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Sick to Your Stomach: The Effects of Anxiety on the Body

A young woman with anxiety sitting on a couch, struggling to overcome anxiety symptoms.
Suffering from an anxiety disorder can make you feel physically ill, even when you’re not.

When you have anxiety, you’ll often experience feelings of worry, fear or nervousness in your daily life. But, did you know that many of your symptoms can manifest themselves in physical ways? You may feel sick to your stomach, struggle with shortness of breath or just generally feel ill.

Since these symptoms are often tied to physical ailments, you may not realize your body is reacting to your anxiety. In this blog, we’ll explore the correlation between anxiety and physical symptoms like nausea and headaches.

Why Do You Feel Physically Ill When You’re Anxious?

Does presenting to a room full of people make you feel queasy? Does your head spin as your rollercoaster ride begins? These symptoms are tied to the temporary anxiety you experience in the moment. However, anxiety disorders can cause longer and more intense feelings of illness.

Feeling ill from anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors:

A General Illness. Our bodies work to stave off germs on a daily basis. However, your anxiety can further weaken your immune system, which increases your risk of contracting some illnesses. Additionally, this could be a factor for any feelings of nausea you have.

Gut and Abdominal Tension. Your feelings of anxiety may also bring about increased pressure in the stomach and intestines. This pressure can affect the feelings in your abdomen, causing you to feel sick.

Stress Response. It’s believed that sometimes nausea and general feelings of illness directly stem from the activation of the “fight or flight” response in your body, as well as, hormones related to stress, such as cortisol.

Feeling ill can lead to an increased sense of concern and fear. This creates a vicious cycle, exasperating your anxiety and physical symptoms.

Physical Anxiety Symptoms

When anxiety manifests itself physically, some of the most common symptoms include stomach pains, nausea and digestive issues. You also may experience more headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness and a feeling like you’re going to pass out.

Anxiety can also make you believe you’re having a heart attack, when really what you’re experiencing is an anxiety attack. For example, anxiety disorders oftentimes cause increased heart rate and chest pains.

Other physical symptoms caused by anxiety include:

• Weakness or fatigue
• Insomnia, restless sleep or other sleep problems
• Shortness of breath or feeling as though you’re choking
• Trembling or shaking
• Numbness or tingling in parts of your body
• Sweating
• Muscle pain or tension
• Feeling overheated or getting chills

Is it Anxiety or Something Else?

It’s never easy trying to cope with symptoms of a physical ailment. However, when these symptoms are caused by anxiety, there’s no risk of danger. Physical unwellness in this case can be attributed to an overexposure to your body’s fight or flight response rather than an infection or virus.

Of course, that doesn’t make managing these symptoms any easier. In fact, because your anxiety doesn’t go away easily, neither will chronic illness, which can make it even more problematic. You may begin to feel even worse about your overall health, stealing all your energy and getting in the way of your everyday life.

Some over-the-counter medicines can offer temporary relief from your physical symptoms. For example, they can help calm the nausea, ease headaches and improve muscle pain. However, it’s necessary to treat the anxiety – the root cause of these symptoms – in order to experience lasting relief.

Discover Anxiety Relief at The Raleigh House

If you’re suffering from chronic illness stemming from anxiety, there is hope. At The Raleigh House, we’re here to help you on your journey to total mental health healing. We understand that anxiety can have you feeling trapped inside a negative situation with overwhelming feelings. That’s why we offer a holistic east to west approach to mental health and addiction treatment.

We blend evidence-based treatments with experiential therapies — including activities like yoga, meditation, pro-recovery meals, equine therapy and more — to help you address your anxiety symptoms, get to the bottom of your mental health disorder and learn how to prevent your anxiety from interfering in your daily life.

Reach out to us today to learn how The Raleigh House can help you overcome anxiety.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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