If you frequently feel anxious, you’re not alone. In the United States alone, about 40 million adults have an anxiety disorder. While chronic anxiety is very common, it can have a major impact on your daily life and overall wellbeing.
This article explains what chronic anxiety is and how it can affect both your physical and mental health, as well as what you can do to get your anxiety under control.
What Is Chronic Anxiety?
Occasional anxiety is a normal emotional reaction that many of us experience from time to time. For example, you might feel anxious before a big job interview. Temporary anxiety can boost your focus and help you cope with stressful situations.
Chronic anxiety refers to persistent worrying that can interfere with your life. This worrying can last for months or years and may get worse over time. Chronic anxiety maybe a symptom of a mental health condition, such as generalized anxiety disorder.
How Is It Different From Chronic Stress?
The terms stress and anxiety are sometimes used interchangeably. While these two emotional reactions can feel similar, they’re not the same thing. Chronic stress is generally caused by an external situation. For instance, you might feel chronically stressed due to pressures at work. Chronic anxiety, on the other hand, can be triggered internally without an external stressor.
Symptoms of Chronic Anxiety
The symptoms of chronic anxiety may vary from one person to another, but some common signs may include:
- Frequently worrying about many areas
- Overthinking situations
- Worrying about worst-case outcomes
- Feeling indecisive
- Feeling unable to relax
- Having trouble concentrating
- Feeling irritable
How Does Chronic Anxiety Affect Your Body?
Mental health and physical health are closely connected. Anxiety disorders have been linked to an increased risk of some physical health conditions.
Mental health concerns like chronic anxiety can affect your gastrointestinal tract. Through the gut-brain axis, your brain and gut send signals to each other. Your mental health may have a direct effect on your gut health: Nausea and diarrhea are both symptoms of chronic anxiety.
Through this gut-brain connection, chronic anxiety could contribute to chronic gastrointestinal problems. According to a study in BMC Psychiatry, high levels of anxiety have been linked to an increased risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome.
Chronic anxiety has been linked to a number of heart-health issues. When you feel anxious, your blood pressure may temporarily spike. In people with chronic anxiety, frequent blood pressure increases could affect the heart, kidneys, or blood vessels.
Chronic anxiety is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that over an 11.2-yearperiod, people with anxiety had a 26% higher risk of incident coronary heart disease. Anxiety was associated with a 48% higher risk of cardiac death.
How Does Chronic Anxiety Affect Your Mind?
Chronic anxiety can affect your mind and mental health and may significantly impact your day-to-day life.
Anxious thoughts can make it difficult to fall asleep, and insomnia is very common among people with chronic anxiety. A study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that 51.6% of people 60 and older with generalized anxiety disorder had moderate or severe insomnia. Among older adults with no anxiety diagnosis, the rate was only 4.8%.
Insomnia can leave you feeling irritable or depressed during the day. Other effects on your mind could include memory problems or difficulty focusing on tasks. Plus, people with chronic anxiety may develop ongoing worries about their sleep problems.
Having generalized anxiety disorder may increase a person’s risk of developing depression. An estimated 43% of people with chronic anxiety conditions develop depression at some point during their lives, according to an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
This connection may be due to shared risk factors for anxiety and depressive disorders, the AJP article notes. These factors include your personality traits, early life experiences, and exposure to stress.
How To Combat Chronic Anxiety
Chronic anxiety can have a significant impact on your mind and body, but fortunately, there are many ways to get your anxiety under control. Doctors may recommend therapy and/or medications to manage anxiety disorders. There are also many lifestyle changes that could help:
- Make exercise a habit. Exercising can help ease anxiety. Choose a type of exercise you enjoy, whether that’s tai chi or a brisk walk, or an aerobics class.
- Cut back on caffeine. While caffeine can help you feel more energetic and alert, it may cause or worsen anxiety symptoms. Consider gradually cutting back on coffee and other caffeinated drinks.
- Try cold therapy. Research shows that a single cold water immersion session can significantly improve your mood. You can give cold therapy a try by taking a cold shower or soaking in a tub filled with cold or icy water.
Boost Your Mood With Ice Barrel
Cold therapy is a science-backed way to reduce anxiety and improve your mood. Ice Barrel makes it easy to make cold therapy a part of your daily routine. Just fill with water and ice, take a cold plunge, and feel your body and mind relax.
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Jun 15, 2021
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