You probably know some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. Your palms get sweaty and you may feel something akin to “butterflies” in your stomach. You might even feel a bit nauseous.
Everyone has anxiety from time to time. But having chronic anxiety takes a toll on your physical health in ways you may not understand. You’re far from alone: the National Institute of Health estimates that 31% of the United States population will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
Jon Deam, MD, at Dr. Jon Deam in San Diego, California, can work with you to customize a treatment plan to manage your anxiety and bring you relief. Here he explains more about how anxiety can affect your physical health.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety produces a wide variety of physical symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Upset stomach
- Pounding heart (this can even make you think you’re having a heart attack!)
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Loss of sex drive
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue
Anxiety also produces a wide variety of mental health symptoms, including depression, excessive worrying, and irritability.
Ongoing physical effects of anxiety
Managing your anxiety is crucial, because it can have long-term effects on your physical health. Some of the ways that anxiety can affect your physical health include:
While it’s possible that an anxiety attack can make you think you’re having a heart attack, the truth is that anxiety actually puts you at a real increased risk of heart problems. Part of this is because of the way your body responds to anxiety.
When you have an anxiety attack, your heart pumps blood faster to get it to the part of your body that perceives a threat. Normally, your heart rate returns to normal after the perceived threat is gone. But when you have chronic anxiety, your body doesn’t return to its normal state. This increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
High blood pressure
Similar to the reason for heart problems, when you have chronic anxiety, you’re also at increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
Anxiety doesn’t cause spikes in your blood pressure, but the repeated activation of your fight or flight response does lead to increased blood pressure over time. This can lead to kidney problems and damage to your heart and brain as well.
Asthma and breathing problems
It’s common to have breathing problems when you have an anxiety attack, including shortness of breath and tightened airways. But experiencing this on a frequent basis can lead to an increased risk of asthma.
A 20-year study found that people with panic disorder were six times more likely to develop asthma. If you have chronic anxiety, you’re also at increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
People with anxiety are more likely to experience difficulty falling asleep (and staying asleep). This sets off a vicious cycle: the more trouble you have falling asleep, the more likely you’ll have continued trouble sleeping.
Stomach problems aren’t just a common symptom of anxiety, they can also lead to more serious problems over time. People who have chronic anxiety are more likely to develop ulcers, as well as experience irritable bowel syndrome.
What to do about chronic anxiety
Living with chronic anxiety is difficult, but you shouldn’t have to suffer alone. Using a personal and relationship-focused approach, Dr. Jon works with you to develop an effective and unique treatment for your anxiety. This treatment may consist of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or a combination of the two.
Don’t wait any longer to seek treatment and relief from your anxiety. If you’re feeling chronically anxious, contact Jon Jon, MD at Dr. Jon Deam today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.
Author Dr. Jon Deam