How Anxiety Impacts Your Physical Health

May 03, 2022

How Anxiety Impacts Your Physical Health

Ever wonder why your heart races when your stress levels rise? Or how an experience can be “gut-wrenching?” It’s because your body and mind are intimately linked. Here’s what you should know about anxiety and its effects on your physical health.

It’s normal to feel “on edge” every now and then. In fact, a little anxiety is a normal healthy response to stressful situations. When that anxiety becomes chronic, however, it can start to take a toll. 

Many people who live under the weight of constant anxiety are at a significantly increased risk of physical complications that affect nearly every aspect of their health and wellness. 

Unfortunately, the physical ramifications of anxiety often go overlooked. But at Town Center Counseling in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, we know just how far-reaching the effects of persistent anxiety can be. 

Here, our experienced mental health specialist, Jennifer Joireman, MA, EdS, LPC, LCADC, takes a closer look at some of the ways anxiety can impact your physical health — and shows you how we can help you work towards managing your symptoms.

Anxiety affects your sleep

Chronic anxiety is perhaps best known for causing intrusive thoughts. You might find yourself worrying about the past, overanalyzing the present, desperately trying to sort out your future, or all the above. 

No matter what’s on your mind, it’s not uncommon that your sleeping habits pay the price for your overthinking. Sleep deprivation can lead to a slew of health problems, including:

  • Memory issues
  • Mood changes
  • Weakened immunity
  • Increased diabetes risk
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Lack of concentration
  • High blood pressure

So much more than a simple night’s rest, sleep is a crucial part of restoring and supporting your mental and physical health.

Anxiety influences your weight

Some people deal with anxiety by overeating. For others, anxiety zaps their appetite. The result is sudden and oftentimes uncontrollable weight gain or loss. 

Anxiety causes pain

Pain and mental health problems like anxiety have an interesting relationship. On one hand, anxiety can set off widespread aches and pains. That’s mainly because anxiety and stress keep you in a state of constant tension, which can cause muscle aches. You’re also more sensitive to pain when you’re anxious. 

 

On the other hand, if you already have aches and pains, they may give rise to anxiety or exacerbate an existing anxiety disorder.

Anxiety triggers headaches

The link between anxiety and headaches is similar to the link between anxiety and pain. Stress, hypersensitivity, muscle tension, and trouble sleeping are all factors that accompany anxiety and trigger headache attacks.

The reverse is also true: if you have a history of headaches and migraines, you may be at an increased risk for an anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety upsets your stomach

Constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion are just some of the gastrointestinal (GI) issues that can crop up when you live with chronic anxiety. 

Although it’s not completely understood exactly how your mental health impacts your GI health, researchers believe it has to do with your brain-gut connection. They also believe it’s a two-way street: Just as anxiety can trigger GI problems, GI problems can trigger anxiety or exacerbate an existing anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety impacts your cardiovascular system

When you feel an anxiety attack coming on, do you also notice that your heart starts to pound? That’s because anxiety sets off your body’s “fight or flight” response. 

As a result, your heart revs up to help you deal with the perceived threat. This can lead to a cascade of intense physical effects, including increased respiration and high blood pressure.  

Living with anxiety can be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. Here are some of the ways we can help.

Your treatment options

If you’re struggling with anxiety and the accompanying symptoms, you’re not alone. Nearly 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder. Sadly, many of them don’t seek help — they simply live with the effects of unmanaged anxiety and its ensuing complications. 

We want to change that. That’s why we offer comprehensive services to help you take control of your anxiety. Depending on your needs, we may recommend:

  • Therapy
  • Medication
  • Stress management techniques
  • Nutrition counseling

If you’re interested in learning more, or if you’d like to get started with treatment, we’d love to talk with you. Don’t hesitate to request an appointment online or over the phone at our office in Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, today.