With all that’s going on across the world, from the rise of global and domestic terrorism, global warming, economic uncertainty, and the risk of a global pandemic, it’s no surprise that many of us are feeling a little anxious these days.
But with all these stressors bombarding us every day, what impact could it be having on people with serious anxiety disorders?
To explain this, let’s first describe what anxiety is:
Anxiety is an irrational reaction to stress and it has physical and psychological aspects to it. The actual process is thought to start in a region of the brain called amygdala, known for controlling a wide range of human emotions.
When anxiety strikes, the neurotransmitters relay a message of threat to the sympathetic nervous system, causing an immediate change in breathing, heartrate, and blood flow.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this chemical process can help put you on high alert and ready to fight or flee from a threat. However, the long-term effects of anxiety can be damaging to our mental and physical health.
Anxiety and Physical Illness
While research into the physiology of anxiety shows a link between emotional and physiological functioning, not enough has been done to understand how the condition may impact on an individual’s health.
But we do know that some experts have suggested a close connection between anxiety and some cases of substance abuse, addiction, and even conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and somatic disorder.
By learning how anxiety plays a role in these disorders, experts can then come up with more effective treatments.
Another interesting factor worth noting is that two-thirds of Americans with anxiety are women – though this may have a lot to do with the fact that women are more vocal about anxiety than men, and are more likely to report the symptoms to health experts.
Common Types and Symptoms of Anxiety
The most commonly diagnosed forms of anxiety are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):
Characterized by excessive worrying and paranoia about possible negative outcomes.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD):
Involves strong feelings of being self-conscious and worrying about being judged negatively in normal human encounters.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
May involve a traumatic event that leaves a person scarred, with random events where they relieve the negative experience.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
This is characterized by a need to maintain control over one’s environment and may lead to unusual behavior.
- Panic Disorder:
It can come out of nowhere but may be triggered when individuals feel they are not in control, or face an existing fear.
Negative Effects of Anxiety on Human Health:
Individuals who haven’t yet learned how to live successfully with anxiety may find that it starts to take its toll on their personal and professional lives. One area that is likely to suffer is personal relationships, including marriage. If there has been some effort on both parties to understand anxiety and how it affects the relationship, then it can make things easier.
Social anxiety is particularly damaging to personal relationships, as the person is more likely to stay indoors than interact with people. It also has an impact on work life as well. A supportive work environment can help one to come up with a plan for managing the condition; however, if the workplace is hostile and unsympathetic, it can make life increasingly difficult.
These challenges caused by anxiety can lead to more severe conditions such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Detachment from social norms
- Difficulty carrying out daily activities
Effects of Anxiety on Mind:
The effects anxiety has on the mind are serious in many cases, but they tend to vary depending on the day.
Although we’re generalizing a bit here, there are common experiences that most people with chronic anxiety can attest to. For instance, the feeling of nervousness, being tense, and tightening stomach are all quite common.
Other worries include the possibility that an individual may detach from their surroundings and friends and instead withdraw into themselves. This raises the risk of losing touch with reality or losing interest with the world and life as it is.
Anxiety can be treated with a combination of medications such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines; and with counseling – but these tend to be long-term solutions and not always enough to manage anxiety.
One of the most effective treatments for anxiety is a combination of lifestyle adjustments, therapy, and diet. Keeping in mind that physical health affects mental health (and vice versa), attempts to strengthen the body can lead to fewer incidents of anxiety – or at least, reduce the severity of the symptoms.
For example, eating healthy food, reducing alcohol and drug use, sleeping through the night, and exercise. These are important to human health regardless of any preexisting conditions including anxiety. Speak to a health expert about your anxiety and consider making a few adjustments to boost your health in general. Not sure where to start?
- Take up exercise
- Take long walks in nature
- Eat fresh whole food
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes
- Watch your sleep
- Drink enough water
- Use natural oils like CBD
- Take up yoga
- Find a hobby
- Be open about your anxiety
Episodes of anxiety attacks may be more intense in the mornings when stress hormones are at their peak – however, individuals may experience fewer symptoms if they had good quality sleep the previous night, and if they live a ‘healthy’ life in general.
Self treatment may be more effective because in the end, people experience anxiety in their own unique ways. Finding effective treatment can be a challenge, but perhaps you can try a different approach, where you aim to improve your overall health, and by so doing, reduce the impact of anxiety to your physical and mental health.
Common Indicators of Anxiety
Individuals who have the following behavioral symptoms are likely experiencing some type of anxiety, although we should mention that symptoms tend to vary based on a person’s genetic makeup, severity of the condition, and possible co-occurring disorders. Watch out for the following:
- Excessive worrying in most days, about inconsequential things
- Body aches and pain
- Rapid pulse, elevated heart rate
- Sleeping disorders
- Having difficulty swallowing
- Eating disorders
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Upset stomach