Don’t Let Worrying Make You Sick

In the following article, WebMD explores the potentially deleterious effects of excessive worrying on physical and mental health—and also provides some suggestions about how to combat anxiety that threatens to negatively impact your life. The content is reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD, a medical reference expert at WebMD.

Are you an excessive worrier? Perhaps you unconsciously think that if you “worry enough,” you can prevent bad things from happening. But the fact is, worrying can affect the body in ways that may surprise you. When worrying becomes excessive, it can lead to feelings of high anxiety and even cause you to be physically ill.

Chronic worrying can affect your daily life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. Many people who worry excessively are so anxiety-ridden that they seek relief in harmful lifestyle habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs.

 

Chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems. The problems occur when fight or flight is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. The fight or flight response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that the body uses for fuel. The hormones also cause physical reactions such as:
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Nervous energy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
When the excessive fuel in the blood isn’t used for physical activities, the chronic anxiety and outpouring of stress hormones can have serious physical consequences, including:
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Digestive disorders
  • Muscle tension
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Premature coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
If excessive worrying and high anxiety go untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Although excessive worrying and high anxiety can cause an imbalance in your body, there are many options you have that can re-establish harmony of mind, body, and spirit.
  • Talk to your doctor. 
  • Exercise daily. 
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. 
  • Drink caffeine in moderation. 
  • Learn to relax. 
  • Meditate or pray. 
  • Have a strong social network. 
  • Talk to a professional therapist. 
And while it might sound counter-intuitive, one of the most important techniques for combating worrying is perhaps surprisingly to be conscious of your worries. Set aside 15 minutes each day where you allow yourself to focus (intensely) on your problems and fears. Then, without reservation, vow to let them go after the 15 minutes is up.
Some people wear a rubber band on their wrist and “pop” the rubber band if they find themselves going into their “worry mode.” Do whatever you can to remind yourself to stop dwelling on worries. It’s essential to do so to stay physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy.
 
References
 
American Academy of Family Physicians: “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”
 
Anxiety Disorders Association of America: “Brief Overview of Anxiety Disorders”
 
National Institute of Mental Health: “Anxiety Disorders” and “Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)”
 
WebMD (2017). “How Worrying Affects the Body” Retrieved from
https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body?ecd=wnl_dep_121917&ctr=wnl-dep-121917_nsl-promo-v_3&mb=5jevC%2fOAKhiT3mAVc3Ae1e HnVev1imbC4fJPDQw0fBM%3d#1

 

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