Anxiety Disorder Complications

Originally written for
livestrong

Struggling with chronic anxiety isn’t only dealing with constant worry or overwhelm. It can also cause complications, like exhausting a person mentally and emotionally and cause serious health problems.

Social and Psychological Complications:

Without proper treatment anxiety disorders can lead to low self-esteem, isolation, lack of sleep, cognitive decline and an overall sense of exhaustion and hopelessness. Due to the lack of energy and the overwhelming emotional challenges, people with chronic anxiety are frequently unable to keep up with the demands of their everyday lives. Loss of employment, financial problems and ending of primary relationships are common consequences, which usually aggravate the overall sense of hopelessness and entrapment. Not surprisingly anxiety is a major risk factor for developing depression. Furthermore studies revealed that anxiety combined with depression significantly increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Addictions to drugs, alcohol or nicotine are fairly common among people, who have been struggling with anxiety for a longer period of time. Thus similar to depression, addictive behavior can be a risk factor for and a complication of anxiety disorders.

Physical complications:

Anxiety frequently causes digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome with heart-burn, cramping, bloating and diarrhea or constipation. Weight fluctuations, loss of interest in sex, sleep problems, headaches and muscle tension and chronic pain are other common anxiety-related physical issues.

Studies have shown that chronic stress and anxiety can also lead to more severe health challenges, such as cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes and even cancer. These stress-related illnesses are the most common causes of death in most industrialized nations. Chronic anxiety stimulates the continuous release of stress hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol into the blood stream, forcing the body to remain mostly in a fight and flight state. In response blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels increase, which all are major risk factors for developing heart disease and stroke.

Stress and anxiety also decrease the activity of the immune system and lower the numbers of white bloods cells. Researchers identified stress may play a major role in the development of allergies and auto-immune diseases. Since these diseases themselves can cause significant stress and anxiety, both mental and physical conditions can exacerbate each other in a viscous cycle.

On a cellular level, stress hormones increase oxidative stress in cells and lead to accumulation of free radicals, which cause cell damage. Free radicals can injure all components of a cell, including telomeres, which are specific DNA sequences on the end of chromosomes. Telomeres are designed to protect chromosomes from degradation and prevent them from fusing with each other. Scientists found that the cells of people suffering from chronic stress have significantly shortened telomeres, which means that these people are at higher risk for accelerated aging, cancer, and autoimmune and heart diseases.

Anxiety can have severe and lasting effects on a person’s mental and physical health. If you experience chronic feelings of anxiousness, worry, uneasiness or insecurity take this symptoms seriously and consult your doctor. Although anxiety can make you feel overwhelmed and disempowered, remember you are not alone. Anxiety is one of the most prevalent health challenges in our society. The good news is, that there are many effective treatment options that can help you to overcome this emotional challenge and take your power back.

References:

Anxiety Disorders: Complications
http://www.healthcentral.com/anxiety/encyclopedia/anxiety-disorders-4000458/complications

Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18190880

The gut brain connection
http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-gut-brain-connection

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