Long term or repeated periods of stress can cause a variety of health problems in an individual; anxiety, a chronic form of stress, is no different and can have intense side effects on a person, both in the short and long term. These side effects can cause both physical and mental challenges and problems, and are sometimes best addressed only with the help of a professional healthcare provider.
1. Constant release of stress hormones
When the body is stressed, it naturally releases certain stress hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones and chemicals kick the body into the “fight or flight” mode, and anxiety triggers the brain into believing it constantly needs to be in this fight or flight state. However, anxiety also doesn’t allow the brain to click out of this mental state, causing the body to be flooded with an unmonitored supply of these chemicals, weakening the immune system and exhausting the individual.
2. Cardiovascular problems
Common symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks include rapid breathing, heart palpitations, tightness and pain in the chest, which can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. This is likely a result of being in a heightened state of stress and alertness and the overabundance of stress hormones within the body.
3. Gastrointestinal issues
Anxiety also has negative effects on the gut, manifesting in conditions such as bloating, stomach pains, cramping, diarrhea, nausea / vomiting and irritable bowel syndrome.
4. Lowered immune functioning
This relates back to the concern of an overabundance of stress hormones and chemicals in the body’s system. If the body remains in this state of intensity, always on alert via the fight or flight response, your body will never be able to return to its normal state of rest. Not only is this exhausting, it’s very wearing on the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to infections and illness more frequently.
5. Chronic pain
If your brain is sending constant signals of distress to your nervous system, your muscles will contract. When you experience a close call in a vehicle, for example, you realize afterward that all your muscles have contracted and your body is very tense. This happens when the body is constantly anxious, the muscles are often contracted and tense. This can lead to soreness, tension, injury as a result of tight muscles and even headaches and migraines.
6. Weight fluctuations
Anxiety has different effects on the bodies of different individuals. Some cope with anxiety through stress eating or binge-eating as a method of self-soothing. Unfortunately, this may lead to unwanted weight gain. On the other hand, others may feel sick as a result of stomach and digestive issues, leading to a decrease in appetite and reluctance to eat consistently.
7. Memory loss
Constant worry and preoccupation with anxious thoughts may have negative effects on one’s working memory. You might find yourself forgetting things, becoming overwhelmed by busy schedules and making mistakes more often than usual. This can lead to a decrease in work or school performance, cause you to miss important appointments or dates, and can, in turn, lead to even greater feelings of anxiety and stress.
Anxiety can lead to additional mental health problems, the most common of which is depression. Depression occurs when anxiety reaches such a point that an individual feels there is little hope of a way out and becomes overwhelmed with a sense of isolation, hopelessness and despair.
When to seek help for anxiety side effects
Whether an individual battles generalized anxiety, social anxiety, PTSD, OCD, panic disorder or phobias, numerous difficulties arise in the wake of the diagnosis. Anxiety isn’t an isolated condition because it affects the body in numerous different ways. However, recovery is possible.
If you suspect that some of the physical conditions you are experiencing might be related to anxiety, or that your battle with anxiety is leading to unpleasant health conditions, it might be time to reach out to a medical professional for help.
Unfortunately, treating just one or the other won’t lead to a complete and total recovery. When addressing anxiety, both the anxiety and the resulting side effects should be treated together. If just the digestive or immune problems are treated, but the anxiety is left untouched, they will reappear within a matter of time. Why? Because the anxiety, the root of the problem, is still at large.
To speak with someone about treating anxiety and finding relief from its side effects, contact The Light Program today at 610-644-6464.