College of DuPage Nursing Student Krystal Stevenson wrote for Healthy Lombard that as many as 40 million U.S. adults suffer from some type of anxiety disorder (Hrabowy, 2018). Many people may experience anxiety now and then, which is normal. However, chronic anxiety, or anxiety that interferes with a person’s daily life, may have detrimental effects on the body. Few people know of the toxic effects that can occur when stress and anxiety go untreated, or how these effects can lead to long-term health problems.
There are several disorders that that fall within the scope of anxiety. Most of them consist of similar symptoms including irritability, feeling nervous or restless, hyperventilation, sweating, trouble sleeping, GI problems, and difficulty controlling worry (Mayo Clinic, 2018). These symptoms can even manifest into panic attacks which cause shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or an intense feeling of impending doom.
Why does a person experience anxiety? The symptoms of anxiety can be linked to the fight or flight response of our bodies, which is a response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years. When there is a perceived threat, our body gets ready to defend itself or flee. The hormones cortisol and epinephrine are released into the body, causing an increased heart rate, increase in blood pressure, and an increase in glucose levels (Cherney, 2020). With chronic anxiety disorders, the constant worry and stress can cause your body to always be on overdrive and constantly release these hormones, wreaking havoc on your body.
Long-term exposure to the hormones that are released in the body when you have anxiety can cause harmful damage. It causes issues with the cardiovascular system, increasing someone’s risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Anxiety can also manifest itself into GI issues and a person can experience nausea, diarrhea, or be diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (Cherney, 2020). Chronic anxiety can even suppress your immune system, which can increase your risk for viruses, infections, and can lead to autoimmune disorders.
What can be done, so these issues don’t cause limiting symptoms? It is important to talk to a health care professional if you are experiencing anxiety-like symptoms, especially if they are affecting your everyday life and relationships. The treatment varies, and what may be right for you may look different for someone else. Medication therapy, meditation, therapy, and vitamin/supplements are some of the options that can be implemented. All in all, it is imperative that something is done about chronic anxiety before it begins to alter your body and cause irreversible damage.
Cherney, K. (2020, August 25). 12 effects of anxiety on the body. Healthline. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/effects-on-body.
Hrabowy, I. (2018, April 30). How does anxiety influence your health. Summa Health. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.summahealth.org/flourish/entries/2018/04/how-does-anxiety-influence-your-health.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, May 4). Anxiety disorders. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961.