Psychiatry Associates Blog

4 Physical Manifestations of Anxiety

anxiety and painWhen a person thinks of anxiety, they often imagine the mental and emotional turmoil.  They likely envision someone who is high-strung, often nervous and prone to depression.  However, while anxiety can certainly manifest in these ways, there are several other potential side effects that are less commonly realized.  Key among these are the physical signs of an anxiety disorder.

It isn’t a secret that mental health can also impact the body.  In the case of anxiety, chemical imbalances in the brain and hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol work together to produce not only mental symptoms, but physical ones as well.

Racing Heart from Anxiety

People suffering from anxiety are frequently in a state of “fight or flight,” despite the lack of any real threat.  This natural bodily response to potential harm activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is what causes the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol.  It is also what causes blood vessels to constrict, blood pressure to rise, and the heart to race.  Therefore, individuals who suffer from anxiety may frequently experience the sensation of an elevated heart rate, as their body prepares them to fight or flee.

Anxiety and Shortness of Breath

As the heart speeds up, oxygen levels in the blood drop.  In response, breath quickens and the lungs draw in more oxygen.  It is precisely what happens during exercise.  However, it can happen to anxiety sufferers even in the absence of physical exertion.  Unfortunately, breathing too quickly can lead to hyperventilation and worsen anxiety.  To combat this problem, sufferers should try to take deep, controlled breaths from the diaphragm to help stabilize heart rate and breath.

Fatigue from Anxiety

Sleep and anxiety have a complicated relationship.  While sleep is restorative and necessary for healthy body function, anxiety and the associated stressors can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.  Furthermore, the mind often races with thought and worry in those with anxiety, which can also make sleep elusive.  As a result of poor sleep quality, sufferers may feel fatigued during waking hours.  The need for sleep and the inability to achieve quality sleep is a vicious cycle that plagues many with anxiety.

Muscles Soreness and Anxiety

In addition to quickened heart rate and breathing, the body’s stress response can also cause muscles to contract.  When the brain is assessing a threat, it prepares the body to spring into action.  This includes tightening of the muscles.  In those with anxiety, this muscle contraction occurs frequently and for extended periods of time.  As a result, sufferers may feel tightness and pain, particularly in areas such as the back, shoulders, and neck.

Treating Anxiety in Baton Rouge

The best way to improve anxiety and associated symptoms, both mental and physical, is through the help of a qualified mental health professional.  Board-certified psychiatrists like those of Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge can help patients better understand their anxiety and contributing factors, as well as help develop effective ways to cope.  These can include incorporating calming techniques such as breathing, lifestyle adjustments, and medication.

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Topics: Anxiety disorders