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How Anxiety Manifests in Your Body Physically

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How Anxiety Manifests in Your Body Physically

When you hear about anxiety, you generally hear about the mental and emotional effects it can have. However, it is important to recognize that anxiety may also include physical symptoms. The connection between how you are feeling physically and your emotional state may not always be obvious to you. Follow along as we clarify how anxiety manifests in your body physically and why your body reacts to anxiety physically. We will also discuss how you can manage your anxiety symptoms to better take care of your mental and physical well-being. 

Common Physical Symptoms

Some of the physical symptoms you may experience with anxiety include: shortness of breath, headaches, pounding heartbeat, upset stomach, loss of libido, extreme fatigue, increase in blood pressure, and other muscle aches and pains. Anxiety is the body’s response to stress. It initiates your fight-or-flight response. This often causes heavy breathing and a faster release of certain stress hormones into your bloodstream. While this is a helpful tool when you are facing a real threat, being in a constant state of fight-or-flight can take a big toll on your physical health. How anxiety manifests in your body physically is unique to each individual. Once you understand how your body reacts to stress, you can start to manage your specific symptoms. 

Why Your Body Reacts to Anxiety Physically

Again, anxiety is your body’s response to stress and initiates the fight-or-flight response. Your body reacts physically to anxiety because it is preparing to either fight the potential threat or run away. The most common physical symptoms of anxiety are heavy breathing and a racing heartbeat. Heavy breathing is meant to increase the amount of oxygen in your body so your body can receive more blood. However, this increase in oxygen can actually do the opposite of what you may expect. It can leave you feeling short of breath and may even result in hyperventilation. Long-term anxiety often causes your brain to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, on a regular basis. This may cause your heartbeat to speed up, as well as frequent headaches and dizziness. 

Continuing exposure to stress hormones can also contribute to many other serious health issues. For example, frequent, long-term exposure to cortisol has been linked to weight gain. In addition, adrenaline and cortisol affect digestion and blood sugar. This can explain why people with anxiety sometimes suffer from high blood pressure, stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and other digestive issues. Furthermore, because your body produces stress hormones when you are anxious, your body is in a constant state of high-alert. Functioning at a high-stress level constantly can be draining, leave you feeling exhausted, and decrease your immunity. It is difficult for your body to function when it is always in fight-or-flight mode, thus your immunity may suffer, causing you to get sick much more often. Finally, your muscles naturally tense up when your body is in fight-or-flight mode. If you are struggling with anxiety, there is never a chance for your muscles to relax. Chronic tension in your muscles inevitably leads to achy muscle pain.

Managing Anxiety Symptoms

To protect your mental and physical health it is important to take steps to better manage your anxiety symptoms. Treatment for anxiety depends on what symptoms you are suffering from and how severe those symptoms are. The two main treatments for anxiety are medication and therapy, or a combination of the two. Medications do not cure anxiety, but they can help minimize symptoms and stop anxiety from affecting your daily routine. The type of medication you may be prescribed depends, again, on the symptoms you are experiencing and the severity of those symptoms. Psychotherapy has also been proven to be an effective treatment for many anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common type of therapy used for anxiety treatment. CBT can help you pinpoint and focus on your fears realistically to overcome your panic. 

Chriselda Santos, licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, understands how detrimental anxiety can be to your mental and physical health. She specializes in helping her clients adopt healthy behaviors, reframe their way of thinking, and get them feeling hopeful again. If you are interested in learning more about Chriselda’s approach to therapy, or you want to book an appointment, visit her website