’t consciously control, but that regulates things like your heart rate, breathing, urination, and sexual function. It’s also the system that reacts when you are under a physical threat. The autonomic nervous system produces your fight-or-flight response, which is designed to help you defend yourself or run away from danger.
When you are under stress or anxious, this system kicks into action, and physical symptoms can appear headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, shakiness, or stomach pain. “Doctors see it all the time patients with real pain or other symptoms, but nothing is physically wrong with them,” says Dr. Arthur Barsky, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
In today’s world, with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic toll, many people may be noticing new physical symptoms without realizing what’s causing them. “This is a terribly stressful time,” says Dr. Barsky. “There is stress about what our lives are like, the ominous threat of getting the virus and getting sick. It’s already clear that the pandemic is heightening anxiety and sense of stress.”
Can Excessive Worry Make Me Physically Ill
Chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems. The problem occurs when fight or flight is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. The fight or flight response causes the bodyâs sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides that can be used by the body for fuel. The hormones also cause physical reactions such as:
- Difficulty swallowing
If excessive worrying and high anxiety go untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Although these effects are a response to stress, stress is simply the trigger. Whether or not you become ill depends on how you handle stress. Physical responses to stress involve your immune system, your heart and blood vessels, and how certain glands in your body secrete hormones. These hormones help to regulate various functions in your body, such as brain function and nerve impulses.
All of these systems interact and are profoundly influenced by your coping style and your psychological state. It isnât the stress that makes you ill. Rather, itâs the effect responses such as excessive worrying and anxiety have on these various interacting systems that can bring on the physical illness. There are things you can do, though, including lifestyle changes, to alter the way you respond.
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