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Anxiety: A Major Health Hazard

When it comes to your health, anxiety is a major menace. Anxiety can feel debilitating all on its own, but it becomes even more hazardous because of how many other aspects of your health it can impact.

Anxiety can lead to health problems, or can make existing problems much worse. In some cases, having a health issue and worrying about it can then bring anxiety into the mix, but very often anxiety comes first and then leads to physical health issues. A recent study showed that people with anxiety were up to twice as likely to develop a physical illness too.

Anxiety is commonly linked to health issues such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Fertility problems
  • Autoimmune conditions like lupus
  • Skin disorders
  • Allergies
  • Migraine headaches 

Anxiety can have serious impact on heart health. In fact, a study of people with heart ailments showed that those who also suffered anxiety were much more likely to suffer a heart attack and die than those who had a more relaxed attitude about their condition and did not suffer anxiety.

Anxious people are also more likely to self-medicate with prescription and over the counter medications, alcohol and food, leading to addictions, side effects, and obesity that can all aggravate the health conditions they also suffer.

How do you know if you have anxiety? You need to speak with your doctor, because anxiety has such a huge range of symptoms and can impact so many different parts of your mind, mood, physical health, emotions and feelings. Some symptoms (and there are many, many more) include:

  • Classic “panic attacks” and physical reactions like hives, hyperventilating, etc.
  • Constant worrying and a sense of dread.
  • Physical ailments of all sorts that don’t seem related to anything – lots of aching, pains, fatigue that aren’t the result of actual physical activity.
  • Feeling on edge and overwhelmed, sad and depressed, for weeks at a time.
  • Fear of things out of proportion to reality (can be specific, like fear of being in an elevator or fear of spiders, or more general and vague.)
  • Feeling hot or icy tingles in face, hands and feet.
  • Flushing, blushing, or blanching (turning pale) at random times but also related to times of feeling anxious.
  • Ringing in ears, feeling of muted hearing, stuck in a tunnel.
  • Avoiding normal activities out of fear, sadness or depression.
  • Tightness in your chest, breathing difficulty (*Always talk to a Dr. or head to the ER for anything that may be a heart attack symptom – be safe, not sorry.)
  • Sleeping more or less than normal, change in dream patterns.
  • Eating more or less than normal, especially craving sugars.
  • Gaining or losing weight that seems out of proportion to your eating.
  • Loss of interest in normal social activities, avoiding being around people, feeling persecuted or that people are staring at you or judging you.
  • Having signs of anxiety and then developing physical symptoms like high blood pressure, chest pain, skin rashes, etc.

Any of these – and so many more – can tell you that anxiety may be plaguing your life, or the life of someone you know. Seeking medical help is really important for many forms of anxiety, and it is important that you tell your doctor if you feel you have anxiety in addition to other health issues. It may impact the form of treatment(s) you receive.

Anxiety can strike anyone, and at any time. It can often be linked to an illness, a major life event, a change in seasons, or the holidays, but can just appear with no particular links.

Some things you can do to help yourself (do not avoid seeking professional treatment, but many of these can help you feel better with mild anxiety, and indeed even without anxiety!):

  • Exercise.  Letting your body sweat, work, and burn off tension all while releasing endorphins can be a powerful cure for many ailments.
  • Examine your diet for culprits. Caffeine, sugar, chocolate, white carbs and for many, alcohol can all aggravate anxiety.
  • Mood foods. In addition to looking at what you shouldn’t be eating, focus on what you should be, with food great for mood. Dark green leafy veggies, dark orange veggies, dark red cherries, berries, soy, nuts, avocados, garlic, active culture yogurts, legumes, bright colored citrus fruits. Eating small, regular meals is also a good plan to keep your system firing normally.
  • Mantra and meditation.  It can be very helpful to meditate and/or repeat a mantra in your day, something uplifting that reminds you that you are in control and can be happy and whole.
  • Break the day up. Don’t try to visualize your entire day, which can be overwhelming for anyone. Break it into smaller increments, even down to minutes, to manage the moments without anxiety.
  • Turn your attention. Keeping busy and active can help you beat anxiety, because you aren’t sitting around focusing on it. Take time out to read a book, watch a silly movie, call a light-hearted friend who will help you laugh.
  • Acupuncture and massage.  Acupuncture can help you balance your systems and relieve mental anxiety, as well as some of the physical pain or complaints you may be suffering. A good massage therapist can also help relieve stress and have an impact on physical pain and even things like blood pressure.
  • Get professional help. Taking that step is important, because often anxiety can be rooted in things we need help overcoming, from physical sources or purely in your mind.

Anxiety is a difficult enemy because it can be so vague, and you can feel so uncertain about what is happening and where it is coming from. Fear that a doctor won’t understand or believe you, or just fear of seeking help in general, is a big enemy in getting well. Don’t suffer. Seek help, and help yourself (or those you love) in any ways that you can!

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