Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Anxiety

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Anxiety

Anxiety affects us all. In some cases, it’s fleeting: a pit your stomach before your doctor delivers test results; sweaty palms before you deliver a presentation. Those are normal responses to stressful situations.

Anxiety may be a problem, however, if it becomes overwhelming or interferes with everyday activities. It may be a problem if it causes you to feel ill, lose your temper, or avoid certain places or people. 

By “problem” we mean a medical problem, of course. Life-disrupting anxiety is likely an anxiety disorder: a legitimate, treatable medical condition. And, like most medical conditions, it’s something you shouldn’t ignore – for your health’s sake.

Common Health Risks of Anxiety

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In the interest of simplicity, we’ll focus on GAD, the most common anxiety disorder in adults older than 50. 

Anxiety in general, and GAD specifically, affects more than your thoughts and feelings. It can also cause uncomfortable, sometimes worrisome physical symptoms, such as: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia

Anxiety is also known to cause gastrointestinal distress, especially worsening of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. 

Anxiety and Your Heart

An episode of anxiety can make your heart feel like it’s about to “explode.” Maybe you’ve experienced this before: the racing, pounding sensation that seems to fill your whole chest. You might even hear or feel it in your ears. It’s the result of a fast heart rate and increased blood pressure. 

These physical responses to anxiety put extra stress on your heart. Sudden, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) can interfere with normal heart function. Increased blood pressure can contribute to heart disease, weakened heart muscle, and heart failure. 
In other words: Anxiety is so bad for your heart it can lead to heart disease. It can even slow your recovery from a cardiac event, since anxious thoughts may prevent you from getting healing sleep or heart-healthy exercise. 

One Symptom You Shouldn’t Ignore
If you’re still not convinced you need to take your anxiety seriously, at least take this advice: Never ignore chest pain, even if you think it’s just a side effect of your anxious mood. 

You may be right. But there’s also a chance that your chest pain is a heart attack. How can you tell the difference? You probably can’t – but a doctor can, by testing your blood for certain heart muscle enzymes. 

At MDVIP, we don’t want your anxiety to get that far. There are many excellent treatments for GAD and other anxiety disorders, from traditional medicine to alternative approaches. It’s even possible to achieve full recovery from GAD – which may be most compelling reason of all to not ignore your anxiety. 

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How Anxiety Affects Your Brain & Why Exercise Helps / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / July 23, 2018

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