By David Joel Miller.
Lots of illness, is it anxiety telling you to be sick?
Many mental illnesses have very real physical symptoms. Those symptoms of depression and anxiety are not just in your head. Stress puts your body through some very debilitating changes. Having an anxiety disorder can look like a physical illness. If Anxiety goes on too long, those chemicals your nervous system is throwing out can lead to some long-term physical illnesses.
The mind-body connection does not just work in one direction. Physical illnesses can cause emotional problems. Emotional problems unrecognized and untreated can contribute to many physical illnesses. If you have any of the following psychical problems check first with your doctor. If that doctor can’t find a physical cause, consider working with a mental health professional to reduce your stress or treat your anxiety and depression.
Getting mental health help does not mean you are “crazy” or are losing your mind. Not getting help is you cheating yourself out of something that could do you some good.
Because anxiety symptoms mimic physical health symptoms when in doubt see your physician.
Anxiety causes sleep disturbances.
Being anxious interferes with your sleep and poor sleep contributes to physical illnesses. If you are lying awake at night turning problems over and over in your mind, a process called rumination, your anxiety is out of control and needs treatment.
Anxiety causes your mind to race.
Mind racing interferes with work and with relationships. You mind leaves on its own and there is no space in your head left for the things you need to be thinking about. Mind racing from anxiety is very different from the inattention in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or the impulsive thoughts in Bipolar Disorder. In anxiety disorders, the racing mind is about what has happened and what might happen and how terrible it would be if those things were to happen.
Anxiety leads to indecision.
Anxiety uses up so much of your brain that there is not much “computing capacity” left for other decisions. People who are high in anxiety find it hard to make decisions and remember everyday items. This leads some to question if they are developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.
With Anxiety, you may find it hard to breathe.
People with high levels of anxiety tend to breathe from the upper chest, almost the throat area rather from way down deep near the diaphragm. The symptoms of this altered breathing are easy to recognize. They remind me of the dog that is out of breath and pants fast and shallow. Healthy breathing puts air in the bloodstream, anxious breathing, hyperventilating, leaves you worse off.
Anxiety leaves you light-headed.
That strange disoriented feeling, where you feel light-headed and out of things may be the result of excess anxiety. The changes in breathing described above contribute to these feelings of light-headedness.
In “Anxiety Attacks” the heart races. Having sudden episodes of anxiety is common if you are in a dangerous situation or under stress. When these events get severe they get diagnosed as Panic Disorder, a recognized mental illness.
These feelings of chest palpitations result in people with anxiety symptoms ending up in the emergency room. The first few times the symptoms of a panic attack can resemble a heart attack. You need a doctor to check you out to be sure. People who have frequent panic attacks come to recognize the difference as they have been through this before. Unless you are sure, it is wise to get this checked out. One sure way to tell the difference is to try slow breathing and hold your breath for a few seconds between breaths. As the breaths slow down the symptoms should subside if this is a panic attack.
Anxiety prevents swallowing.
Anxiety can constrict your throat and make it hard to swallow. That feeling of choking that can happen before anything has entered your mouth likely is anxiety. Fear of something bad happening can create the same symptoms you feared.
Anxiety kicks in the flight mode.
High levels of anxiety prepare you to run, There may be trembling in the legs like a car revving up to take off. You may develop the restless feeling and want to run. Some people report jelly-like legs. Sweating and shivering may also be caused by anxiety.
Anxiety disturbs your appetite.
Some experience this as a loss of appetite, others feel nauseous and unable to eat. You might also have feelings of wanting to throw up. All of these digestive interfering results of anxiety are the body’s ways of lightening the load and diverting blood from the stomach to prepare you to flee. If you really do need to run, all well and good. But if you, like many other people in modern life, have more anxiety than you need, these digestive irritations can do harm to your digestive system over time.
With all these health related symptoms there is a huge tendency for people to ask for, even demand, medication from their doctors. Anti-anxiety meds can be helpful in the short run but reducing the stress and anxiety-provoking situations in your life coupled with other anxiety reducing techniques will work in the long run without the risk of becoming medication dependent. People who combine medication and counseling intervention seem to get past the anxiety faster.
Do any of these symptoms of anxiety affect you? Have you seen the doctor? Have you found other methods to control or reduce your anxiety?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books