Anxiety is a psychophysiological condition that most people have experienced at some point in their lives. However, not all to the same degree, nor for the same period of time. In other words, suffering from anxiety at one point is not the same as suffering from it for days, weeks or months.
The health effects of anxiety vary from case to case, with different effects in the short and long term.. In this article, we tell you what these effects are when you experience anxiety and what they are when you suffer from anxiety for a long time.
As we will see, anxiety does not have a single physiological “target”, and that is why we are explaining it to you by referring to each of our organs.
Short-term health effects of anxiety
Before explaining the effects of anxiety on health, let’s briefly review what anxiety is.
anxiety involves a series of bodily alterations, at different levels: behavioral, physiological, emotional … It is an abnormal state of over-excitement, nervousness and tension, in which we find ourselves when our resources are insufficient to meet the demands or demands of the environment.
While there are different types of anxiety disorders, anxiety itself has some fairly common symptoms. This is why today we are going to talk about anxiety in general and the effects of anxiety on health, as our body “talks”, and we have to listen to it and take care of it so as not to get sick. long term.
Specifically, we will now experience these effects in the first moments of anxiety, when our body begins to experience them:
1. Skin reactions
The health effects of anxiety affect our skin. Anxiety makes us feel stressed and stress increases our blood flow. This favors the fact that in terms of skin tone (face) some people turn pale and others turn red. This is all due to the fact that, in case of anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system sends more blood than usual to different muscles.
In addition, this response of our body, could accelerate the premature aging of the skin. Another effect derived from anxiety, in this sense, is an increase in histamine (an inflammatory substance), which can increase the risk of inflammation.
2. Activity of the spleen
The spleen is an organ belonging to the lymphatic system; it is considered the “center of activity” of the immune system and facilitates the destruction of red blood cells and platelets.
When we feel anxiety, the spleen releases more red and white blood cells, so our body receives more oxygen (During an anxious episode). In addition, our blood flow increases by 300-400%.
3. Muscle tension
The health effects of anxiety also affect our muscles. So when we are anxious our muscles contract. This is what we call muscle tension. If the anxiety lasts over time (or even if it doesn’t), we may suffer from muscle pain caused by this tension, as well as migraines, neck pain, stiffness in different areas of the body, etc.
4. Neck problems
Another of the health effects of anxiety is neck problems. When we experience anxiety, our bodily fluids disperse throughout the body. This causes some tension and stiffness, which leads to a dry throat, As well as difficulty swallowing. A hoarse voice may also appear.
Long-term health problems
We’ve talked about the health effects of anxiety when we have anxiety almost all at once, but … What happens when anxiety persists for a continuous period of time? That other more serious health problems arise. We will know these problems through each of our organs:
In the stomach, when we suffer from anxiety for a longer period, a propensity to suffer from stomach ulcers appears. The ulcer consists of a deep lesion of the lining of the stomach (or duodenum), caused by different factors (aggressive and defensive) of the mucous membrane.
On the other hand, in the stomach also appear digestive problems due to anxiety, as well as changes in our metabolism. This is because when we experience anxiety over a period of time, our body cannot regulate digestion well, resulting in long term effects in the intestines.
Our body, in addition, it cannot absorb nutrients well, Which causes various disorders, such as: diarrhea, burning sensation, feeling of “swelling”, etc. In extreme cases, you can even lose control of the sphincters.
Another of the health effects of anxiety is an increased propensity to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease affects the coronary arteries, which are linked to the heart or blood vessels.
This increased risk of cardiovascular disease is due to the fact that our heart rate is constantly increasing, and in addition the blood pressure is also high and we overproduce cortisol (“The stress hormone”).
The other effects which can appear on the level of the heart (or related) are: arrhythmias, hypertension, spills, heart attacks … As we can see, these are very serious symptoms.
How does anxiety affect the lungs? What is happening is that our expiratory functions (which allow us to breathe normally) are weakened. Thus, breathing difficulties, asthma problems (which are exacerbated in asthmatics), etc. may appear.
More precisely, people with asthma are more likely to have a panic attack, Based on research (2005) conducted at the University of Sao Paulo.
4. Immune system
Remember that the immune system is what protects us from harmful agents; specifically, it prevents us from possible infections or diseases. So, another of the health effects of anxiety is related to the immune system.
When we suffer from anxiety, it weakens, which is why we are much more likely to suffer from certain diseases, because our body is “down” in this regard. The most common illnesses we are most at risk for when we suffer from long-term anxiety are: colds (colds), infections and inflammation.
Another health effect of anxiety affects the brain or how it works; thus, changes appear in it, and we can also suffer from sleep problems, for example (insomnia, non-restful sleep, etc.).
On another side, our nervous system (SN) is “saturated” and cannot function normally. This is all mainly due to the fact that anxiety also causes psychological symptoms (i.e. we also respond psychologically to anxiety).
Other problems associated with mental functioning, caused by anxiety, are: problems with short and long term memory, problems with attention or concentration, etc. On the other hand, we can also suffer from other symptoms that affect our daily functioning, such as fatigue, physical and emotional wear and tear, etc.
- Amic, I. (2012). Manual of Health Psychology. Madrid: Pyramid.
- Amic, I., Fernández, C. and Pérez, M. (2009). Manual of Health Psychology. Madrid: Pyramid.
- Belloch, A., Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volume II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill. (Themes 1 and 12).
- Brannon, L. and Feist, J. (2001). Health psychology. Parainfo: Madrid.