How Stress and Anxiety Can Affect Your Physical Health

How Stress and Anxiety Can Affect Your Physical Health

Dealing with stress and anxiety is never a pleasant experience, but not everyone realizes that these conditions do more than just affect your mental state. If you do not take care of them, stress and anxiety can also begin to affect your physical health in several key ways. 

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

Those dealing with anxiety may find themselves dealing with chest pain, palpitations, and rapid heart rate. There can even be an increase in the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. For those with heart disease, anxiety can be even worse as it can increase the risk of a coronary event. 

Effects on the Central Nervous System

If you suffer from panic attacks and anxiety in the long term, your brain will likely release stress hormones regularly. This can, unfortunately, lead to symptoms like depression in addition to physical symptoms such as dizziness and headaches.

Additionally, feeling stressed and anxious causes your brain to send hormones and chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to your nervous system, with the goal of responding to a threat. Those chemicals are very useful with short-term exposure in high-stress events, but if you are exposed to them in the long term, there can be negative consequences.

As an example, long-term cortisol exposure can cause weight gain. 

Effects on the Digestive and Excretory Systems

You may not think about it much, but anxiety can also have negative effects on your digestive and excretory systems. You can experience symptoms such as nausea, stomach aches, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and other digestive issues. There is also a potential connection between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and anxiety disorders, with the former occurring more often after bowel infections. For those unfamiliar with the condition, IBS is linked to constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

Effects on the Immune System

Stress and anxiety can also negatively impact your immune system. This occurs via either stress or anxiety, triggering the flight or fight response. This would release chemicals and hormones, including adrenaline, in your body.

Short-term effects increase your breathing rate and pulse to allow more oxygen to flow to the brain, giving you the ability to respond appropriately. The immune system may also notice a short boost. This response is fine with occasional stressors, as your systems all return to normal after the event or stress passes.

However, repeated occasions that signal the flight or fight response will mean that your body never gets to return to that normal functioning. In the long run, this can lead to weakness in your immune system. The result is that you may have an increased vulnerability to illnesses and viral infections. There is even a risk of vaccines being less effective for those with anxiety. 

Effects on the Respiratory System

When you experience anxiety, you will likely have shallow and rapid breathing. This breathing pattern can worsen certain conditions, including asthma. Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will also have an increased risk of symptoms worsening to the point of requiring hospitalization. 

Other Physical Effects

It is also possible for anxiety and stress to lead to insomnia, muscle tension, and headaches. Stress can also cause a lack of energy, loss of sexual desire, shaking and nervousness, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and clenched jaw or grinding of teeth.

Since controlling anxiety and stress is in the best interests of your physical health, you may want to consider all of the options available to treat them, including hemp or CBD