Chronic anxiety can affect people in a variety of ways. There have been many studies (one of which is here) and many sources, all of which corroborate that it can affect a person’s
- Brain (with headaches, even for those with short periods of anxiety; memory loss, both short-term and long-term; problems falling asleep; an overworked nervous system; and even physical changes in the brain, which can be corrected through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
- Immune system (with a weakening of it, inviting other maladies and diseases into the body)
- Stomach and digestion (with digestive disorders and changes in metabolism)
- Heart (with premature coronary artery disease and heart attacks)
- Lungs (with weaker respiratory functions)
- Muscles (with increased muscle tension).
Again, anxiety can affect different people in different ways. I could retell more studies (one of which is here), or describe the symptoms that affect people who have short-term episodes of anxiety (such as nausea, fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, shortness of breath and irritability), but I thought that I would relate how anxiety has affected my wife and me.
Yes, anxiety affects different people differently but there are still similarities. For example, if someone throws stones at you and at me then we will feel pain in different parts of our bodies and we may perceive different levels of pain, but we will still be in pain. Thus, I hope that you may find similarities in your life* and that you will find this article helpful, informative and entertaining.
Actually, I hope that you do not find similarities; I hope that you are not anxious and that you are living a peaceful, meaningful and productive life. However, since you have come to this website and this article, and since there are 40 million adults in the United States suffering from anxiety disorders and another report stating that nearly 20% of Americans (which, if applicable to children as well, would mean about 60 million Americans) express anxiety on a constant basis, then chances are very good that you are also concerned (anxious-?) about anxiety.
As for me now, I do not think that I suffer from any episodes of anxiety. I still have many problems, some of which are out of my control, and some of which I think have been resolved only to flare up again. However, I do not react to them negatively.
There are some things within my control and with these things I am often successful. Even when I am not, I either ignore it (if it is not important or significant to me) or try it again in a different way (if it is important or significant to me). (I certainly do not engage in the classic definition of “insanity”: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.)
There are other things outside of my control. There are some things that I need to do which require incompetent government bureaucrats (yes, a redundancy but I am writing it for emphasis). When they have proven themselves to be incompetent and counter-productive then I am harmed, but I accept it for what it is: a result of their incompetence and counter-productivity, and not a fault of my own.
For the past six years, I have been quite healthy. I have not even had a cold, as I used to get twice a year in earlier years. However, I have had some mysterious maladies that cannot be accounted for. I had an experience that I thought was a mild(?) heart attack (although a doctor could not find any evidence of it when I saw him about 36 hours later) and I once contracted jaundice while travelling. I do not know how or why I had these things; perhaps worries were a contributing factor, although I am not worried or anxious about that now.
When I was younger, I was (and believe still am) very intelligent and many things came easy for me. However, many other things seemed to be out of my control and I never asked “Why?” and did not know how to cope with them. This resulted in some health concerns, primarily in digestion.
Once, I was in great pain and my mother drove me to the Emergency Ward of a hospital because she feared that I had appendicitis. It turned out to be unresolved flatulence (if I remember the diagnosis correctly), which I was certain was as a result of my worries and anxieties.
My wife, on the other hand, had a relatively care-free youth but is constantly worried now. I try to get her to prioritize, to rationalize and to generally avoid cognitive distortions, with varying degrees of success. Regardless, she has had many health issues that she has not had before. She is often irritable (a common side effect of anxiety, as stated above), has had arthritis in her knee for about 15 years, and more recently breaks out in boils and often experiences back pain.
I acknowledge that these could be a result of physiological, biological, environmental or other causes. However, it does seem that when she is at her most anxious state, she often suffers more from these, and I am certain that her anxiety is, at the very least, a contributing factor.
Fortunately, neither of us has had serious or life-threatening health concerns (which may, or may not be attributable to anxiety–although her back pain does seem to be excruciating at times), but as we get older things may change. I am a big believer in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and hope that my wife and you will look into it.