The abrupt changes in blood flow can also cause the development of high blood pressure and irregular heart rates like tachycardia (rapid heart rate). Inflammation also weakens the artery linings and makes it more prone to coronary plaque buildup.
Effects of Anxiety on Gastrointestinal Health
In order to promote circulation to the brain, the body actually redirects the blood flow from the lower organs, including the digestive tract. This puts a temporary halt on normal functions, which can result in problems like stomach ache and diarrhea.
It is thought that a gut-brain link exists, and that anxiety plays an important role in gastrointestinal issues.
This is because of how it affects gut bacteria and the production of stomach acids. This can lead to chronic problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and stomach ulcers.
Effects of Anxiety on The Musculoskeletal System
Nausea and acid reflux are stress responses you experience in the digestive tract, but the cause actually lies in muscle tension. This is also the same reason your hands might shake or your knees may buckle when you are feeling anxious.
Muscles tend to contract in an effort to minimize the injury and pain that may result from a stressful situation. After episodes caused by anxiety disorder, however, the muscles may fail to relax. Apart from lower back pain, this can also cause tension headaches and migraines.
Effects of Anxiety on The Respiratory System
Anxiety can trigger an asthma attack as well as worsen its symptoms. The shortness of breath that is commonly associated with experiencing anxiety is also a result of breathing airways becoming inflamed and constricted, just as what happens during an asthmatic episode.
For those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), there is the additional challenge of the loss of lung elasticity. The lungs cannot store air at full capacity nor can it expel it completely, resulting in inefficient breathing. As a result, anxiety is fairly common in those with COPD.
Effects of Anxiety on The Reproductive System
When you are occupied by feelings of fear and impending doom, sex is probably the farthest thing from your mind. Anxiety can have lasting effects on both sex drive and physical arousal.
Apart from causing a lack of interest in sexual activity, men may experience erectile dysfunction and women may experience vaginal dryness or reduced lubrication. In some cases, women may also experience pain during intercourse.
Anxiety can also have a negative effect on female fertility. Challenges to conceiving is a source of stress, but researchers are also studying if anxiety is the cause for poor pregnancy rates. However, there has been no evidence for the popular notion that stress can cause miscarriages.
Though anxiety is considered a mental health issue, the many ways it can affect normal body functions make it a medical concern that should be addressed seriously and holistically.
Beyond treating the symptoms of anxiety disorders, it is important to be on the lookout for other physical manifestations. Disclosure of anxiety-related diagnoses can also be helpful in treating other illnesses.