How Anxiety Can Affect Your Body


Generally, anxiety is part of the body’s natural defense system. It is a signal from your brain that warns you of a threat and is a normal response to stressful or dangerous situations. Anxiety can affect your body in a variety of ways.

Anxiety Disorder

Woman with anxious expression. Prolonged anxiety can affect your body in negative ways.

While in this state, your feelings range from worry to physical sensations that make you want to react to the threat. Anxiety responses are normal in many situations, and people react to it differently. But when you have an anxiety disorder, the ongoing state of anxiety can affect your body physically. According to studies, anxiety disorder is linked to a migraine and even thyroid diseases.

Psychotherapist Amy Lorin, LCSW, says that due to shortness of breath, anxious thoughts like “I’m going to die,” spikes anxiety. “It can be a vicious cycle that is hard to break unless you address the physical symptoms.”

The Fight-Or-Flight Response

Boy screaming and holding his head. Long-term anxiety can be a cause for migraine headaches.

A physical response results from anxiety because the brain and body go into survival mode, says Lorin.

The fight-or-flight response in the body is activated by the brain in times of threat. This response sends oxygen to the lungs and blood to the muscles, so persons can escape or defend themselves.


But for people with anxiety disorders, the fight-or-flight response is activated at all times even during the absence of threat. This leads to their bodies on high alert making them vulnerable to physical symptoms like exhaustion or upset stomachs.

Physical Manifestations

Woman holding her face in her hands. Anxiety can affect the body in many ways, causing a wide variety of problems.

Physical signs of anxiety include unexplained muscle tensions or soreness, sleep problems, headaches and stomachaches, overall fatigue and general irritability. Some people also grind their teeth in times of stress. Shortness of breath, increased heart rate, dizziness and sweating are experienced during an acute episode of panic.

Anxiety can disrupt your life especially when it is hard to control it. Oftentimes, your body responds to stressful situations in inappropriate ways. For some, the condition is usually out of proportion to the threat that triggers it.

The good news though, is that it can be treated.

Morin suggests that in keeping a journal or a mood-tracking app you are able to track them. If your symptoms persist, check with your healthcare provider to rule out any physical health issues and direct you to seek mental health care if they think you have anxiety disorder.

Morin also recommends that “A psychotherapist can assist with addressing the physical symptoms, as well as the emotional and cognitive symptoms.”

Source: Refinery29

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