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Worrying Our Way To Illness does more than just steal your time and attention; it can also have a serious impact on your health. Chronic worry, stress, and anxiety flood your body with stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which cause a host of health problems ranging from insomnia to an increased risk of a heart attack.
Anxiety is linked to fear and manifests as a future-oriented mood state that consists of a complex cognitive, affective, physiological, and behavioral response system associated with preparation for the anticipated events or circumstances perceived as threatening. Pathological anxiety is triggered when there is an overestimation of perceived threat or an erroneous danger appraisal of a situation which leads to excessive and inappropriate responses.[rx][rx][rx]
Worrying Our Way To Illness; How Anxiety Hurts Our Health
Short Term Discomfort
Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and irritability are just a few of the short term problems caused by your body’s release of stress hormones. You may also have trouble concentrating, a dry mouth, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat, according to Pubchem.
Long term worries, anxiety and stress flood your body with cortisol, which suppresses your system, according to Today’s Dietitian. This leaves you vulnerable to everything from catching a cold or virus to developing food allergies or gastrointestinal problems.
A healthy immune system supports healthy intestines. Elevated cortisol levels wreak havoc on digestion and nutrient absorption. It also can create irritation and inflammation of the mucosal lining in your gastrointestinal tract.
Over time, worry and anxiety can start packing on the pounds. Cortisol increases your body’s fat storage, stimulates your appetite and elevates your blood sugar levels while suppressing insulin secretion. This starves your cells of glucose, increasing your body’s hunger signals.
Weight gain itself can stress your cardiovascular system, but elevated cortisol levels also cause increased blood pressure. Over time, this can leave your vessels damaged and riddled heart attack-causing plaque accumulation.
The Daily Mail points out that over time, worrying has a profound impact on the brain. In addition to making it more difficult to concentrate, you may also experience a lower sex drive and difficulties falling asleep. In addition to focusing your mind on whatever is causing you to worry, the increased levels of cortisol can trigger insomnia.
If constant worry is affecting your life and health, the best way to start tackling the problem is by talking to your primary care physician. Get a physical to rule out any potential health conditions that can trigger anxiety. In certain cases, you may want to talk to your doctor about anti-anxiety medications that may help.
Trouble in Sleeping
Many health provider or experts recommend making a list of everything that you’re worried about and analyzing it to distinguish productive worries that you have control over, from unproductive worries that are out of your hands.
Helpguide recommends a similar practice, with the addition of creating a worry period. During the day, write down any worries or anxious thoughts and postpone thinking about them until it’s your designated worry time. Over time, this may help train you to focus on the present moment instead of nagging worries, giving you more control.
Regular exercise can help boost your immune system and counteract some of the damaging effects that worry has on the body. Main points out that regular exercise helps train your body to deal with stress. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is also helpful.
Treatment of Worried and Anxiety
Pharmacotherapy: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, mild tranquilizers, and beta-blockers treat anxiety disorders. [rx][rx][rx]
- SSRIs (fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine, escitalopram, and citalopram) – are an effective treatment for all anxiety disorders and considered first-line treatment.
SNRIs (venlafaxine and duloxetine) – are considered as effective as SSRIs and also are considered first-line treatment, particularly for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline, imipramine, and nortriptyline) – are useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders but cause significant adverse effects.
Benzodiazepines (alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam) – are used for short-term management of anxiety. They are fast-acting and bring relief within 30 minutes to an hour. They are effective in promoting relaxation and reducing muscular tension and other symptoms of anxiety. Because they work quickly, they are effective when taken for panic attacks or overwhelming episodes. Long-term use may require increased doses to achieve the same effect, which may result in problems related to tolerance and dependence.
Buspirone – is a mild tranquilizer that is slow acting as compared to benzodiazepines and takes about 2 weeks to start working. It has the advantage of being less sedating and also not being addicting with minimal withdrawal effects. It works for GAD.
- Psychotherapy – One of the most effective forms of psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is a structured, goal-oriented, and didactic form of therapy that focuses on helping individuals identify and modify characteristic maladaptive thinking patterns and beliefs that trigger and maintain symptoms. This is a type of counseling that addresses the emotional response to mental illness. A mental health specialist helps you by talking about how to understand and deal with your anxiety disorder.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy – This is a certain type of psychotherapy that teaches you how to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that trigger deep anxiety or panic.
These tips may help you control or lessen your symptoms:
- Cut down on foods and drinks that have caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine is a mood-altering drug, and it may make symptoms of anxiety disorders worse.
- Eat right, exercise, and get better sleep. Brisk aerobic exercises like jogging and biking help release brain chemicals that cut stress and improve your mood.
- Sleep problems and anxiety disorder often go hand in hand. Make getting good rest a priority. Follow a relaxing bedtime routine. Talk to your doctor if you still have trouble sleeping.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter meds or herbal remedies. Many contain chemicals that can make anxiety symptoms worse.
Characteristic features noted in individuals with clinical anxiety:
False alarms – The presence of intense fear in the absence of threat cues or very minimal threat provocation.
Persistence – There is a future-oriented perspective that involves the anticipation of threat or danger which causes the patient to experience a heightened level of apprehension and thoughts about impending potential threat, regardless of whether it materializes.
Impaired Functioning – The anxiety interferes with effective and adaptive coping in the face of a perceived threat and the person’s daily social or occupational life.
Stimulus hypersensitivity – In clinical states, fear is elicited by a wider range of stimuli or situations of relatively mild intensity that would be innocuous to a person who does not have clinical anxiety.
Dysfunctional cognition and cognitive symptoms – Thinking characterized by overestimation of threat or danger appraisal of a situation that is not confirmed in any way.