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What Can Anxiety Do To Your Body

Seek Help If Your Anxiety Or Related Pain Is Uncontrollable

How stress affects your body – Sharon Horesh Bergquist

Anxiety may be a natural reaction to threat, but when it simply doesnt go away or turns into an anxiety disorder, it impacts the well-being of our whole body.

If youre struggling with anxiety, reach out for help. Your mind and body will thank you.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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While you may be focused on your mental health or the immediate physical symptoms, the long-term effects of anxiety on the body should not be ignored. Without the help of a mental health partial hospitalization program like ours, your anxiety could begin to impact your physical health as well. We offer unique therapeutic methods like art and music therapy and pet therapy!

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What Anxiety Can Do To Your Body

Anxiety may affect people differently. It has a varied effect on the mind and the body because of the release of certain hormones and other chemicals in the body.

It increases a persons chances of suffering from other medical conditions, such as heart diseases, raised blood pressure, high cholesterolobesity, depression and diabetes. Anxiety may also cause sleep disturbances and poor work performance.

Anxiety causes a rise in stress hormones and other responses along with a heightened inflammation affecting the whole body.

Anxiety may cause the following symptoms:

  • Fear or uneasiness
  • Pounding or thumping heartbeat
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Restlessness, inability to stay calm and still
  • Pins and needles sensations
  • Aches and pains such as headaches, backaches
  • Difficulty in breathing or rapid breathing
  • Changes in sex drive

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Anxiety Caused By Lifestyle Habits

Never underestimate the effect your lifestyle can have on your anxiety levels. For example, some research has shown that those that do not exercise are more prone to developing anxiety, because their body has unused energy, and because they start producing less stress-coping hormones.

Similarly, although diet does not traditionally cause significant anxiety, it can still play a role. Caffeine, for example, can exacerbate mild anxiety symptoms. Unhealthy foods can cause you to feel unhealthy, which in turn causes stress that leads to anxiety. Drug use is frequently a cause of anxiety.

This is why even with therapy and medicine, a change to lifestyle habits is often necessary.

For more information, consider the following topics to read:

  • Anxiety and Television
  • Anxiety and Dehydration

Anxiety Isnt Only In Your Head

Anxiety, Worry, Stress Not Only Show Up In The Mind, But Physically In ...

If you have anxiety, you might frequently feel worried, nervous, or afraid about ordinary events. These feelings can be upsetting and difficult to manage. They can also make daily life a challenge.

Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms. Think about a time when you felt anxious. Maybe your hands were sweaty or your legs were shaky. Your heart rate might have sped up. You could have felt sick to your stomach.

You might have linked these symptoms to your nervousness. But maybe you werent sure why you felt unwell.

Most people experience anxiety on occasion. Anxiety can be serious or turn into a disorder if it lasts for a long time, causes significant distress, or interferes with your life in other ways.

Types of anxiety include:

Specific types of anxiety might have additional physical symptoms.

If youre having a panic attack, you might:

  • fear that youre going to die
  • have trouble breathing or feel as if youre choking
  • have numb or tingling sensations in parts of your body
  • have chest pain
  • feel lightheaded, dizzy, or as if you might pass out
  • feel overheated or have chills

Anxiety, the bodys response to stress, is how your body alerts you to threats and helps you get ready to deal with them. This is called the fight-or-flight response.

Your body isnt meant to always be on alert. Being in constant fight-or-flight mode, which can happen with chronic anxiety, can have negative and serious effects on your body.

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What Is Stress And How Does It Affect Our Brains And Bodies

Stress is our reaction to a threatening event or stimulus. Such events and stimuli are called stressors. People perceive and react to stressors differently. Something one person would rate as highly stressful might be rated as considerably less stressful by someone else. These responses are affected by such factors as genetics and life experiences.

Stress can be classified as positive, tolerable or toxic. Toxic stress occurs when we are faced with a continuous stressor or triggered by multiple sources and can have a cumulative toll on our physical and mental health. It is an experience that overwhelms us and leaves us feeling powerless and hopeless.

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Q: How Does Stress Disrupt Sleep

Dr. Sinha: When youre continually stressed, your body constantly pulses out stress hormones, which make it harder to fall asleep and impair the deepest stages of sleep. That can lead to hyperarousal insomniaa state where your mind and body are easily woken by sounds or by your own stressful thoughts. No longer can you sleep as soundly as a baby.

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The Three Parts Of Anxiety

When we feel anxious, we automatically generate a three-part response that includes thoughts physical symptoms and behaviours . All three parts have an interactive and reciprocal relationship. This simply means that each part interacts and influences the other parts. None will occur in isolation. For example, if youre anxious about giving a presentation at work you would likely have some worrisome thoughts , experience some physical sensations , and take some sort of action . If your rehearsal isnt going well you may start having more worrisome thoughts that might lead to more physical sensations which might lead to a new action .

The following diagram exemplifies this process:

What Happens To Our Body When We Are Anxious

Stressed out? 4 Strange Things Stress Can Do to Your Body

Anxiety can cause many sensations in our bodies as it prepares for danger. These sensations are called the alarm reaction. They occur when the bodys natural alarm system is activated. These sensations occur because our bodies are getting ready to help us defend ourselves.

Recognizing Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

You can learn to identify the physical signs of anxiety by asking yourself: What happens when Im anxious? Where do I feel the anxiety in my body? For example, when you feel anxious, you may get butterflies in your stomach, sweat a lot, breathe heavily, and feel dizzy or lightheaded.

REMEMBER: If you often experience many uncomfortable physical symptoms, but doctors cannot find anything wrong with you physically, you may have problems with anxiety. You aredefinitely notgoing crazy. Although these symptoms may be uncomfortable, they are not harmful.

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Anxiety Causes Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are certainly very scary experiences and can be so violent that we actually believe we are in the process of dying. Here, our breathing becomes shallow, and our bodies feel like they are rapidly shutting down, making gasping for breath extremely challenging. The intense chest pains can also cause dizziness as well as make us feel completely numb.

Can Physical Anxiety Symptoms Last For Days

When you have anxiety and are consumed by a big, sudden fear, you can sometimes get slammed with intense physical symptoms that peak within minutes and subside almost as quickly, according to the Mayo Clinic. Thats especially true if youre dealing with a panic attackyour body literally cant feel that freaked out for much longer than that. Usually, things like a racing heart, sweating, or fast breathing will ease up as you start to feel calmer.

While having persistent, lower-grade worries clouding your brain might not make you feel like you cant breathe or that youre about to have a heart attack, chronic anxiety can cause physical effects that seem like theyre always lingering in the background. Feeling fatigued or worn out might be your norm if your anxiety regularly makes it hard to get enough sleep. Or maybe it feels like youre constantly walking around with a stomach ache or tight, sore shoulders, per the Mayo Clinic.

So, in a nutshell, physical symptoms of anxiety can definitely last for days, depending on your personal stressors. But theres no one-size-fits-all description for how long anxiety-fueled symptoms will stick around. If youre noticing them on the reg and theyre interfering with your daily life, whether for a few minutes at a time or for long stretches, its worth talking with your doctor to try to figure out whats going on both physically and mentally.

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You May Develop A Social Phobia

There is such a thing as social anxiety . But being prone to anxiety attacks, by themselves, can definitely exacerbate latent, or even previously non-existent, feelings of social unease. Let’s face it: no matter how distracted you are by your distress, having an anxiety attack in public is embarrassing. So if you start to freak out in the grocery store, don’t worry: you aren’t going crazy.

As Katharina Star, PhD wrote in Very Well Mind that some remedies for this situation include taking a friend with you if you have to go out, which can help you feel less paranoid about being conspicuous. Establishing a firm itinerary can also be profoundly useful.

Finally, remember that help is always available, and that the human mind has a miraculous, and wonderful, capacity for recovery. Nothing is forever even anxiety attacks. Hang in there, you’re not alone.

Anxiety: What It Is What To Do

Stress Wrecks Your Body

While anxiety symptoms vary widely, odds are good that at some point youve experienced occasional physical and emotional distress signals such as panicky breathing, your heart pounding in your chest, trouble sleeping, feelings of dread, or even loops of worry. Thats normal.

Experiencing anxiety is normal, says Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. A certain amount of anxiety can even be helpful. The problem is that sometimes the systems underlying our anxiety responses get dysregulated, so that we overreact or react to the wrong situations.

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Ways To Manage Stress

The easiest way to manage stress is to immerse yourself in activities that reduce anxiety-provoking thoughts and feelings.

For starters, incorporate regular exercise into your weekly routine. This can be as simple as taking a stroll around your neighborhood. Disconnecting from the world and your smartphone can do wonders for your state of mind.

Yoga or meditation are also an ideal way to both relax and work up a sweat. Yoga teaches you to control your breathing, which in turn can help you power through stressful situations when they arise.

Focus on activities and hobbies you enjoy. Read a book at night if youre into novels. Listen to your favorite artist while you cook if youre a fan of music. Play with your dog if animals help soothe your mood. Everyone has their own way of resetting their emotions. Find what works best for you.

You can also add positive affirmations, or positive self-talk, to your routine. Take a piece of paper and write down personal statements you can think about or say aloud several times a day. As an example, you may say Today will be a good day. I will focus on the things I can control and wont stress about the things I cant control.

The Study Found That Virtual Workouts May Lower Anxiety And Psychosocial Stress Responses When Compared To In

The findings indicated decreased anxiety levels and lower psychosocial stress response when the virtual training concluded when compared to the effects after performing actual exercise. Professor Dalila Burin, the developer of the study, explains, Psychosocial stress represents the stress experienced in frequent social situations such as social judgment, rejection, and when our performances get evaluated. Burin adds, While a moderate amount of exposure to stress might be beneficial, repeated and increased exposure can be detrimental to our health. This kind of virtual training represents a new frontier, especially in countries like Japan, where high performance demands and an aging population exist.

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You May Have A Fight Or Flight Reaction

When a person is confronted with a real, imminent danger, a reflex known as the fight or flight reaction kicks in. As as Nigel Barber, Ph.D, explained in an article he wrote for Psychology Today, this phenomenon is essential for survival, and is a “break glass in case of emergency” resource that nearly all mammals share. As Barber puts it, “the key quality of pathological anxiety is that it is out of proportion to any actual threat.”

Nevertheless, the actual symptoms, so to speak, are the same: accelerated pulse and breathing rates, sudden hyperawareness, and an urgent feeling that one needs to escape as soon as possible.

In other words, since experienced sufferers already know they’re having a panic attack, trying to intellectualize the problem is unlikely to help. Rather, some physicians recommend techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and “relaxation training,” though the efficacy of almost any treatment is ultimately personal and subjective.

Muscle Tension And Chronic Pain

What stress does to your body (it isnt always bad!)

Frequent distress signals from your amygdala to your central nervous system to prepare for a stress response can cause your muscles to contract, or tighten very often. Constant muscle tension can lead to cramped, stiff or sore muscles, and aches and pains that can tend to spread throughout the body. This may result in chronic pain conditions such as joint pains, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and so on.

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There Are Effective Treatments For Anxiety

Treatment is tailored to the diagnosis. Effective options include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as skipping caffeine, exercising regularly, and avoiding medicines or substances that might cause anxiety symptoms.
  • Mind-body approaches, such as deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and techniques to ease muscle tension and promote calm.
  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. CBT teaches people to challenge and reframe distorted or unhelpful anxious thinking, because thoughts influence feelings and actions. Exposure therapy helps people tolerate and calm anxiety by gradually exposing a person to feared situations or objects under guidance from a therapist.
  • Medicines, such as short-acting drugs called benzodiazepines, which are taken as needed when anxiety spikes. Low doses of some antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , help relieve anxiety when taken daily.

Often, a combination of approaches is best. Relieving anxiety with medicine while using CBT or exposure therapy to strengthen coping skills and help retrain the brain can do much to make anxiety manageable.

About the Author

Francesca Coltrera, Editor, Harvard Health Blog

What Causes The Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Whether youre experiencing occasional anxiety or a diagnosable anxiety disorder, anxiety can manifest in the body in different ways. By releasing stress hormones, anxiety can affect almost every system of the body. But what causes physical symptoms?

The bodys fight-or-flight response is responsible for the physical symptoms of anxiety. Your fight-or-flight response is supposed to help you survive an immediate threat by escaping or fighting it off. If you have anxiety, your fear and worry trigger the fight-or-flight response, activating your sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary breathing and heart rate. This activation leads the body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, contributing to anxietys physical symptoms.

Anxiety can manifest in the following ways:

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What Are The Different Types Of Anxiety Disorder

This section provides an overview of the most common types of anxiety disorders.

  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Generalised anxiety disorder

GAD is common. The main symptom of GAD is over worrying about different activities and events. This may feel out of your control. You feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD. You might feel on edge and alert to your surroundings.

This can affect your day-to-day life. You might find that it affects your ability to work, travel places or leave the house. You might also get tired easily or have trouble sleeping or concentrating. You might have physical symptoms, such as muscle tension and sweating.

It is common to have other conditions such as depression or other anxiety disorders if you have GAD.

GAD can be difficult to diagnose because it does not have some of the unique symptoms of other anxiety disorders. Your doctor is likely to say you have GAD if you have felt anxious for most days over six months and it has had a bad impact on areas of your life.

Panic disorder

You will have regular panic attacks with no particular trigger if you have panic disorder. They can happen suddenly and feel intense and frightening. You may also worry about having another panic attack.

Panic disorder symptoms can include the following.

You may also dissociate during a panic attack. Such as feeling detached from yourself.

Social anxiety disorder

Some common situations where you may experience anxiety are the following.

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