6 Health Problems You Never Knew You Could Get If You Have Anxiety
Struggling with anxiety already takes enough of a toll on your mental health, but left unmanaged, anxiety can also cause some long-term effects to your physical health as well. There a number of health problems associated with anxiety, as our physical and mental health are more intertwined than we think. Managing your anxiety can help alleviate these issues, so it's important to be aware of some of the lesser-known side effects of chronic anxiety.
"In reality, anxiety is a normal, healthy, protective mechanisms that keeps us safe from dangers and motivates us to take the steps necessary to achieve our goals," clinical psychologist Inna Khazan, PhD tells Bustle. "Anxiety only starts having negative effects on health when we get stuck in it, when it does not stop, and we are not able to recover. Learning how to recognize anxiety's helpful cues, allowing anxiety to be, and choosing the most helpful response to its cues is what helps us move on without getting stuck and without suffering negative health consequences." Whether this means utilizing techniques like meditation, or talking to a loved one or therapist about your anxiety, there are ways to cope to make sure anxiety doesn't become a greater issue.
If you have anxiety, these potential health problems shouldn't scare you, but by becoming aware of some of the side effects, you can feel more motivated to do everything you can to take care of your mental health. Here are six seven health problems you never knew you could get if you have anxiety, according to experts.
Insomnia is one health condition that many people who have anxiety suffer from. "It's hard to see how the the two issues relate because anxiety is categorized under mental health, while insomnia is listed under the medical field," cognitive behavioral therapist Celeste Viciere, LMHC tells Bustle. "If someone has an untreated anxiety disorder, their mind struggles with stopping. When it's time to rest, it's a struggle for their mind to slow down because of the constant state of anxiety it's become so used to." If you are having difficulties sleeping because of anxiety, all hope is not lost. Speaking with a therapist or doctor about how to let go of worrying thoughts at night may help with your insomnia.
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Anxiety can also lead to irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues. "When your body is in a constant state of panic, stress or fear, your bowels may be affected and cause you to have to constantly use the bathroom," says Viciere. If you notice this becoming a problem, talk with your doctor about how to address the underlying anxiety affecting your digestive system.
Many people with anxiety tend to grind their teeth when asleep or awake. This is known as bruxism. "With anxiety, you can find yourself constantly grinding your teeth, especially at night," says Viciere. "This can cause you to have issues with your teeth chipping away. It can also lead to someone having constant headaches caused by their teeth being clinched regularly." Again, your doctor can help — a mouthguard can serve to prevent you from grinding your teeth at night.
4. Tension Myoneural Syndrome (TMS)
Tension Myoneural Syndrome (TMS) is psychogenic pain that results from anxiety, depression and/or anger. This often occurs in the form of back pain. Similar to chronic pain, the symptoms of TMS can be debilitating, and doctors may have a difficult time finding a cause, psychotherapist Laurel Steinberg, PhD tells Bustle. If you are searching for causes behind this pain, but aren't finding any, ask your doctor or therapist about whether anxiety or mental health issues may be to blame.
5. Heart Disease
Anxiety can also be bad for your heart. Research published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are at greater risk for cardiovascular events such as stroke, and heart failure than those without anxiety. Of course having anxiety doesn't always mean you will also have heart problems, but panic attacks and moments of anxiety are also known to raise heart rate and blood pressure, so be sure to talk with both a doctor and a therapist to prevent your symptoms from escalating into greater problems down the line.
6. Respiratory Problems
Problems breathing and other respiratory problems can occur in people with anxiety. "When we are under stress or have anxiety, we tend to not breathe like we normally do," says Viciere. "When you have this issue, your chest may hurt or feel painful when you breathe. If you are not conscious of it, you may not realize that you are struggling with anxiety, which can cause your breathing to spiral out of control where you can end up with more medical issues such as a low oxygen level."
Of course, not everyone with anxiety will get these health problems, but these potential side effects can occur as a result of prolonged, untreated anxiety. The best way to prevent them is by seeking help, either from a therapist, loved one, or through medication, to better help you to cope with anxiety