According to a Harvard Health study 57 million people suffer from an anxiety disorder.  And of those 57 million, nearly two-thirds of them are women.

An anxiety attack usually manifests itself physically, causing light-headedness, nausea, diarrhea, and frequent bathroom breaks.

The research into anxiety-related illness is new and still young, but preliminary work has found that there is evidence of influence between emotions and physical function.  Substance abuse or physical addiction can sometimes be the manifestation of suppressed anxious feelings. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and migraine headaches are other overlooked symptoms of chronic anxious feelings.

New research has found that anxiety plays a factor in developing a severe chronic illness such as heart disease.  Two studies concluded that among both men and women with pre-established heart disease, those who suffered from anxiety were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to those with no history of an anxiety disorder.

Look at how the stress of anxiety affects the different parts of the body:

  • Nervous System and Cardiovascular System
    • The stress alerts the body to move into the “fight or flight” mentality, which signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause the heart to beat fast and raise your blood pressure.  If your body is in this state frequently, it can lead to chronic high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Musculoskeletal System
    • While stressed, your muscles tense. Keeping your muscles in this state causes tension to build resulting in headaches or migraines.
  • Respiratory System
    • While your body is that “fight or flight” mode it accelerates breathing to increase oxygen flow. This rapid breathing can lead to hyperventilation, which can increase the stress and lead to an anxiety attack.
  • Endocrine System
    • When the liver receives the cortisol hormone from the adrenal gland, it increases glucose in the body. The increased glucose is to help give you the energy you need for the “fight or flight” response.  If your body is constantly in a state of high glucose levels, it can cause cravings for high sugar foods.  This results in increased food consumption.
  • Gastrointestinal System
    • The stomach can react to the stress by knotting up or causing “butterflies”. If the stress is severe enough, vomiting can be induced.  The stress also affects the bowels by forcing them to function quicker than normal, causing diarrhea.
  • Reproductive System
    • In men, increased stress can lead to impotence. For women, stress often causes irregular menstrual cycles or more painful periods.  Both genders can suffer from a lower sex drive.

About 30% of people go through life without treating their anxiety.  And for those with anxiety, their feelings can be preventing them from seeking the treatment they need.  But, remember all symptoms are treatable, whether they originate from the brain or from the body.

Contact our primary care providers at 425-903-3141 to begin the conversation about anxiety.