A question that has been popping up a lot in my mind recently, is this; why can Anxiety, a mental health condition, have so many physical effects on those suffering?
Anxiety doesn’t just cause me to feel anxious (as the over-simplistic name might suggest), no, it causes me to experience heart palpitations, makes what should be the effortless task of breathing in feel impossible, causes me to lose my appetite, gives me an ‘upset stomach’, causes me to feel constantly ‘sluggish’/fatigued, and makes me feel like I have a temperature, all of which are most definitely not mental symptoms. And, to make matters worse, such feelings generally tend to linger long after I have escaped the triggering/anxiety provoking situation.
But the question remains; why? Why does a mental illness such as Anxiety manifest itself in such physical ways, not just in me, but in so many people around the world?
The reason is due to our hormones.
You see, when we experience feelings of anxiety, our bodies produce excessive amounts of the stress hormone’s cortisol and adrenaline. This in turn leads to our heart rate and blood pressure increasing. It can also have an adverse effect on both our digestive system and our immune system, thus explaining many of the physical symptoms that anxiety can cause (heart palpitations, upset stomach, etc.)
There is a reason why our heart rate increases when anxiety presents itself, and that reason is because our bodies revert to ‘fight or flight’ mode, something which they would’ve relied on in the past when they had to fight or run away from danger. Our bodies, when presented with anxiety, resort back to this mode, in an effort to ‘keep us safe.’ This is an evolutionary response triggered by feelings of heightened anxiety.
Our bodies respond in such a way, ultimately, to keep us alive, because they are unable to distinguish between what is a ‘real’ threat, and what is anxiety. Knowing this, knowing that there is a valid reason for the physical things we experience should help you to foster greater appreciation for your body and all that it does for you. I know that I will certainly remember these facts the next time I feel myself becoming frustrated with the way my body reacts to anxiety.
I hope that you have found this post interesting and informative.
If you have any topics you would like me to discuss in future blog posts, please do let me know in the comments.