Chronic anxiety can cause a lot of overall health issues that you may not know about.
Woman suffering from anxiety. / Photo: Rawpixel - Reference image
LatinAmerican Post | Luisa Fernanda Baéz
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Leer en español: Estos son los efectos que la ansiedad tiene en tu salud
We all experiment anxiety at times, but chronic anxiety feels very different and comes with a lot of overall health issues.
As read on Medical News Today, even though anxiety disorders can happen at any stage of life, they usually begin by middle age and, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, they are more common in women.
Actually, according to The Conversation, reproductive events across a woman’s life are associated with hormonal changes, which have been linked to anxiety. For example, the rise in estrogen and progesterone that occurs during pregnancy can increase the risk for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Also, as read on the same site, women are more likely to experience physical and mental abuse than men, this has been linked to the rise of anxiety disorders.
As we said before, besides the common symptoms, anxiety can cause:
Respiratory problems: as read on Medanta org, when a person is anxious unhealthy breathing patterns tend to appear. For example, their breath becomes short, rapid and shallow and the amount of oxygen inhaled is more than the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled, which can lead to numbness, loss of consciousness, dizziness, among others.
Also, a 20-year study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in 2005 found that people diagnosed with panic disorder were six times more likely to develop asthma than those without anxiety.
Stomach and gastrointestinal issues: as read on Talkspace, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that those with anxiety are more likely to experience irritable bowel syndrome as well as a higher degree of diagnosed ulcers.
Also, according to Medanta org, anxiety can also cause chronic stomach pains, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and so on.
This can be explained due to the gut-brain axis, a communication system between the brain and the enteric nervous system, which is the one that governs digestion.
Sleep problems: according to NIMH, a person with anxiety can have a difficult time falling and/or staying asleep. As read on Self, when one is anxious, there are elevated levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
As read on Talkspace, this not only causes other health issues such as heart disease or impaired judgment, but it can also even jumpstart or increase anxiety disorders themselves.
Poor inmune function: as read on Medical News Today, people with chronic anxiety disorders may be more likely to get the common cold, the flu and other types of infection.
According to Mayo Clinic, the immune system doesn’t function well when your fight or flight response is operating for too long, which happens when you have anxiety.
Muscular pain: in people with anxiety, distress signals are sent from the amygdala to the central nervous system in order to prepare for a stress response. This, as read on Mandata org, can cause the muscles to contract very often, which leads to stiff or sore muscles, constant cramps and, in the long term, it can cause chronic conditions such as joint pains, arthritis, fibromyalgia, among others.
Also, as read on Talkspace, there’s a strong correlation between anxiety, tension headaches, and migraines or even dental issues caused by clenched teeth.
Blood sugar spikes: according to Talkspace, as we release cortisol and epinephrine during the fight-or-flight response, the liver produces more glucose to give the body a boost of energy. When the emergency passes, the body usually absorbs this extra blood sugar but, according to the American Psychological Association, the repeated increases in blood sugar can increase the risk for those predisposed to type 2 diabetes of getting the disease.
How to cope with anxiety
If anxiety is tearing you down, here are some things you can do to cope according to Fairview org:
- Take it easy. You can not control everything about a situation.
- Exercise can help you relieve tension and help your body feel relaxed.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which can work at the time but can worsen anxiety symptoms.
- Educate yourself about anxiety disorders.
- Try stress management techniques such as meditation.
- Consider online or in-person support groups.