How Anxiety Affects Your Physical Health

When you’re anxious, your body enters fight or flight mode, which increases your heart rate and respiration rate. 

Short-lived anxiety can be helpful. It creates an incentive for action. However, when action isn’t taken or when fears are unfounded, the anxiety can remain, often escalating. 

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health disorders. In fact, estimates suggest that 19% of American adults suffered from an anxiety disorder last year.

Because anxiety is a type of fear, it comes in many shapes and forms. It plays a key role in various disorders, including phobias, panic attacks, hypochondria, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Below, we asked Dr. Leo Kao, our specialist at Lakewood Ranch Health, to explain how anxiety can cause problems beyond the psychological level. Read on to learn how it can also impact your physical health. 

Anxiety symptoms 

Anxiety can lead to a number of symptoms that mimic other conditions. These symptoms include the following:

  • Digestive issues 
  • Headaches
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Shallow breathing 
  • Rapid heartbeat 

In addition to physical symptoms, anxiety can contribute to the development of other mental health disorders such as depression.

The physical effects of chronic anxiety 

Managing your anxiety is crucial not only for your mental well-being, but also for your physical well-being, because being constantly in flight or fight mode stresses out the body.

Heart disease 

During panic attacks, you may feel that you are having a heart attack as your heart rate increases. Panic attacks don’t cause heart attacks, but if your anxiety lingers and becomes chronic, your heart rate may remain elevated for prolonged periods, which can overwork and damage the heart muscles. 


Short-lived moments of anxiety don’t raise your blood pressure. However, if your anxiety becomes chronic, your blood pressure may increase. This increases your risk for kidney, heart, and brain damage.

Digestive problems

When you’re anxious, some of the hormones secreted to put you into fight or flight mode enter your digestive system. This may interfere with the way microorganisms in your gut digest food. 

If your anxiety episodes become chronic, you may not be able to absorb all of your essential vitamins and minerals from food. 

Treating chronic anxiety

Living with anxiety is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Dr. Kao often treats anxiety sufferers with a combination of mindfulness practices, lifestyle changes, and, if needed, medications. 

Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn the cause of your emotional distress. We can put together a personalized treatment plan so you can start feeling better. 

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