Anxiety tends to wreck havoc on your eating and digestive system, as part of the fight-or-flight response. This is due to the fact that when you have anxiety, a part of the brain called the amygdala is overactive, and connects with another part of the brain, the hypothalamus, to release the hormone corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). As a hormone (a chemical messenger in the bloodstream), CRH travels to the pituitary and signals the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then travels to the adrenal glands, and signals the release of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream.
These stress-response hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are responsible for the various changes in your body when you are in the fight or flight response, such as increased heart rate, increased respirations, shunting of blood from the skin and digestive system to the skeletal muscles, dilated pupils, increased muscle tension, increased arousal and focus, tunnel vision, and dry mouth. In addition, the digestive system and immune system are shut down, to divert more of the body’s resources to the business of either fighting the threat or running away.
When there is a real threat in the environment, like a being confronted by muggers, then the fight or flight response can be adaptive and helpful for survival. However, if you have anxiety, and the only threat is due to your own thoughts about some past, future, or anticipated danger, then the fight or flight response still kicks in, despite the lack of an external threat. The fight or flight response is adaptive and can be helpful for survival to deal with a real threat on a short term basis.
However, if anxiety is triggering the fight or flight response, then this stress response is activated indefinitely and chronically, and you can imagine what kinds of problems occur when you are constantly “juiced-up” to prepare for a fight, or sprint away. This wrecks havoc on your digestive system, as it is shut down when the fight or flight response is activated. So when you have anxiety, you are not able to eat, as your digestive system is slowed down considerably. And when you don’t eat, you are not nourishing yourself adequately to recover from anxiety.
If you have problems with eating that is affected by anxiety, then please read on these topics on the rest of AnxietyBoss.com.