“We Drink The Poison Our Minds Pour For Us And Wonder Why We Feel So Sick.” – Atticus
Most of us think that anxiety is a condition fraught with excessive worrying and stress, and is thus a temporary mental state of unease. The truth is that anxiety is an emotional/mental disorder and it comes with a big energetic and physical component. Most of the physical symptoms associated with anxiety are caused by chronic stress.
Long term stress can have an enormous effect on the physical health of a sufferer, and one of the most common adverse effects of stress on the physical health is experiencing symptoms or feelings of being ill or sick. Such sensations of being ill are often similar to those experienced during an actual illness; anxiety sufferers may feel nauseated, a churning stomach, headaches, etc.
Depersonalization is a common effect of emotional trauma and or prolonged stress where the nervous system can no longer cope at the level of emotion it has for some time.
Medical experts believe that most of the common sensations associated with a feeling of sickness are caused due to the flight or fight response of the body that gets triggered by stress. This leads to fluctuations in the levels of hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and serotonin. Anxiety and stress cause fear, and during fearful times, the gut transmits messages to the brain which results in hormonal imbalances, feelings of excessive fear, nausea, etc.
So Can Anxiety Make You Sick? – Situational Anxiety vs Chronic Anxiety
1. Situational anxiety
- Most of us feel anxious before a big event like before an important test, before proposing, etc. This is referred to as situational anxiety and it is a natural reaction, even though it is a problematic one.
- Most of us may not experience anxiety in a lot of situations, but anxiety sufferers tend to experience it consistently before all events in their lives. This can increase stress levels and result in enormous pressure on the functioning of the gut, stomach, digestion, and stomach acid levels, etc. Such excessive pressure can adversely affect digestive processes and eventually trigger physical symptoms of sickness like vomiting, nausea, etc.
- Fluctuations in cortisol levels caused by excessive anxiety, stress, and the flight or fight response can result in physical symptoms of illness like rapid breathing, increased heart rate, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, headache, and muscle tension, etc.
- The immune system helps fight pathogens on a daily basis. Over a period of time, stress and anxiety can adversely affect the immune system and weaken its ability to fight off germs. This can result in actual cases of mild illnesses like common colds, flu, etc., and not just feelings or symptoms of being sick.
2. Chronic anxiety
- Situational anxiety and other kinds of anxiety in the long term can result in chronic anxiety, wherein the anxiety sufferer is in a constant state of worry and anxiety. Chronic anxiety is often indicative of the presence of an anxiety disorder.
- People with chronic anxiety are fearful of becoming sick or feeling sick, which increases their anxiety and stress levels, thereby causing them to feel sick as well as increasing their anxiety levels. It then often becomes a vicious circle; it can be exhausting and sap all of your energy away.
- Chronic anxiety causes cortisol hormone imbalances, thereby affecting the body’s ability to metabolize sugar, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This can cause your weight to fluctuate, i.e., chronic anxiety sufferers may keep losing or gaining weight.
In turn, anxiety can bring about sick feelings and if the cycle of thinking, believing, saying, imagining etc continues these sick feelings can hang around further depleting the immune system. CBT and NLP has been consistently proven to be the go-to for full recovery from anxiety and other mental/emotional challenges, thereby ending the cycle of thinking, imagining the worst, and the feeling states that result.