Anxiety is more than a psychological problem—it has very real effects on your physical health, and may put people with anxiety at risk for several health conditions. Everyone experiences anxiety throughout life, but individuals who struggle with it on a regular basis may suffer side effects that have an impact on everything from digestion to their heart and lungs.
Here are some of the possible side effects of chronic anxiety:
1. Digestion Problems
Chronic anxiety disorders can wreak havoc on the digestive system. Effects of anxiety on digestion include stomach-aches, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Anxiety disorders may have some connection to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), especially after a bowel infection. IBS causes vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
3. Compromised Immune System
The feeling of anxiety triggers the fight-or-flight response. This stress response is a normal reaction to danger and perceived threats, and it releases a surge of chemicals into your body, including adrenaline. These chemicals and hormones bring more oxygen into your brain by increasing your breathing rate and sending your pulse racing, all in preparation for a difficult situation. This response is normal and healthy for your system—and your immune system even gets a nice boost! After the stressful situation passes, everything returns to normal.
When people with chronic anxiety experience the stress response over and over for a long period of time, it makes it difficult for the body to return to normal and eventually weakens the immune system, thus making it more likely to pick up infections.
4. Central Nervous System
When your brain is flooded far too often with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, you are left more susceptible to headaches, dizziness, and depression.
5. Weight Gain
Another effect of anxiety is weight gain. The chemical cortisol, which floods the brain during a fight-or-flight stress response, has been shown to contribute to gaining weight.
6. Cardiovascular System
Speeding up the heart during anxiety attacks can have some chronic side effects as well. These include chest pain, palpitations, and rapid heart rate—plus, anxiety disorders increase the risk of chronic problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
7. Breathing Problems
Anxiety attacks may cause rapid, shallow breathing. Over time, this can aggravate other health problems. People with asthma will often see anxiety worsen their symptoms, and those who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are hospitalized more frequently because of anxiety-related complications.
Chronic anxiety disorders can make it difficult to sleep at night, leading to insomnia—which in turn can worsen the symptoms of anxiety causing a stressful back and forth cycle.
Headaches and migraines are common complaints of those who struggle with anxiety disorders. Muscle tension is also an effect of anxiety which can lead to tension headaches.
10. Increased Heart Attack Risk
Two studies have shown that for those, both men and women, who suffer from an anxiety disorder are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who don’t.
Anxiety and the effects of chronic anxietycan be damaging and difficult to live with. Luckily, there are treatment options available to provide healing and relief for anxiety disorders. Aurora Behavioral Health offers mental health programs to help those struggling with anxiety and other mental illnesses. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how to find relief for yourself or a loved one.