Anxiety’s Effects on the Body – 7 Signs!


The signs of anxiety often manifest themselves in outward behaviours and consequently, anxiety’s effects on the body can be numerous and significant.

There are many different aspects to our health – physical, mental, and emotional well being – and they are all intertwined with one another. Our physical bodies are obviously affected by what we eat and exercise. However, our emotional state and mental health also greatly impacts us physically. There is no way around it – you cannot be physically healthy if you are not managing your emotional and mental health as well. They all make up what we are and who we are.

Let’s explore how our physical health can be impacted.

#1. Quickened Breathing

Anxiety is often triggered by stressful situations and when we are put in those stressful situations, often our breathing becomes quicker and often shallow. If we already have asthma or breathing conditions, the additional pressures of life may make it even worse. For example, studies have shown that stress in the workplace can almost double the risk of developing asthma. Also, if a woman is under extreme stress during pregnancy, the baby is at a higher risk of developing asthma.

#2. Compromised Digestive Health

Often people who experience anxiety complain of a variety of stomach issues – cramping, diarrhea, and constipation. The balance of microorganisms in our digestive system is altered when we are anxious, resulting in these stomach issues. When our digestive health is altered, our bodies are unable to absorb the nutrients needed to stay healthy. Our immune system becomes compromised, we may begin to see signs of dehydration, and just generally feeling unwell.

#3. Weight Gain

Stress also increases the level of a stress hormone called cortisol which often leads to weight gain. With weight gain, comes excess fat in and around our organs. Our organs can be damaged to the point that they struggle to function properly. For example, an increase of fat around your liver can prevent it from being able to remove harmful toxins from your system efficiently. The toxins are then allowed to build up, making you even sicker and this is just another one of anxiety’s effects on the body.

#4. Overactive Spleen

Our spleen has several roles in the body that contribute to being healthy physically. It acts as a filter for our blood as part of our immune system. Old red blood cells are essentially recycled there while white blood cells are stored there. It also helps us fight specific kinds of bacteria that result in meningitis and pneumonia.

If we are often anxious and under stress, the spleen becomes enlarged and overactive. Essentially, it cannot work properly and it begins to remove and even destroy too many red blood cells. This can result in anemia which leads to perpetually feeling tired and not be able to be self-disciplined and accomplish what you wish you could.

#5. Neurological Issues

I am sure you realize that when your anxiety is triggered, your ability to think clearly and efficiently is highly compromised. It may even be downright impossible! This is because the stress interferes with a neurotransmitter called glutamate that is responsible for sending signals between nerve cells in your brain. It plays a significant role in memory and learning. If this may be an issue for you, try some of these techniques to improve your memory. They may help to calm you down but also increase your ability to remember things.

Anxiety can also make it extremely difficult to sleep and inevitably, there is a myriad of effects from that lack of sleep. The long term effects of not sleeping can be serious and need to be addressed. To help you sleep better, there are certain foods you can eat and even some habits that are useful.

#6. Possible Heart Damage

You find yourself surrounded by too many people and someone asks you a question that is maybe a bit too personal. It feels like everyone is looking at you and your heart feels like it will pound right out your chest at any moment. You feel the need to escape immediately. Those of you with anxiety may know this situation far too well and can recognize it as one of anxiety’s effects on the body.

Your heart, like any other organ, can be damaged if it is constantly under stress. Constant stress can lead to heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Of course, eating healthy foods and exercising are critical to a healthy heart but if you are finding yourself in non-stop anxiety-causing situations, your heart will be affected.

#7. Skin Health Problems

We all know someone who looks far older than their chronological age and usually, this is because their skin is not healthy looking. Our skin is our largest organ and is greatly affected by emotional distress and elevated stress levels.

Our skin is made up of millions and millions of microscopic cells that are greatly impacted by anxiety and stress. This can cause us to age prematurely, causing wrinkles and discolorations of our skin that makes us look older than we are. Reducing that stress is one strategy to looking younger but is also critical to keeping our skin healthy on the inside as well.

We may also experience unusual acne breakouts, especially on the face. Stress hormones cause an increase in the production of sebum which clogs the pores, causing acne to increase.

Individuals with more serious skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis may experience flare-ups where the symptoms worsen.

Final Thoughts…

Anxiety and chronic stressful situations affect the body and it is crucial that you pay attention to the signs. Don’t ignore the symptoms, thinking they will magically disappear. They will not. Realize that what is happening inside your brain is causing you physical issues now but can also result in long term damage.

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical body as anxiety’s effects on the body can range from mild to severe. No matter the cause of your anxiety – trauma, chemical imbalance, stressful situations, low self-esteem – please seek help.

Talk to a friend, a family member, a medical professional, whomever but remember that a healthy mind supports a healthy body.

Watch this YouTube video to see what Dr. Heidi Combs from UW Medicine has to say about the physical symptoms of anxiety.

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