What are the health effects of long-term anxiety?

Anxiety is a common problem for most people. You might think of anxiety as a temporary issue. But a tendency of phobia and panic attacks may result in severe mental conditions. Although it mainly affects mental health, it can have significant physical consequences. The effects of anxiety on the body can be devastating in the long-term. 

Let us look at a list of the physical effects of stress and anxiety. 

Long-term Anxiety & its Effects 

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder 
  • Phobia 
  • Panic Attacks & Nervous Breakdowns 
  • Depersonalization 
  • Rapid Heart Rates
  • Digestive Issues 
  • Immune Imbalance 
  • Respiratory Disorders 

Now, let’s see how anxiety affects our lifestyle and body functions. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a widespread health effect of anxiety (1). It is worrying without any specific reason. You could be lying on your bed and start worrying. Statistics revealed that about 6.8 million adults in the US suffer from GAD. This disorder occurs when you’re worried about various reasons for more than six months. When the condition is mild, you might still be able to fulfill your daily tasks. Severe cases might have detrimental effects on your life. 

Phobia 

With prolonged anxiety, various fears get set in your mind. A phobia is a fear. Fears of specific situations or objects can turn into phobias. When facing these situations or objects, your health deteriorates. Symptoms like excessive sweating and nausea are common. You can develop phobias out of closed rooms, height, and even people. Anxiety and stress form a deep fear and urge to avoid these situations (2).

Panic Attacks & Nervous Breakdown 

Long-term anxiety has a strong effect on your nervous system (3). Consistent anxiety releases stress hormones daily. This extra stress hormones in your system can cause many health issues. Headaches and dizziness are common. More serious attacks can lead to a complete mental breakdown. When you are stressed or anxious, your body releases chemicals to fight the condition. For instance, cortisol released by your brain helps fight stress hormones. These indeed help you cope with the stress. But in the long-term, they prove harmful for your physical well-being. 

Rapid Heartrates 

With prolonged anxiety, your cardiovascular system is at higher risk (5). Rapid heart rates and pulses become worse with every panic attack. Anxiety may also cause your blood pressure to increase. If you experience consistent chest pain, consulting a doctor would be wise. Have any heart disease already? Long-term stress is capable of increasing the chances of a heart attack. 

Depersonalization 

You must have come across people or yourself must’ve zoned out sometime. Zoning out, comes as a long-term anxiety effect. Not feeling yourself or as if you weren’t in your own body are symptoms. Anxiety through an extended period can make you feel cut out from people (4). Yes, daydreaming is also a part of depersonalization. If you are suffering from this all the time, make sure you consult a therapist. 

Digestive Issues 

The physical effects of stress and anxiety include digestive malfunctions (6). Few studies link long-term anxiety to irritable bowel syndrome. As a result of IBS, vomiting and diarrhea become unavoidable (7). Are you feeling nauseous often? It can be due to perpetual anxiety disorders. One widespread digestive issue due to extra stress is the loss of appetite. Doctors with time are proposing the theory of mind-body association. With a healthy mind, everything seems possible. But with degraded mental health, impossible becomes your mood. 

Immune Imbalance

Another one of the health effects of anxiety includes adrenaline reflux. More than usual amounts of adrenaline can reduce oxygen levels, reaching your brain. Well, you must be thinking this helps your immune system to get activated. Yes, it does, but only in the short-term. If you feel anxious always, your immune system doesn’t get a signal to get back to normal. As a result, your immunity becomes weak. You can become more prone to viral infections and illnesses (8). Regular vaccines also fail with chronic anxiety. 

Respiratory Disorders 

Anxiety is most known for its respiratory complications (9). Breathing problems come hand-in-hand with feeling anxious. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease patients have higher risks of being hospitalized (10). In the US, people with anxiety disorders are more vulnerable to asthma and similar chronic respiratory diseases. 

Preventive Measures 

You need to prevent anxiety to stop it from affecting your entire body (11). Apart from medications, you can try following these steps: 

Early consultation

Just like various other chronic disorders, anxiety needs immediate attention. If you are late to treat your anxiety, it might not be possible to cure you. 

Set your priorities

Correctly managing your time and energy is the key. Stress comes as a by-product of procrastination. Setting your priorities and planning out your tasks is the ideal way to avoid stress. 

Avoid substance abuse

Drugs, alcohol, and smoking can worsen your anxiety. Even excessive caffeine can prove to be bad for your anxiety. Yet, an addict shouldn’t quit these all of a sudden. Even that can cause extra stress and pressure. Consulting a therapist and following their guidelines will help. 

Wrapping Up 

Did the above effects of anxiety on the body scare you off? Well, they sure are something you can’t ignore. To avoid such drastic health disorders taking early precautions is vital. Therapy, along with a strategic meditation-yoga program, is sure to help you. Hoping this article didn’t get you anxious altogether. 

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