Anxiety is a relatively common mental health problem that affects millions of people today. It is a debilitating problem that, if ignored or left untreated, can have a negative impact on a person's mental and physical well-being.
Long ago people thought that there was a divide between mental and physical health. However, recent studies have favored a holistic view. This means that a problem with one part of your body can lead to adverse effects in other areas as well. Fortunately, this has led to a holistic approach in developing a treatment for anxiety.
Mental disorders like anxiety and depression are scary because they don't just contaminate your thoughts. They also affect your physical health and cause significant damage to your organs without you even realizing it.
Here are the ways that fear affects the physical body:
If you've ever had a panic attack, you know that one of the telltale signs is hyperventilation. Rapid breathing occurs when your body reacts to stress.
The first thing to happen is your heart racing, which would cause you to need more oxygen to prepare your body for combat or flight mode. This would make your body meet that demand by trying to get as much air into your system as possible. However, you need to keep in mind that doing so can create an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can worsen other symptoms of physical anxiety.
That's why one of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to learn how to breathe really deeply. The process involves breathing in through your nose and expanding the diaphragm with oxygen. Hyperventilation is often characterized by quick, shallow breaths. Conversely, if you feel like a panic attack is coming, you should practice mindfulness and use diaphragmatic breathing to calm yourself down. You can even take up some calming yoga positions to center yourself in your head in the middle of the storm.
2. Chest pain
If your heart is racing too fast, chest pain and, worse, a stroke can occur. This happens when your body is constantly going into fear mode.
Experiencing faster heart rates and palpitations can wear your heart down. It can also increase your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
3. Sweating and shaking
Another physical manifestation of fear is sweating and tremors. These two stress reactions can occur simultaneously or separately. Fearful or stressful thoughts can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the sweat glands throughout the body.
Again, this response happens because your body is prepared to fight predators or to flee towards safety. While the danger may be "everything on your head," it does not eliminate the fact that your body feels that it is a real threat to your life.
Shaking, on the other hand, can be caused by anxiety-related hormonal surges. Similar to homeostasis between oxygen and carbon dioxide, anxious thoughts can lead to a mismatch between the various chemicals that interact in your body.
Sex hormones like testosterone and progesterone influence how you deal with stress. This may be why anxiety usually peaks during periods of hormonal changes such as puberty, as well as menstruation and menopause in women.
Adrenaline and cortisol are also known stress hormones. Your body produces them to deal with the threat and the measures you should take. However, individuals with anxiety have an excess of these chemicals.
4. Hormonal imbalance
As mentioned above, anxiety can cause your hormones to get out of hand. The fight-or-flight stress response produces some chemicals to prepare your body for action.
With fear, however, the perceived danger is not anchored in reality. This way, your body may not be able to use up the energy and chemicals it built up because you haven't done anything about the situation, which means it will take a little longer to recover. Also, the cycle can continue while you continue to struggle with the mental disorder.
5. Digestive Problems
Nausea is a common symptom of anxiety. You may have experienced a feeling of fear that starts in the pit of your stomach. Persistent panic and worrying thoughts can cause problems with your digestion and appetite due to the connection between your gut and your mind.
An imbalance in the amount of good and bad bacteria in your stomach is known to affect your cognition. Likewise, mental health issues such as anxiety can also affect digestive functions.
6. Persistent fatigue
Fast heart rates, sweating, tremors, and nausea can all affect your physical health. The problem gets worse if you have trouble sleeping, even at night, from the thoughts on your mind.
All of these factors contribute to a feeling of fatigue caused by anxiety.
7. Body pain
The tense feeling you experience when you have a panic attack or just having worried thoughts can subconsciously make you tense your muscles. This tension is the way your body prepares to feel injury and pain. This leads to body aches and pains, which makes the persistent tiredness you feel worse.
8. Bad immune system
If you look at it in the short term, worry can save your life as it signals your body to prepare for battle or to flee from an intense situation. You may even get a brief immunity boost to cope with your stress response.
However, it is not physically sustainable if you continue in this mental state. This means that your body is constantly sensing an impending danger and preparing to no longer know how to function normally again, which can lead to fatigue and weaken your immune system.
The problem with anxiety is that it affects not only your mental state but your physical health as well. You may have experienced hyperventilation, sweating, and tremors due to the stress you feel from a perceived threat to your wellbeing.
If left untreated, frequent combat or flight modes can lead to harmful consequences.