How Anxiety Impacts Your Physical Health

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It’s easy to see how worry, stress, and fear can influence your moods and behaviors, but did you know they could have physical effects, too? Keep reading to find out how anxiety can impact your physical health.

Everyone experiences stress now and then, so you probably recognize the effects as it amps up your heart rate, quickens your breathing, and increases the blood flow to your brain. This is great when you need to face or get away from a dangerous situation, but not so great if your body stays in this state of high alert for a long time.

At Houston Medical-Mental Health Clinic, Lucas Egebe, PMHNP-BC, DNP, helps patients from in and around the northside of Houston, Texas, identify the source of their anxiety and find practical ways to manage it before it takes a toll on their physical health.

Here are a few of the ways chronic stress and anxiety can affect you physically.

Anxiety affects your cardiovascular system

If you already suffer from heart disease, anxiety exacerbates it and heightens your risk for serious coronary events, such as heart attack and stroke.

Living with anxiety can also lead to the development of heart problems where once there were none. A constant rapid heart rate can trigger chronically high blood pressure (hypertension), heart palpitations, chest pain, and heart disease.

Anxiety affects your immune system

When anxiety hits, it floods your body with hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This gets you ready to deal with a stressful or perilous situation, but as soon as you’re out of danger, your hormones return to normal levels. 

Under constant anxiety, however, these hormones stay elevated, which can confuse and weaken your immune system. A body under long-term stress and anxiety has trouble fighting off bacterial and viral infections.

Anxiety affects your nervous system

The same hormones that affect your heart and immune system — cortisol and adrenaline — can also do a number on your central nervous system. When these chemical levels are too high for too long, it can set the stage for dizziness, depression, and persistent headaches. 

Anxiety affects your digestive system 

Anxiety, whether short- or long-term, can wreak havoc in your digestive system. The stress hormones get into your digestive tract and tinker with your gut flora, or the microorganisms that help you digest food. They also swamp your natural antibodies. If you live under chronic anxiety, you may notice:

  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Stomach cramps
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Ironically, the development of these digestive problems can incite even more anxiety, leading to an ongoing cyclical problem. 

Anxiety affects your respiratory system

Along with a rapid heart rate, anxiety can give rise to shallow breathing. This can make it hard to catch your breath and participate in exercise. If you also happen to suffer from a long-term respiratory condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), anxiety can make the problem worse. 

Anxiety affects your muscles

Part of the “fight or flight” response made possible by moments of anxiety is the fact that your muscles receive extra blood and oxygen to prepare them for whatever comes next. Again, that’s helpful when your life's on the line, but when it’s not, it keeps your muscles in a constant state of tension that can lead to chronic pain, cramping, or tension headaches.

Treatment for anxiety

Don’t let anxiety take a toll on your body. At Houston Medical-Mental Health Clinic, we address the mental and physical consequences of chronic anxiety through evidence-based treatments tailored to your individual needs.

If you’re ready to discover the underlying cause of your anxiety and find the treatment that’s best for you, we can help. Call our friendly staff today, or request an appointment using our online scheduler.

Houston Medical-Mental Health Clinic
✆ Phone (appointments): 346-270-5897
✆ Phone (general inquiries): 346-270-5897
Address: 2833 Spears RD, Suite C, Houston, TX 77067