Mind Racing? Here’s How Anxiety Affects Your Body

Anxiety is a normal response to stress. It’s a feeling of trepidation or fear of what is to come. We often experience these feelings at different moments in our life such as taking an exam, an upcoming job interview, becoming a parent, or any big life changes. This feeling is normal and can even be beneficial as it keeps us in a heightened state when we are most vigilant; this stems from a place of survival. However, prolonged and intense feelings of anxiety that trigger physical symptoms can interfere with your day-to-day life and relationships.

Aside from the mental impact anxiety has, it can also weigh on your physical health to include inflammation, migraines, stomach pain, heart palpitations, rapid breathing, trouble sleeping and sweating. These symptoms can cause panic and leave a person feeling defeated. Here at Dana Behavioral Health we understand how debilitating this can be. Don’t worry. We can help. Whether you have been on this long road before or this is a new journey for you, we are here to walk you through side by side and get you the help you need. 

At Dana Behavioral Health, we have experience in helping people from diverse backgrounds. With providers in Needham, Norwell, and Hanover, we have a team of providers to offer several behavioral health services such as:

  • Therapy for individuals
  • Couples Therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy and parent coaching
  • Psychological testing
  • Medication management

While this time may feel like it is wearing and no end in sight, there is help and we are here for you! Continue to read on and learn about the physical signs to look out for and how to conquer your life and body again.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It has a beginning and an end, dependent on an event or decision. Anxiety will often ease or pass with space from the stressful situation. However, people who experience anxiety that often comes out of nowhere, intense feelings lasting for weeks or longer, disproportionate emotional response to the situation, or irrational fears, may be experiencing an anxiety disorder. There are several kinds of treatable Anxiety Disorders that include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Various Phobia-Related Disorders

What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Researchers are finding that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. A person’s history, chemistry and temperament can all be reasons a person develops an anxiety disorder. The general factors that contribute to Anxiety Disorders are:

  • A history of anxiety or mental illness in a biological relative
  • Early childhood stress to include an environmental event
  • Extreme shyness as a child
  • Adulthood exposure to negative and stressful events
  • Physical Health Conditions to include heart and thyroid problems
  • Use of substances, caffeine, or medications

What Happens To Your Body During Chronic Anxiety?

When a person experiences chronic anxiety it can be a defeating and confusing time for the body and sometimes will cause more panic. It is not uncommon to experience more well-known symptoms from a pounding heart, to sweating and an upset stomach. But, depending on the person experiencing anxiety, there is a broader range of symptoms that may be experienced. It varies as anxiety and the body’s response is unique to itself. Here are other physical symptoms to watch for:

  • Headache
  • Breathing problems
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of libido
  • Pounding heart
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

There are other long term affects chronic anxiety can have on your body. When a person feels anxious, the body sends blood flow to the brain to be heightened and ready for the threat that is to come. This puts your body in a fight or flight mode as it perceives there is a serious threat ahead. The brain then sends chemicals and stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, to the body’s nervous system in response. Long-term exposure to adrenaline and cortisol can be taxing on the body in this constant revved up state. It can create a wide range of physical symptoms you may notice. 

While cortisol is known to contribute to weight gain, it’s responsible for much more. Cortisol is a steroid hormone made in the cortex of the adrenal gland, released throughout the body in the bloodstream. It influences several body functions to include the metabolism and immune function. Because every cell contains receptors for cortisol, the effects on the body very greatly depending on what cells are reacting. 

Like Cortisol, long-term exposure to adrenaline can have harmful effects on the body as well. Adrenaline’s function is to trigger the body’s fight-or-flight reaction. It changes the blood vessels to constrict and move blood toward major muscle groups as well as increasing the airway to allow in more oxygen. While this is beneficial when danger is near to get the body in a heightened state, it can leave a person feeling uneasy and unsettled when significant danger is not present. 

While adrenaline is beneficial in the event of significant danger, it has no real use in everyday common stress. When your body is receiving the message there’s a threat, it’s trying to protect you by keeping your brain on and alert. It can disrupt the body’s natural rhythm and sleep pattern, as it’s known to cause insomnia, which can lead to a host of other symptoms. Along with this, other effects it has on the body are high blood pressure, heart damage, and vision change. 

What Treatments Are There?

We all have stressors in our life, some more than others. It’s something we have to face and address alongside of our other experiences in life. The good news is we are here for you at Dana Behavioral Health to help you along the way. The first step would be to see a behavioral health therapist. With the help of the therapist, they can help you identify if you are experiencing general stress or an anxiety disorder and plan with you your next step. 

We offer talk therapy to help people with all backgrounds to identify issues, stressors, and a safe place to discuss feelings and emotions as a patient works through these life events.  In the case you are experiencing something more severe, we have the resources such as other types of psychotherapy and medication management. Medications are prescribed at a doctor’s discretion but may include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. 

In addition to seeking professional help, there are changes you can make in your day-to-day lifestyle. Healthy eating is a good start to be sure your body is getting proper nutrition. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and recreational drugs is also important as they can contribute to anxiety. Daily exercise has a multitude of benefits for your body and mind. When you exercise your body releases hormones called endorphins. Endorphins are a natural way to combat stress and pain. Lastly, engaging in activities that help unload your mind such as meditation or writing down your thoughts are wonderful activities to help you through. 

If you feel you are experiencing anxiety or an anxiety disorder, contact us today. We are here for you to help harness and reclaim your life and body. Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders are treatable and with one of our experienced providers and extended business hours, we are here to make an appointment when you need. 

Contact us today to get your appointment started!