Anxiety can wreak havoc on the body. When you have anxiety and stress, it triggers the amygdala, which then triggers the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is mediated by both the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).
Chronic anxiety and stress leads to long term activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to chronic increases in the heart rate and blood pressure. Other cardiac effects from long term activation of the sympathetic nervous system include increased risk of cardiac atheroslerosis, cardiac ischemia, myocardial infarction, and sudden death (Paterniti et al., 2001; Rutledge et al., 2013; Gustad et al., 2014).
When you have chronic anxiety and stress, it also prolongs the activation of the HPA axis, which leads to prolonged cortisol release from the adrenal glands. So prolonged activation of the HPA axis and cortisol release can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and stroke (Kahl et al., 2015; Frasure-Smith and Lespérance, 2008; Lambiase et al., 2014).
Chronic anxiety and stress can also affect your breathing. When the amygdala is activated by stress and anxiety, it then activates the parabrachial nucleus in the brainstem, which in turn increases your rate of breathing. Other effects of anxiety on breathing include shortness of breath and exacerbation of asthma.
With regards to aging, chronic anxiety and stress can accelerate the aging process and make you prone to several diseases of aging. In addition, there is a paradoxical increase in inflammation, although cortisol is known to have anti-inflammatory properties (O’Donovan et al., 2013).
And with the reproductive system, anxiety and stress can contribute to infertility (Sharma et al., 2013).
So that’s the bad news of how anxiety can wreak havoc on your body. The good news is that you can overcome your anxiety and stress, so that it no longer negatively affects your body and physical health. Please visit the rest of AnxietyBoss.com for more information and help on anxiety.
Sustained anxiety and 4-year progression of carotid atherosclerosis. Paterniti S, Zureik M, Ducimetière P, Touboul PJ, Fève JM, Alpérovitch A. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2001 Jan;21(1):136-41.
Anxiety associations with cardiac symptoms, angiographic disease severity, and healthcare utilization: the NHLBI-sponsored Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation. Rutledge T, Kenkre TS, Bittner V, Krantz DS, Thompson DV, Linke SE, Eastwood JA, Eteiba W, Cornell CE, Vaccarino V, Pepine CJ, Johnson BD, Bairey Merz CN. Int J Cardiol. 2013 Oct 3;168(3):2335-40.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression and risk of acute myocardial infarction: the HUNT 2 study. Gustad LT, Laugsand LE, Janszky I, Dalen H, Bjerkeset O. Eur Heart J. 2014 Jun 1;35(21):1394-403.
Depression, anxiety disorders, and metabolic syndrome in a population at risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Kahl KG, Schweiger U, Correll C, Müller C, Busch ML, Bauer M, Schwarz P. Brain Behav. 2015 Mar;5(3):e00306.
Depression and anxiety as predictors of 2-year cardiac events in patients with stable coronary artery disease. Frasure-Smith N, Lespérance F. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;65(1):62-71.
Prospective study of anxiety and incident stroke. Lambiase MJ, Kubzansky LD, Thurston RC. Stroke. 2014 Feb;45(2):438-43.
Exaggerated neurobiological sensitivity to threat as a mechanism linking anxiety with increased risk for diseases of aging. O’Donovan A, Slavich GM, Epel ES, Neylan TC. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Jan;37(1):96-108.
Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Rakesh Sharma, Kelly R Biedenharn, Jennifer M Fedor, Ashok Agarwal. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2013; 11: 66. Published online 2013 July 16.