Everyone feels nervous or on edge every now and then. Some people experience intense fear and worry much more frequently — and it can be devastating. Anxiety causes excess emotional and psychological stress — but it can also affect you physically. Here are all the terrible ways feeling constantly anxious can destroy your body.
Anxiety messes with your blood sugar
Anxiety on its own will not give you heart disease or diabetes. However, it can cause physical reactions in your body that, if left untreated, could eventually cause disease. According to Prevention, your body’s natural fight-or-flight response — a physical state of preparedness, in case you need to run away from a bear or something — causes a spike in your blood sugar. While this may only be temporary, if it happens a lot, you might develop insulin resistance, a precursor for diabetes.
It makes you gain (and sometimes lose) weight
Stress often causes weight gain, and in some cases, anxiety can, too. However, it can also cause weight loss — which you’d think would be a good thing, but it really isn’t. According to Calm Clinic, unintentional and anxiety-induced lifestyle changes like eating and drinking less can affect your weight. Unfortunately, long-term anxiety and stress eventually becomes a hormonal disaster, which makes many people gain weight regardless of their dietary or exercise habits.
It also weakens your immune system
Do you feel sick a lot more frequently than anyone else you know? It’s literally not all in your head — though that’s where it starts. According to the American Psychological Association, your mental health can impact how well your immune system fights off disease. Stress, depression, and other mentally and physically exhausting conditions can lead to more frequent cold and sick days — and it might feel like there isn’t anything you can do about it.
It drains your energy
Feeling anxious can drain both your mental and physical energy, says Livestrong.com. Anxiety is sort of like a fight-or-flight response that doesn’t know when to shut off. Since your body goes into high alert when symptoms flare up, you might feel fatigued once they subside, even if they go away fairly quickly. Fatigue can make work, social activities, and even personal leisure time next to impossible — but it’s OK to let yourself rest and recover.
It hurts your heart
When you’re anxious, your heart beats faster — which might seem harmless, since it’s usually temporary. However, Johns Hopkins Medicine says that while the association between anxiety and heart disease requires further research, there’s likely a connection between anxiety, stress, and heart health. Consistent anxiety raises your blood pressure, which can damage your heart over time. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and even Type 2 diabetes.
It interferes with your digestive system
According to Harvard Health Publications, your brain and your gut share a close connection. As your brain processes emotions, your digestive tract reacts to them — usually not in a favorable fashion. Stress, anger, and fear can trigger symptoms like abdominal cramping and heartburn. If you’ve ever felt nauseated in response to your anxiety, it isn’t just your mind playing tricks on you. If you show other additional common signs of chronic stress, like headaches or restlessness, your anxiety could be to blame.
How to protect yourself from your own anxiety
Don’t let your mental health hurt you, either in the short- or long-term. Though it’s tough to beat, there are things you can do to cope. Engage in daily activities that can help relieve your anxiety, like going for walks, meditating, or taking daily power naps. Also avoid certain habits that can worsen your anxiety symptoms, like constantly checking your phone and over-caffeinating.