Medical Facts About Anxiety You Need To Know

Anxiety is one of the most pervasive mental health issues today. Anxiety has dozens of causes and a definitive cause can sometimes be difficult to find. Trauma, fears, or worries can cause anxiety, as can a number of mental health issues, personality types, and substances. Many individuals with anxiety do not report their symptoms due to not recognizing them or out of fear of being labeled neurotic. Despite the social stigma associated with anxiety, there are a host of medical complications that can come be associated anxiety.

Decreased Energy

Anxiety can cause one’s neurochemistry to become imbalanced. Anxiety triggers many different “fight-or-flight” neurotransmitters which can in turn trigger the constant release of relaxation hormones and endorphins. This can lead to a marked decrease in energy or a feeling of being constantly tired. Many individuals with anxiety use caffeine or other stimulants in order to combat the associated fatigue, which can then lead to more anxiety. One of the only treatments for the decreased energy associated with anxiety is restful, normal sleep.

Insomnia

Many individuals with anxiety experience insomnia. This insomnia is often due to the constant worried, racing thoughts that are associated with many types of anxiety. Other forms of anxiety can cause individuals to feel jittery or panicked even when resting, which prevents healthy, restful sleep. Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can relieve insomnia associated with anxiety, but individuals with anxiety should always consult their doctors before taking any medications to combat the side effects of anxiety.

Weakened Immune System

Anxiety often leads to a higher number of colds or other minor illnesses due to a decreased immune response. The relationship between anxiety and the immune system is well-documented but still not well understood. Anxiety can trigger the release of stress hormones which cause a variety of changes in the way immune systems respond to threats. Cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone, is released when the body is anxious. Cortisol works by essentially weakening the antibodies that can increase inflammation. Unfortunately, these antibodies also fight germs.

Digestive Issues

Man with stomach pain holding a glass of milk. Dairy Intolerant person. Lactose intolerance, health care concept. | © Albina Glisic | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Albina Glisic | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Many of the most common side effects of anxiety are digestive issues. Anxiety is known to cause diarrhea, indigestion, and abdominal cramps in many individuals, as well as more serious issues. Anxiety can cause gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, which can cause a painful buildup of stomach acid in the esophagus. This acid can also cause ulceritis, gastritis, and even irritable bowel syndrome. While some over-the-counter antacids can relieve these symptoms, the best treatment is to resolve the cause of one’s anxiety itself.

Jaw Aches, Toothaches, And Headaches

Anxiety causes many individuals to clench their jaws either while sleeping or awake. All that extra tension can cause jaw stiffness or aches and can cause excess wear on the teeth. Grinding one’s teeth in one’s sleep can lead to a host of dental issues including broken or chipped teeth or misalignment of teeth. Clenched jaws frequently also cause headaches, and so can the stress hormones released by anxiety. While pain medications can treat these symptoms, they can also increase anxiety.

Perspiration Or Shaking

One of the most visible and embarrassing side effects of anxiety is the constant sweating or jitteriness associated with this mental health issue. Anxiety can trigger the release of adrenaline and other “fight-or-flight” hormones which boost the body’s energy levels. While this can be a good thing in truly dangerous situations, anxiety often strikes for reasons other than the need to protect one’s self. That same “fight-or-flight” response can then lead to shaking and excess perspiration when can, in turn, create more anxiety over the social stigma associated with these behaviors.

Loss Of Sex Drive And Performance

The leading cause of erectile dysfunction is anxiety. Since anxiety can disrupt the body’s normal cardiovascular performance, anxiety often causes erectile issues due to decreased blood flow to the penis. It is estimated that nearly forty percent of American men suffer from some form of anxiety, but the number of erectile dysfunction cases reported is often much lower due to the stigma associated with decreased sex drive. That decline in sexual performance can, in turn, trigger more anxiety, and the vicious cycle feeds itself.

It Is Often Accompanied By Other Related Conditions

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), around half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is common in those who suffer from ADHD and eating or body dysmorphic disorders. General anxiety disorder rarely occurs by itself, and sometimes the cause of this can be diet, environment, substance abuse, or an unstable home-life. Physical symptoms of anxiety such as dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat, to name a few. Chemical imbalances in the body occur when anxiety is present, and these imbalances can exacerbate, or even cause, other related conditions to develop inside the body. There is also evidence that anxiety can lead to chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, later in life.

It Can Be Hereditary

Anxiety can be passed down through family genetics, and many who suffer from this condition may have had a family history of anxiety and related disorders. Biological factors contributing to anxiety is an emerging field of study at this point and more will be discovered in the next ten to fifteen years. If both parents suffer from a clinical anxiety disorder, then the child will have a higher chance of developing it. However, this type of occurrence may not be biological; it may be environmental or psychological due to the conditions in which the child was raised (with two parents both suffering from anxiety disorders). Many researchers and medical professionals will agree that anxiety is a combination of several factors including biological, environmental, and psychological. This opinion is the consensus, although many doctors will ask if there is a family history of mental illnesses if visiting for a first appointment.

It Is Incredibly Common

As many as forty million American citizens aged eighteen and above will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. Anxiety is an incredibly common mental health issue, and although it may feel highly individualized and isolated, many cases are similar. As much as USD 42 billion is spent annually by the American government for treating and diagnosing anxiety disorders. This amount equates to approximately one-third of the entire national budget for mental health per annum. Women are more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder (except for PTSD) than men. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that anxiety can occur earlier in a woman's life than a man's and that it is most common in women who are aged between puberty and fifty years old.