Anxiety and the Impact on Your Body

By Cheyenne Tyler Jacobs

One component of having good physical health is ensuring that our mental health is not forgotten. Frequently we forget that even the changes in the weather can have a significant impact on our mental well-being. Anxiety, for example, is a mental health illness that impacts nearly 19% of US adults and 7% of children aged 3-17. It is estimated that about 30% of people will experience anxiety at some point in their life. With a growing number of people being diagnosed with anxiety, it is becoming more beneficial to understand what it is and how it impacts your health.

What Is Anxiety Exactly?

Anxiety disorder is an umbrella that holds multiple forms of anxiety and symptoms; according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these include:

Generalized Anxiety

It is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.

Obsession Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

It is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning.

Panic Disorder

It is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms, including chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.

Social Anxiety/Phobia

characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

How Does It Impact Our Health?

Anxiety disorder or a moment of anxiety can cause rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and stomach issues. Children often cannot communicate their feelings of pressure, so it manifests in stomach pain. This stress being put on the body for prolonged periods can lead to an imbalance in hormones and impact the body’s central nervous system.

These attacks on the nervous system lead to higher stress levels which can cause heart attacks, stroke, sleep issues, digestive problems, and temporary memory loss. Research also shows that anxiety disorders can make the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus shrink in size if left undiagnosed. The shrinking of this part of the brain can add to feelings of hypervigilance and distress of the brain.

How To Manage Your Anxiety?

Yoga: Yoga allows your body to reduce stress and have a better flow of breathing. Yoga can be done by yourself or in a class setting. Yoga outside in nature also for a better connection with nature and the sun.

Thought Stopping: Practicing thought-stopping techniques and breathing allows you to control negative thoughts when they appear. Thought stopping can be done by listening to music, talking to friends, or verbally stopping your thoughts. Allowing your thoughts to spiral will continue to create stress which will harm your physical health.

Nature: Seasonal depression and anxiety have negatively impacted about 10 million Americans. Spending time outside allows the body to get the necessary vitamins and minerals it may be missing while sitting inside.

Seeking a Provider: Seeking a provider to help navigate both the emotional and physical impact. Visit the HUED directory to learn more about finding a provider for you.

Living with anxiety can put a lot of stress on the body, but having a precise diagnosis and managing tools will help you on your navigation journey.