You’ve probably heard of the flight or fight response. This is the “good” side of anxiety, when your body reacts to impending danger by sending you a jolt of extra adrenaline and cortisol. It’s these natural hormones that give you the instant energy to hit the brakes when someone suddenly stops ahead of you. Or run from a snarling dog.
How Anxiety Can Threaten Your Health
In our world today, the need for “good” anxiety, as in a fight or flight response, is rare. Unfortunately, what’s all too common is “bad” anxiety. The kind that causes serious anxiety disorders that require a doctor’s attention. And if you’ve ever wondered, “does anxiety make you sick?” the answer is absolutely. Everyone gets anxious from time to time, but when anxiety becomes prolonged and constant, it not only interferes with living your best life, but it can also make you physically ill.
The frequent release of fight or flight hormones can have serious long-term health effects. In some cases, it can also lead to other problems like alcohol or substance abuse if a person tries to self-medicate to relieve serious, unmanaged anxiety symptoms. This article answers concerns about recognizing anxiety and how to stop feeling sick from anxiety.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety and stress can affect people physically in several ways. Some people say stress goes to their head, for example with throbbing headaches or dizziness. Others report that anxiety causes nausea and stomach pain. Serious, chronic anxiety disorders can even make you feel like you can’t breathe, or you might be dying. Now that you understand how anxiety can make you sick, let’s explore some of the physical symptoms it can cause.
5 Anxiety Symptoms to Know
1. Stomach distress: Anxiety and stress can cause stomach pain and well as other digestive disturbances like diarrhea. Prolonged stress has also been linked to ulcers. So how can you tell if nausea is from anxiety? If you’ve been experiencing noticeable nausea and you aren’t showing any symptoms of illness or flu, it’s time to see your doctor.
2. Sleep disturbance: Insomnia, inability to get to sleep and waking frequently are all common responses to anxiety. Of course, poor sleep has its own side effects like extreme fatigue, foggy thinking, and weakening your immune system.
3. Heart & breathing issues: Anxiety can cause rapid breathing, shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and lightheadedness. It can also aggravate asthma. Of even greater concern is that studies have also found links between anxiety and an increase in heart disease, heart failure, and stroke among older adults.
4. Muscle pain & headaches: Tense muscles may help you spring into action in the face of danger, but prolonged tension leads to pain. Prolonged or repeated periods of stress and anxiety can lead to back pain, neck pain, chest pain and more. They can also be a root cause of recurring headaches and migraines.
5. Sweats, shakes or chills: Constant jolts of adrenaline and cortisol can also cause you to feel sweaty or shaky, feel overheated or chilled, and even feel numbing or tingling sensations.
Knowing that chronic anxiety can have a serious impact on your health is enough to cause even more worry. But this is not a reason to be fearful – it’s a reason to know the symptoms and to seek professional help.
Treatments for Chronic Anxiety
As for how to stop feeling sick from anxiety, the following steps are recommended. The first step is to see your primary care doctor to rule out underlying physical causes of, for example, your racing heart, headaches, or sleep issues.
Once it’s been determined that no medical issues are causing these symptoms, it’s time to seek help from mental health professionals trained to provide a combination of therapy and medications. You can also work on proven self-care techniques to help you relieve anxiety on your own. Your primary doctor can help with recommendations and guidance.
Mental health professionals who treat chronic anxiety include:
Psychiatrist – A medical doctor able to prescribe medications and therapy
Clinical Psychologist – Deals with diagnosing and treating all types of mental illness, including anxiety and depression disorders.
Counselor or Therapist – Trained in talk therapy that can be done alone or in conjunction with what a psychiatrist might prescribe. Though they don’t have the same level of authority to diagnose and prescribe treatment plans as psychologists do, they are a very effective option.
Self-care steps you can take to stop feeling sick from anxiety:
Keep physically active – If you’re able to get some exercise, even daily walking, this can be very beneficial to relieve stress and improve your outlook. Sitting out in the fresh air and sunshine and exposure to nature are also helpful to pursue regularly.
Resist alcohol, caffeine, and/or nicotine – These things may help you feel initially better and more relaxed, but these substances can make anxiety and depression symptoms even worse. Consider healthy (and safer) alternatives such as yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises.
Get more sleep – If you think you need medication to sleep better, get it through your doctor. Don’t self-medicate. Avoid working on your computer or browsing on your phone or tablet right before bed. The “blue light” causes sleep disturbances. Instead, listen to calming music or read a book. The more rested you are, the better you can cope with stressors.