12 unexpected ways anxiety can impact your life
- Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of physical and mental symptoms.
- Anxiety can make it difficult for you to focus on tasks or remember things. It can also cause you to have nightmares.
- Your immune system and skin can also be impacted by anxiety.
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If you've experienced anxiety at any point in your life, you're probably aware of many of the common symptoms of it, such as nervous thoughts, a racing heart, and disrupted sleep.
But anxiety can also impact your life in ways that might seem totally unrelated to your anxious feelings and thoughts.
Here are some of the many ways anxiety can impact your life.
Although this list can be helpful to reference, if you're experiencing anxiety or side effects that come with it, you may want to reach out to a medical professional to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment options.
Anxiety can make it difficult for you to focus
"Often when your mind is consumed with racing thoughts and trying to ward off and cope with the intense anxiety that you're feeling, it can be very difficult to focus at work, school, or even at home watching TV," said Laura Chackes, a licensed psychologist and owner of The Center for Mindfulness & CBT in St. Louis, Missouri.
"Anxiety often keeps us stuck in the past or fearful of the future and ultimately robs us of being present in the current moment, which is where you need to be in order to focus on work," added Lindsay Henderson, a psychologist who treats patients virtually via the telehealth app LiveHealth Online.
Anxiety can make it challenging to remember big and small things
Similarly, Henderson told INSIDER that anxiety can be behind your ability to remember things both big and small, like an upcoming work assignment or a friend's birthday.
"[Anxiety] can also lead to forgetfulness, as focus and concentration is critical for forming and consolidating memories," she explained.
It could impact your self-esteem
"Anxiety can also negatively impact self-esteem," said Chackes. "Whether you are suffering from social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or another type of anxiety, your fears and worries likely either make you doubt yourself or your ability to handle situations."
It could cause you to experience nightmares or vivid dreams
Disrupted sleep is a well-known side effect of many mental health conditions, including anxiety. But even if you're sleeping through the night, anxiety may cause you to have expressly vivid dreams or nightmares.
"Our minds don't necessarily quiet when we go to sleep," Henderson told INSIDER. "Anxiety and stress during the day can stay with you overnight, causing sleep problems and fear-based nightmares that make it difficult to get [sufficient] rest."
Anxiety can impact your immune system, meaning you might get sick more than usual
Anxiety takes a toll on your entire body, so if you find yourself battling illnesses more often than normal, it could be because of your mental health.
"When your body notices an uptick in anxiety, it releases cortisol. Cortisol functions to shut down any processes that take energy away from 'fight-or-flight mode.' Some of these processes may be the same ones that boost the body's immune response," Meg Josephson, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist based in New York, told INSIDER. "This can lead to an increase in our likelihood of getting a cold or flu, or a general sense of feeling 'unwell.'"
" [Anxiety] impairs the aspects of the immune system that fight infections. Studies suggest that individuals with chronic anxiety may be more likely to get the flu, colds, and other types of infections," added Henderson.
If you're experiencing anxiety, you may also be dealing with aches and pains throughout your body
"We often carry our stress in our bodies - mental tension and physical tension go hand in hand," said Henderson. "This can lead to sore muscles, back and neck pain, tension headaches, and digestion upset."
Anxiety can impact your skin
"Many people talk about stress and anxiety causing their skin to break out and there is actually some truth to this," said Chackes. "Stress causes your body to [increase hormone production] that can increase oil production, which can lead to acne and other skin conditions."
"Anxiety and stress can also exacerbate existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and fever blisters. It can [also] cause rashes and hives," she added.
Visiting a dermatologist can help but you may also want to check in with a mental health professional if you believe anxiety could be contributing to your skin-related issues.
It could cause changes in your speech patterns
"Anxiety can lead to changes in speech patterns because it causes us to second guess ourselves and speak with less authority," said Josephson. "Anxious thoughts may distract us from what it is we are saying and make it less likely that we deliver our thoughts in a confident, tangential way."
If you have anxiety, you may find yourself wanting to be on your phone or tablet at all times
In an increasingly tech-savvy world, it's not a secret that many of us spend plenty of time on our smartphones or in front of a screen. But if you find yourself needing to be on your device very often, you could be avoiding dealing with your anxiety.
"Most people do not want to experience anxiety, so it's natural that we try to find a way to avoid feeling this way," said Chackes. "Distraction is a form of avoidance and with minicomputers at our fingertips all of the time, many [people] turn to playing games or scrolling through social media to distract from the discomfort of anxiety."
She said this can be quite problematic because this generally involves tuning out emotions instead of processing them. She said this avoidance strategy doesn't usually work and "anxiety actually tends to increase over time the more we avoid dealing with it."
It could be difficult for you to sit still if you have anxiety
"One of the core symptoms of an anxiety disorder is restlessness. When your mind has difficulty settling, your body can also struggle to stay still," Henderson told INSIDER.
Anxiety can also worsen the symptoms of other mental health conditions
"Anxiety is often the cause of other mental health conditions worsening or flaring up, such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," Chackes told INSIDER. "It's common that when one is experiencing increased anxiety, the symptoms of other disorders also increase."
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