A little bit of anxiety is good—healthy, even. The flood of hormones that increases your heart rate and breathing, rushes blood to your brain, and gives you that jittery feeling is part of your body’s built-in response to perceived threats.
But it’s not supposed to last.
Eventually, your body should naturally go from amped-up to powered-down. When it doesn’t, you live in a constant state of anxiety, and the results can impact your entire body.
Here, Dr. Michael Skardasis, our expert at Optimal Performance Medicine, takes a closer look at just how detrimental chronic anxiety can be and how we can help.
Understanding chronic anxiety
No one fully understands what causes chronic anxiety, but there are a few possible explanations. Many tend to point the finger at a traumatic life experience. Others blame inherited traits. It’s also possible that there’s a link between medical problems like diabetes, hypothyroidism, drug misuse, and chronic pain and anxiety disorders. Other risk factors include stress, personality types, and mental health issues.
Whatever’s at the heart of your anxiety, it’s important to understand that anxiety isn’t all in your head — it’s a whole health issue. Here’s what you should know about anxiety and the toll it takes on your body.
Anxiety and your central nervous system
If you’re constantly anxious, that means your brain feels the need to release stress hormones regularly to keep up, which can cause you to experience a range of symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, and depression. Long-term exposure to stress hormones can also contribute to increased weight gain.
Anxiety and your cardiovascular system
Because anxiety triggers increased heart rate, palpitations, and other cardiovascular events, you’re at an increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Anxiety and your digestive system
You know that queasy feeling you get when you’re anxious? There’s a reason for it. The oversupply of hormones can cause stomachaches, loss of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea. In the long term, you can wind up with a more serious digestive issue, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Anxiety and your immune system
Your immune system can handle the occasional bout with anxiety, but if your body never returns to normal functioning, it may be among the first to pay the price. Too many stress hormones weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to infections and illnesses. Additionally, regular vaccines may not work as well if you have chronic anxiety.
Anxiety and your respiratory system
Anxiety often causes rapid, shallow breathing, which directly impacts your respiratory system. And if you already have a respiratory problem such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an anxiety attack could land you in the hospital. Anxiety can also exacerbate asthma.
Anxiety doesn’t stop there. Left unchecked, anxiety can cause:
- Muscle tension
- Mental health problems, including depression
- Social isolation
- Poor quality of life
- Difficulty functioning at school or work
In the most severe cases, anxiety can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. If that happens, seek medical help immediately.
How we can help
Walk into any other doctor’s office with anxiety, and you’ll likely walk out with a prescription. But no pill bottle comes with a real game plan for managing anxiety and supporting your overall health. That’s where we come in.
Dr. Skardasis is known for helping patients get off medication and start taking control of their health. Depending on your specific needs, we may recommend:
- Diet and nutrition support
- Exercise programs
- Stopping bad habits, such as smoking
- Limiting caffeine
- Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs
- Better sleep
There are numerous other ways to cope with an anxiety disorder, from support groups to journaling. We’re here to help you find which combination of supports and therapies works best for you.
Ready to finally get a handle on your anxiety? We’d love to talk with you. Call or click to schedule an appointment at our Woodstock, Georgia, office today.