No one likes to experience bouts of stress or anxiety -- and when it becomes a chronic occurrence, its impact can go from a little annoyance to a health hazard. Whether you're experiencing an isolated, high-stress situation or you're one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety disorder, your physical reaction to the emotion can affect you in more ways than you may have realized. Read on to discover how anxiety changes your body, whether it's your immediate reaction to stress or a long-term battle.
When the body first suffers from anxiety, you may experience...
Throat troubles. That croaky, squeaky voice that seems to have possessed your vocal chords is your immediate reaction to a stressful situation. When anxious feelings creep in,
Liver reactions. When the body undergoes stress and anxiety, the adrenal system produces an excessive amount of the stress hormone cortisol. That hormone production leads the liver to produce more glucose, the high-energy blood sugar that engages your "fight or flight" reactions. For most people, this extra blood sugar in the body can be simply reabsorbed with no real damage. However, for those at risk for diabetes, the extraneous blood sugar could potentially cause health issues.
Skin reactions. That cold, clammy sweat or your warm, flushed cheeks is the body's outward sign of immediate stress -- all due to a change in blood flow. When we experience anxiety, the body's "fight or flight" system pushes more blood to your muscles -- a useful reaction when there's an immediate need for it. However, a long-term, overexposure to this reaction has the potential to make the skin age faster. Other skin reactions include perspiration and even increases in histamine, which can result in swelling. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, severe stress and anxiety can also trigger eczema outbreaks.
An active spleen. Anxiety doesn't just engage the obvious organs like our brains and our hearts, but it even affects internal functions like our spleens and blood cells. In order to distribute more oxygen to the body that may have been depleted during the stressful situation, the spleen
Tense muscles. When you start to feel anxious, the body naturally tightens up, creating strain on large muscle groups. Chronic stress and anxiety can exacerbate this tension, which can result in headaches, stiff shoulders, neck pain and even migraines. People in a constant state of stress also are at a higher risk for chronic musculoskeletal disorders.
After a while, chronic anxiety can have an effect on...
Your heart. Anxiety and chronic stress sufferers are more at risk for cardiovascular problems due to a constant increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and overexposure to cortisol. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress can also lead to hypertension, arrhythmias and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.
Your lungs. Studies have shown that there is a relationship between those who suffer from anxiety disorders and asthma. People who suffer from asthma are also more likely to experience panic attacks. According to research conducted by the University of Sao Paulo, there could also be a link between anxiety, asthma and its effects on balance.
Your brain. The most prominent reaction to anxiety is the psychological response to the condition. Chronic stress and anxiety can
People who suffer from anxiety also often have trouble falling asleep due to ruminating over worrisome thoughts. Approximately 54 percent of people say stress and anxiety influences their ability to drift off and more than 50 percent of men and more than 40 percent of women have trouble focusing the next day as a result, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Your immune system. Exposure to stress can take a negative toll on the immune system, causing the function to become suppressed due to the body’s "fight or flight" reaction. Studies have also found that when you're stressed, you're also more likely to catch a cold and more susceptible to infections and inflammation.
Your stomach. When your body experiences stress, it doesn't properly regulate food digestion. Chronic and extreme stress can also have long-term effects on your intestines and what nutrients they absorb, causing reflux, bloating, diarrhea and sometimes even loss of bowel control.
Long-term stress and anxiety can also alter the body's metabolism, which could lead to weight gain and possibly obesity. One study found that the constant release of cortisol in the bloodstream can reduce insulin sensitivity, and other recent research also discovered an association between adults who suffer from anxiety and physician-diagnosed ulcers.
Article found at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/20/your-body-on-anxiety_n_5352548.html
By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH
Recently, someone wrote to me at my Tumblr and shared how helpful her EMDR trauma therapy was. In particular, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she could process her childhood trauma even though her memories weren’t very clear or organized. She wanted to know about my experience as an EMDR certified clinician. I responded:
The ability to work with an incomplete or highly fractured narrative is one of the things that I really like about EMDR. Here are some others:
More attention is paid to somatic experience
In our culture, we aren’t really taught to listen to our bodies. But trauma, like most mental health experiences, has physical symptoms. We generally respond to physical discomfort by ignoring it, resisting it, trying to push it away. We know from mindfulness studies that these only exacerbate pain, and that, instead, mindfully observing the pain is helpful. So it makes sense that teaching people to notice their physical responses to trauma while doing the trauma narrative, and having them observe their responses, is part of what is healing about the exposure.
There is no homework
In EMDR, all processing happens while in session. This is ideal for complex trauma survivors, for whom one of the symptoms is emotional disregulation, and not unusually, self-destructive coping behaviors.
In Prolonged Exposure therapy, a tape recording of the trauma narrative is made and then must be listened to daily. The evidence indicates that this is generally helpful, so despite the fact that intuitively this sounds terrible, in many cases, it’s worth it. But anecdotally, I’ve heard from clients that found this distressing, and there haven’t been any studies that really look at whether it’s harmful—what happened with drop-outs and people who didn’t report improvement?
If there is a therapy where clients only do processing in session in the presence of their therapist who can monitor them for safety, and the evidence says it’s equally effective, that’s the one I want to use.
Use of Negative and Positive Cognitions
Humans are creatures of narratives. Think about it: you tell yourself stories about who you are, why things happen, and why other people do the things they do. People from different cultures have different ways of crafting these explanations, but there’s no documented culture without stories that express values or explanations for why things happen.
Part of the power that a trauma event has is the belief behind it: I’m not safe, I’m not loveable, I’m a bad person. These negative cognitions aren’t adaptive. Part of the preparation work is to identify the negative beliefs around the event and then develop counter-beliefs that would be more helpful: I did the best I could, I was just a little kid, people do care about me. They are used to assess how well the exposure is working, in addition to the scale of distress that those familiar with CBT would recognize.
Naming negative cognitions are especially helpful when working with a client who has a long and varied history of trauma. It’s not practical to process every single event but it can be really overwhelming to know which ones to process. With one client, after we made her very extensive timeline of her abuse history, we discussed themes in her traumatic responses using negative cognitions. We identified themes of (not having) safety, competence and wholeness. From the themes we were able to select the most potent memories and process those.
More awareness of the client’s present experience
Having done TF-CBT and EMDR (as both therapist and client), the primary difference is that the clinician is far more in tune with the client in EMDR. This is because there is much less describing the story out loud (the client is re-experiencing it internally) and instead the reports are more focused on the client’s internal experience. This is where that extra somatic and cognitive preparation comes in handy: clients and clinicians are much better equipped to observe the processing experience. In any trauma processing there is a natural pendulation (rise and fall of arousal)—but in EMDR, more attention is directed to this process and subsequently, I think clients feel more in control. This is especially important to individuals who dissociate, or have other problems with emotional disregulation.
To sum up, EMDR is an evidence-based treatment that is used in a variety of settings and is endorsed as a top-rated practice by ISTSS, the largest and most revered international organization devoted to traumatic stress studies. I completely understand that it’s not a perfect fit for all clinicians or clients, just as prolonged exposure isn’t. Because all clients and their issues aren’t identical, I’m glad that there is more than one option for evidence-based practice in trauma therapy.
I'm a Christian counselor who loves to help people get to the root of their current problems so they can live from a place of authenticity and freedom!