5 Unexpected Health Issues That May Be Caused by Anxiety, Experts Say

Being anxious may cause even more uncomfortable symptoms than you realize.

Everyone feels anxious from time to time but if it is a constant in your life it can become debilitating in many ways. Around 6.8 million adults or 3.1 percent of the population have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), yet according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) only around 43 percent are receiving treatment. Anxiety manifests with panic and physical unease for most people but it can also cause other unexpected health issues that you may not realize are related. Read on to see on what else happening in your body could be caused by anxiety, according to health experts.

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Chronic Pain

Anxious woman holding her hand up to her head.
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Unfortunately, individuals struggling with anxiety disorders are usually no strangers to chronic pain. They are often linked together because of how much anxiety manifests within the body.

"GAD is the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder in chronic pain populations," reports the National Library of Medicine (NIH). "The coexistence of pain and anxiety is perhaps not surprising: Both signal impending danger and the necessity for action which confer survival value to the individual."

Joanna Briggs, a registered nurse and medical consultant at Jugo Feed suggests that chronic pain is caused by the inflammation that anxiety and stress triggers within you.
"Inflammation from the stress response is one of the most common causes of chronic pain," she says. "It affects the entire body. Anxiety also causes people to hyper-focus on the pain, making chronic pain even more debilitating."

Chronic pain is something you should never ignore: ADA recommends using cognitive-behavioral therapy, breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, and exercise to help with your symptoms.

Headaches and Migraines

Man with a bad migraine.
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"The stress, lack of sleep, and constant muscle tension associated with anxiety can contribute to anxiety headaches," says Briggs.

We've all had a piercing headache after a particularly stressful day at work or long night out. But for individuals dealing with anxiety, they can become all too common.

According to ADAA, "Headaches can be a common symptom—and sometimes a good indicator—of an anxiety disorder, particularly generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. And chronic co-occurring headaches can make functioning even more difficult for someone with an anxiety disorder."

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Woman struggling to go to sleep at night.
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Picture this: It's midnight and you have to be awake by six a.m. But instead of falling asleep with ease, you are wrecked with anxious thoughts about well, everything, including not getting enough sleep.

According to Sleep Foundation, "Anxiety is frequently connected to sleeping problems. Excess worry and fear make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety, spurring a negative cycle involving insomnia and anxiety disorders."

Lack of sleep can also effect other parts of your body leading to more problems.

"Anxiety can cause difficulty sleeping, leading to insomnia, which can have its own set of physical health issues, such as a weakened immune system, increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of depression and other mental health issues," says Alyssa Roberts, senior writer at Practical Psychology.

High Blood Pressure

Woman getting her blood pressure taken.
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Anxiety can also play a part in spiking our blood pressure, which can cause a host of other issues.

"Episodes of anxiety can cause dramatic, temporary spikes in blood pressure," reports the Mayo Clinic. "And if those temporary spikes occur frequently, such as every day, they can cause damage to blood vessels, the heart and kidneys, as can chronic high blood pressure."

Every day anxiety is something that should be taken seriously. Not only does it cause immediate distress, it may lead to larger heart problems if left untreated.

"Anxiety causes a pro-inflammatory state and is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. If left uncontrolled, it can even contribute to developing coronary heart disease" says Briggs.

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Digestive Problems

A young woman holding tummy with a grimace.
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Many of us have experienced that uneasy feeling in our stomachs when we are about to speak in front of hundreds of people or finish up a major assignment. But for folks who have anxiety, this can be a daily occurrence.

"Anxiety can manifest as digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and acid reflux," says Nathan Fisher, owner of Achieve Health and Wellness. "These can be caused by by an increase in stress hormones, which can increase motility in the digestive tract, causing these symptoms."

The rising of anxiety levels can also exacerbate digestive diseases like IBS. "Those that experience digestive problems from anxiety can then become anxious about the symptoms," says Briggs. "This increases anxiety levels and in turn more digestive problems."

Lauren Jarvis-Gibson
Lauren Jarvis-Gibson is an Associate Editor at Best Life. Her work has been published in Teen Vogue, Allure, HuffPost, and more. Read more
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