Originally found on https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322510.php?sr
Anxiety can have a significant effect on the body, and long-term anxiety increases the risk of developing chronic physical conditions.
The medical community suspects that anxiety develops in the amygdala, an area of the brain that manages emotional responses.
When a person becomes anxious, stressed, or frightened, the brain sends signals to other parts of the body. The signals communicate that the body should prepare to fight or flee.
The body responds, for example, by releasing adrenaline and cortisol, which many describe as stress hormones.
The fight or flight response is useful when confronting an aggressive person, but it is less helpful when going for a job interview or giving a presentation. Also, it is not healthy for this response to persist in the long term.
Some of the ways that anxiety affects the body include:
Breathing and respiratory changes
During periods of anxiety, a person’s breathing may become rapid and shallow, which is called hyperventilation.
Hyperventilation allows the lungs to take in more oxygen and transport it around the body quickly. Extra oxygen helps the body prepare to fight or flee.
Hyperventilation can make people feel like they are not getting enough oxygen and they may gasp for breath. This can worsen hyperventilation and its symptoms, which include:
- feeling faint
Cardiovascular system response
Anxiety can cause changes to the heart rate and the circulation of blood throughout the body.
A faster heart rate makes it easier to flee or fight, while increased blood flow brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
When blood vessels narrow, this is called vasoconstriction, and it can affect body temperature. People often experience hot flashes as a result of vasoconstriction.
In response, the body sweats to cool down. This can sometimes be too effective and make a person feel cold.
Long-term anxiety may not be good for the cardiovascular system and heart health. Some studiessuggest that anxiety increases the risk of heart diseases in otherwise healthy people.
Impaired immune function
In the short-term, anxiety boosts the immune system’s responses. However, prolonged anxiety can have the opposite effect.
Cortisol prevents the release of substances that cause inflammation, and it turns off aspects of the immune system that fight infections, impairing the body’s natural immune response.
People with chronic anxiety disorders may be more likely to get the common cold, the flu, and other types of infection.
Changes in digestive function
Cortisol blocks processes that the body considers nonessential in a fight or flight situation.
One of these blocked processes is digestion. Also, adrenaline reduces blood flow and relaxes the stomach muscles.
As a result, a person with anxiety may experience nausea, diarrhea, and a feeling that the stomach is churning. They may also lose their appetite.
One study, of outpatients at a gastroenterology clinic in Mumbai, reported that 30–40 percent of participants with IBS also had anxiety or depression.
Anxiety and stress can increase the need to urinate, and this reaction is more common in people with phobias.
The need to urinate or a loss of control over urination may have an evolutionary basis, as it is easier to flee with an empty bladder.
However, the link between anxiety and an increased urge to urinate remains unclear.