Nearly 20% of adults in the United States (about 40 million) have an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental health issue in the country. Beyond excessive worry, what many of these people have in common are physical health problems that are the result of ongoing and untreated anxiety.
To help you understand how mental health issues like anxiety can affect your physical health, our team of health care providers here at LaSante Health Center, which includes mental health experts, presents the following information.
A state of stress
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, from generalized anxiety to panic attacks, but they all lead to the same result — a state of stress.
The human stress response is designed to give your body the tools it needs to deal with a threat. Also called fight-or-flight, the stress response is governed by your sympathetic nervous system, which releases hormones when you’re faced with danger.
These stress hormones initiate physical responses in your body that prepare you to fight or flee. For example, your heart rate and blood pressure rise to deliver blood and oxygen to your major muscle groups, creating tension in the tissues so that you’re prepared to act quickly.
Other physical changes occur at the same time, including pupil dilation to help you see better and pain suppression to minimize distraction. As well, certain systems are put on hold, including digestion and reproduction.
What we’re trying to illustrate is that when you have an anxiety disorder, your body is stuck in a stress response that’s really only designed to be fired up briefly. Thanks to this ongoing state of stress, anxiety can exact a considerable physical toll.
The physical consequences of untreated anxiety
Given what we’ve just learned about the physical side of anxiety and stress, it makes sense that people with untreated anxiety can also develop physical symptoms.
Some of the physical side effects that are associated with ongoing anxiety include:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle aches
- Trouble sleeping
- Sexual dysfunction
- Gastrointestinal issues
As you can see, these symptoms aren’t minor and can compound what is already a difficult issue.
Our goal here isn’t to pile on to your already considerable concerns when you have an anxiety disorder, but to provide you with some incentive for seeking help. There are effective treatment options for anxiety that not only can free you from the prison of constant fear and worry, but also improve your health in myriad other ways.
For compassionate and comprehensive care for your anxiety disorder, please contact our clinic in Brooklyn, New York, today to schedule an appointment. We serve the Flatbush and East Flatbush, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Little Haiti, Little Caribbean, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens communities.