If you have anxiety, it’s very likely that you also experience one or more physical health issues.
Did you know that quite a growing number of illnesses and chronic disease conditions are correlated with anxiety disorders?
Despite scientific research connecting the dots between anxiety and a growing list of anxiety-related illnesses,anxiety often goes unidentified and is frequently overlooked as a source of other physiological health issues.
Physical Illnesses Linked to Anxiety
Anxiety has now been implicated in many chronic physical conditions including:
- gastrointestinal conditions including IBS and Acid Reflux
- heart disease
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- thyroid problems
- migraine headaches
- chronic respiratory disorders including COPD
Research also shows the impact of anxiety on specific groups of people:
- People who have panic attacks are more likely to have mitral valve prolapse, hypertension, peptic ulcer, diabetes, chest pain (angina) or thyroid disease.
- Men with anxiety disorders are at greater risk for cardiac disorders, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory illness, asthma, and back pain.
- Women with anxiety disorders are more likely to have a history of cardiac problems, hypertension, metabolic, gastrointestinal, dermatological, respiratory disorders and arthritis.
These conditions have also been recently correlated with anxiety:
- female hormonal imbalance (including PCOS)
- sexual dysfunction
- insulin resistance
- blood sugar issues
- weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
Six of the leading causes of death have been also linked with anxiety and stress: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and even suicide.
When people with any anxiety-related disease also have untreated anxiety, the disease itself can be more difficult to treat. Physical symptoms often become worse.
The problem is becoming so big that the World Health Organization reports that anxiety and depression (which are often interlinked) could be the second leading causes of disability worldwide by 2020. That’s just 5 years away!
The Missing Connection
Anxiety often goes unidentified and is frequently overlooked as a source of other physical health issues.
Part of the problem is that although anxiety itself starts in the mind, it does create very real physical symptoms. Those symptoms can look very much like symptoms of other chronic conditions, such as digestive, thyroid and respiratory disorders. So it can be confusing for you and your health care practitioners too.
Typical anxiety symptoms that can also look like other physical illnesses include:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Heart palpitations
- Breathing difficulty
- Chest pain
- Numbing & tingling (especially arms and legs)
- Chills or flush (hot flash)
It’s NOT All in Your Head!
Many people with anxiety disorders go through life living needlessly with physical health problems that could be eliminated or improved through anxiety treatment. Unfortunately, they never make the connection that anxiety could be the source of the problem (or be exacerbating the problem).
If you think you might fall into this category — or if you have IBS, asthma, COPD, or heart disease — you may want to come in to see me to be evaluated for anxiety. The same is true if you have pain, dizziness, insomnia, or other symptoms that persist after physical causes have been ruled out.
Please know that all symptoms are real — and treatable! — whether they originate in the body or the mind.
Holistic, Long-Term Solutions for Anxiety
I use the 2 most effective long-term solutions for anxiety (and therefore, for any physical problems linked with anxiety):
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Anxiety Counseling/Psychotherapy to resolve the root cause that’s creating the anxiety in the first place
These are holistic, healthy, non-medication solutions so you can learn new skills and tools to manage and prevent anxiety. I help people identify and shift thoughts that generate anxiety, as well as learn new skills to react differently to anxiety-provoking situations.
Anxiety medications alone are less effective than CBT and Anxiety Counseling/Psychotherapy over the long term; they may also have unpleasant side effects and interact with other medications. Most of my clients work toward eliminating the medication altogether…
Skills not pills can help you reduce anxiety and improve anxiety-related illnesses at the same time.
- Harvard Medical School Special Health Reports
- National Institutes of Health / World Health Organization
- The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy
- American Medical Association (AMA), Archives of Internal Medicine