Nearly everyone experiences some degree of anxiety during their lives, but it becomes a more pressing problem when the anxiety interferes with your daily life. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue, affecting some 40 million people. Untreated anxiety doesn’t just affect your mental health, though; it can have an impact on your physical health as well.
When you’re struggling with anxiety, you may try to tough it out on your own, but it’s important to know there are treatments to help you feel better. The licensed mental health professionals at Wellness Road Psychology can help you meet challenges head on, overcome anxiety, and thrive. To better understand how untreated anxiety affects your physical health, we’ve gathered some helpful information.
Anxiety causes a physical response that affects your nervous system, which has a direct influence on your gastrointestinal system. Anxiety can cause digestive problems, including bouts of stomach cramps, and it’s linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
When you experience anxiety, the body releases a cascade of chemicals, including the stress hormone cortisol. Your body’s response to stress is meant to be a short-term way of adapting. However, chronic anxiety can put your body in a state of ongoing stress with consistently elevated cortisol, which comes with detrimental health consequences.
Cortisol not only raises blood sugar, but it also triggers sugar cravings and drives fat storage. Scientists have long made the link between elevated cortisol and weight gain, and people living with anxiety are more likely to gain weight. Additionally, anxiety influences behaviors that contribute to weight gain, like eating calorie-rich foods when stressed.
Aches and pains
There’s a two-way relationship between your mind and body, with each impacting the other. Chronic pain can influence your mood and thoughts, and pain is a common symptom of an anxiety disorder, which can make functioning even more challenging. When you have pain, it impacts your brain’s chemistry. Ongoing pain can rewire your brain and intensify pain perception. People living with anxiety are more likely to have pain, and the pain itself can lead to anxiety.
Excessive worrying can keep you up at night, interrupting your sleep and making it difficult to get deep, restful sleep. Whether you’re worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, feeling anxious prevents your mind from turning off to get the restorative sleep you need to feel refreshed.
Chronic muscle tension
Your body perceives anxiety as a potentially threatening situation, which causes the muscles to tense up, and your heart rate to increase, among other things. Many people with anxiety disorders have tight muscles as a result. The muscles remain in a state of fight-or-flight, keeping you on guard all the time. This can cause them to develop knots and ache all the time.
In addition to muscle tension, anxiety is linked to tension headaches and migraine.
Chronic untreated anxiety is bad for your heart. Living with untreated anxiety increases the risk of developing heart disease as well as having a heart attack. If you currently have heart disease, having anxiety increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
Seeking treatment for anxiety is not only good for your mental health, it’s also good for your physical wellbeing. With the help of a mental health professional, you can turn things around and improve your state of being.
To get started on the road to feeling better, contact us at Wellness Road Psychology to schedule an appointment with one of our providers. We have offices in NYC and Dobbs Ferry, New York, and we offer in-person, online, and phone coaching sessions.