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  • Zuzia Boguslawska

Physical signs of anxiety and what to do

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues, affecting 18% of Americans every year. Anxiety symptoms can be anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating. We all have experienced the cognitive symptoms of anxiety, like fear of losing control, frightening thoughts, or detachment from reality, but we often forget about the physical aspect of it. Anxiety affects more than just the mind.

Anxiety can manifest in our bodies in multiple ways. The fight-or-flight or stress response is making your body alert and preparing for dealing with both authentic and unreal threats. However, we are not made to be always alert, and the prolonged physiological stress reaction causes physical symptoms.

What should you look out for?

  • Stomach problems

You might notice changes in your belly because the fight-or-flight response slows down the digestive system causing the feeling of heaviness. Experts say that the gastrointestinal system is extremely susceptible to stress due to the mind-body communication called the gut-brain axis.

  • Screwed up sleep

Excess worry makes it harder for you to fall asleep and might make you awake a few times in the middle of the night. The stress response increases the levels of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These are responsible for increasing alertness and body temperature, so high levels of the hormones at night prevent your body from relaxation. Racing thoughts also add to the sleeping problems.

  • Racing heart

The adrenaline released during the stress response produces an increase in heart rate. This response is supposed to prepare your body for speeding up blood flow, thus improving the oxygen delivery to the tissues.

  • Shortness of breath

The blood and oxygen are delivered to your muscles thanks to your heart racing, but your breathing must also increase to provide the essential gas nutrient. Rapid breathing might make you feel like you can't get enough air in your lungs.

  • Tense or aching muscles

The blood is moved to the larger muscles of your body such as tights and biceps to help you deal with the ‘threat’. Holding the muscles rigid for long periods results in pain and tension going all the way up to the neck, shoulders, jaw, or even head.


What to do?

Because anxiety can have such a serious impact on health, it’s important to get help. Anxiety is highly treatable, but only about 36% of people seek medical care for it. So, if you or a loved one find yourself struggling, please head to the ADAA to learn more about finding treatment options. Anxiety can cause serious disruptions in your daily life, but there are ways to combat it at the moment for quick relief.



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