If you suffer from anxiety or a more severe anxiety disorder, know that you’re not alone. You’re among a group of 40 million U.S. adults who experience related symptoms each year and struggle with the consequences. Anxiety symptoms can be harmful if left untreated, but, fortunately, they can be managed.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal part of our lives. You get worried about taking an exam or may breathe heavily for short periods watching a scary movie. But these feelings usually subside for most people. “However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).”
Non-Medical Ways To Cope With Anxiety
Dr. David Samadi, based at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island, New York, offers these tips for coping with anxiety.
- Make changes where possible and let the remainder run its course.
- Exercise as a way to release tension and help you get relaxed.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
- Stay away from drugs and alcohol as a means of relief.
- Learn about anxiety disorders.
- Use stress management practices.
- Ask your doctor for help in managing your anxiety.
Effects Of Anxiety
- Heart problems, especially when under stress. These are characterized by an elevated heart rate which can boost your chances of an attack, stroke, or heart disease.
- When you’re anxious, it’s natural for your heart to pump more blood, making your blood pressure increase. Anxiety itself doesn’t lead to high blood pressure, but rather it’s the frequent episodes of the fight-flight reaction which may promote high blood pressure issues. This can damage your brain, heart, and kidneys and boost your risk of stroke.
- Stomach and gastrointestinal discomfort. Things like diarrhea, nausea, and stomach aches are widespread symptoms of continuing anxiety.
- Asthma and breathing trouble. If you’re anxious, you can breathe rapidly as a result, and your airways become restricted. This phenomenon may lead to higher instances of asthma for people with anxiety, compared to those without.
- Your immune system won’t work like it should, leaving you more susceptible to viruses like colds. When you’re suffering from anxiety, it triggers the delivery of stress hormones leading to many changes in how your immune system responds.
- You may suffer from chronic muscle tension as your muscles tense and tighten because of anxiety. And if anxiety persists, the muscles can’t fully relax, resulting in chronic muscle tension.
- You may have frequent headaches, migraines and dental problems caused by clenched teeth.
- If you’re anxious or constantly under stress, you may binge eat and experience weight gain as a result. Anxiety causes us to crave chocolates and other sugary “comfort foods” because they dispense the body’s natural “feel-good” hormone, serotonin. As serotonin gets released, you experience temporary relief but also more frequent and continual cravings for less-than-healthy foods.
- You may experience sleep problems like insomnia, where you have trouble falling asleep. If you can’t sleep, you may be more susceptible to problems like heart disease, stroke, a compromised immune system, poor judgment, and even other anxiety disorders.
- Your healthcare provider may observe spikes in blood sugar levels. This is caused by the release of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine during the body’s fight-or-flight response to anxiety and stress. During this response, your liver may release warehoused glucose or blood sugar into your bloodstream to give your body an energy boost. Your body will eventually absorb the extra blood sugar, but repeated instances boost your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Anxiety can happen to anyone, and it’s a normal part of life. But if symptoms occur every day and linger for months, you may be at risk of developing a more serious anxiety disorder. In either case, a healthcare provider could:
- Give you a psychological assessment. This would focus on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and look for a psychological basis for your symptoms, including personal or family history of mental illness.
- Review your symptoms with criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, before deciding on a diagnosis.
Treatment may involve psychotherapy or options including ketamine infusion.
Anxiety symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. The effects on the human body can be serious if the symptoms are brushed aside as just part of a bad day. If you experience symptoms, contact us today to learn more about treatment options and regain control of your life.