Physical Impact of Anxiety

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Man with migraine holding his head

When we think of anxiety, we mostly think about the mental impact it has. However, many anxiety-sufferers also have physical symptoms. Sometimes, they are so used to the mental impact that they consider it to be normal, and are surprised that their physical symptoms are related to anxiety.

Physical Problems

Before I go any further, I need to emphasise that if you do have any of these physical symptoms, you should go and see your doctor. Although they are often caused by high levels of stress and anxiety, there may be an underlying physical problem – so make sure you get the physical side checked out by a doctor.

Some of the physical problems that anxiety can create or exacerbate are:

  • Migraine and headaches
  • Muscle tension, leading to aching muscles and fatigue
  • Digestive problems, such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), acid reflux or nausea
  • Sexual problems, such as loss of libido, erectile dysfunction or vaginismus
  • Skin problems, such as eczema
  • Tics or twitching of muscles
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating or hot flushes
  • Grinding teeth (particularly at night)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Poor sleep patterns

Why do we get Physical Problems from Anxiety

These physical problems come about because anxiety is created in the primitive part of the brain known as the limbic system. This is the part that takes over in case of emergency. It contains the fight-or-flight centre of the brain – the amygdala.

When you are under a lot of stress, the amygdala starts to behave as if there is something dangerous nearby. It is not an intelligent part of the brain. It is fairly stupid and associates high levels of stress with danger, so it starts to prepare your body to either defend yourself against attack or to run.

The amygdala moves the body’s resources into preparing for fight or flight. This is fine if it only occurs over short periods of time on odd occasions. However, when you are under chronic stress, the amygdala keeps the body ready to run or fight, and it ignores the needs of the other parts of your body. So over a longer period of time, the rest of your body will suffer from complaints such as those listed above.

And Finally …

If you have any of the physical problems listed above, first make sure you see a doctor. The doctor should be able to advise you if there is a physical cause for the issue. If it has no physical cause, they may advise you to do something about your stress levels. They may offer you a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or medications to help you control your stress levels.

If you want further help to control your stress and anxiety, I hold my clinic in Fleet, Hampshire, and would be very pleased to talk to you about it, and tell you what I can offer.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Tim Maude

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07730 315503

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