12 Physical Effects of Anxiety

12 Physical Effects of Anxiety

by Laura Geftman, LCSW

If you are concerned about your anxiety, your physical health should also be of considered. If you’re familiar with the symptoms of anxiety, you know that your mental health effects your physical health. Let’s take a closer look at the physical symptoms of anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an important basic survival function we all use as a coping skill. It’s your body’s natural response to stress. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point of their lives. It’s also a very normal response to stressful life events. It’s like an alarm system that get activated when we feel danger or threat. 

A natural human reaction, anxiety is reflected in our bodies and minds. We feel a physical sensation when our bodies react to danger like:

  • faster heartbeat
  • panting or breathing faster
  • tense muscles
  • sweaty palms
  • queasy stomach
  • trembling hands or legs

These reactions are caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare the body to deal with threats. Bodily changes can be mild to extreme. Ordinary anxiety comes and goes. It doesn’t interfere with your everyday life.

Physical Effects of Anxiety 

Anxiety effects more than just your mental health. It can have serious consequences on your physical health. 

Anxiety increases your breathing and heart rate. This creates a blood flow to the brain. That way your brain can prepare the rest of your body to respond to fear, threat and/or danger. If this state 

  1. Muscle aches and pains 
  2. Increased blood pressure
  3. Extreme fatigue
  4. Loss of libido
  5. Upset stomach
  6. Pounding heartbeat
  7. Breathing difficulties
  8. Depression
  9. Headaches
  10. Irritability
  11. Sense of doom
  12. Panic attacks

How anxiety disorders are treated (What to do)

Ugh. I know. Just go on social media and you’ll see all kinds of posts about dealing with your anxiety. Everyone makes claims about how best to treat what you’re experiencing. There are lists of 5 to 500 things you can do to. 

  1. Eating a healthy diet Yes, I know everywhere you look there more info about how healthy your diet should be, and there are all kinds of different diets to help. There’s actually a lot of scientific research about eating healthy to help manage anxiety including high-quality meats, fish, vegetables, fruits,  nuts, and whole grains(sources 1, 2, 3). Healthy eating can’t soothe your anxiety alone but it can definitely help. Probiotics and fermented foods are also being proven helpful as well (sources 1, 2). However staying away from caffeine and alcohol is best for sufferers of anxiety (sources 1, 2).  
  2. Quitting smoking So yup- no surprise here. Smoking is no good for your health. When it comes to anxiety disorders, it’s associated with an increased risk of developing one (source). Quitting smoking is shown to improve mental health (source). And it will help you with the next item on the list, too…
  3. Exercising often You don’t have to run marathons but I walk around the block could lower your risk of developing an anxiety disorder (sources 1, 2, 3, 4). So whether you take up yoga or try the latest fitness trend- get moving and you’ll find your fears more manageable.

Seeing a Mental Health Professional

If you become concerned about your level of anxiety, it’s best to seek the support of a mental health professional- such as a social worker, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. When you see someone professionally trained in mental health care, they can help you understand the difficulties you’re experiencing. 

Sure just the thought of seeking mental healthcare can create more anxiety. You may think they will make you talk about your past. Or that you won’t connect with them to feel comfortable to talk about anything. Maybe you’re afraid to cry in front of anyone let alone a stranger. Worse- you think they’ll put you in a hospital, rehab or institution.

Please know I don’t bring this up to elicit fear but to say- those who work in the mental health field are trained to work with you at your own pace. You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. Ever. The idea is to create a safe space for you to feel comfortable to connect with someone who can help you understand your symptoms and learn to manage them. Therapist are legally bound to uphold privacy and confidentiality. That means they can only repeat what you’ve said to them if they are concerned about your safety or the safety of others. Anything else you tell a therapist, they cannot repeat to anyone else without your consent. You literally have to sign paperwork stating they can talk to others about what you’ve shared with them.


About Laura Geftman, LCSW

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Laura Geftman, LCSW is the Founder of The Calm, Cool & Collected and a practicing therapist. Beyond all things cannabis and mental health, Laura is passionate about developing greater understanding for kindness and acceptance. In her free time, Laura can be found on her yoga mat, in a kayak or singing karaoke.

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