An estimated 40 million adults suffer from an anxiety disorder in the US. Adding a global pandemic caused a significant increase in the severity of the problem, according to the American Psychological Association. Although anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country, only about a third of people suffering receive treatment.
It’s certainly normal to experience occasional feelings of worry, fear or apprehension (perhaps leading up to your first day at a new job or before giving an important presentation) and maybe even helpful, but persistent anxiety can be debilitating and pose severe burdens to your health, well-being, and quality of life.
Below, we’ll discuss five ways that anxiety could be holding you back in your everyday life, followed by some actionable takeaways to alleviate your anxiety, reclaim your power, and live your life to your fullest potential.
1. Anxiety Impacts Your Physical Health
When we encounter a challenging situation or an internal or external stressor, our body releases a flood of hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, that push us into a physiological state often referred to as “fight or flight” mode.
In this state of increased alertness and arousal, the body quickly responds to prepare its next move:
- Heart rate increases
- Blood pressure increases
- Digestion slows
- Certain immune functions are suppressed
- Blood flow is increasingly directed to skeletal muscles
While this response can be helpful in the short-term, when it persists over time, it can have damaging effects on physical health. Individuals with anxiety disorders often exist in a constant state of fight-or-flight, preventing the body from returning to a normal state of rest.
Long-Term Health Concerns
Over time, the increase in blood pressure and pulse caused by persistently high levels of stress hormones exert significant strain on the heart, leading to an increased risk for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease in individuals with chronic anxiety.
In addition, unmanaged anxiety weakens the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to infections and illness. Chronic anxiety can also lead to respiratory problems, and can worsen symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Persistent Stomach and Gastrointestinal Issues
It’s common for someone to report feeling nauseous alongside their anxiety. When there is little to no relief and the problem is ongoing, anxiety can lead to more gastrointestinal issues, including:
- Stomach pain
- Changes in appetite
- Development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Insomnia and Trouble Sleeping
Individuals with untreated anxiety often experience difficulties sleeping and struggle with insomnia, which can have additional implications such as:
- Low energy and motivation
- Poor concentration
- Lack of coordination
- Unwanted weight gain
Lack of sleep can also further weaken the immune system and lead to higher risks for diabetes and heart disease.
2. Anxiety Impacts Your Mental Health
It may seem obvious that in addition to its debilitating effects on physical health, anxiety also takes a devastating toll on an individual’s emotional and mental health. The frequency and severity are important to note when assessing the impact of anxiety on one’s life.
People struggling with anxiety disorders often experience incessant feelings of:
- Racing thoughts
- Inability to relax
Anxiety Can Lead to Depression and Other Mental Health Conditions
These thoughts and feelings are often all-consuming, unceasing, and difficult to control, leading to mental exhaustion and perpetuating a negative spiral of despair and low mood that can feel inescapable.
Chronic anxiety also increases the risk for other mental health conditions, such as depression and substance use disorders.
3. Anxiety Can Impact Your Performance at Work and School
Left unmanaged, anxiety can make it difficult to perform your responsibilities to the best of your abilities, holding you back from achieving your career, academic, and other goals.
Risk Aversion and Fear of Failure
Anxiety often traps individuals in perpetual cycles of negative thinking, leading to self-doubt and poor self-esteem.
Oftentimes, an individual burdened by anxiety fixates on the worst possible outcome of a situation, leading them to avoid taking risks and pursuing opportunities (like trying for a promotion) out of a fear of the unknown and a lack of confidence in their ability to succeed.
Stagnancy in Professional Development
Individuals struggling with anxiety may experience difficulties concentrating and focusing on their work, impairing productivity and negatively impacting performance.
Severe anxiety can make even simple tasks seem challenging, and when faced with high stress environments like school or work, many individuals with anxiety feel overwhelmed by the pressure, making it difficult to fulfill responsibilities and meet deadlines.
4. Anxiety Can Keep You Glued to Your Phone
When we feel anxious, it’s easy to use the online world as a mindless escape to distract us from the worries and problems of our everyday life. Individuals with anxiety often turn to social media for what feels like instant gratification, and to connect socially in a way that often feels easier and less stressful than face-to-face interaction.
Frequent, compulsive smartphone use can actually worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression, damage our sense of self-worth and self-esteem, and leave us feeling even more drained and isolated.
When we feel negatively, we often subconsciously search for information that confirms how we feel. In this way, anxiety often leads to what’s known as “doom-scrolling” - devoting excessive amounts of time to browsing the Internet and social media for negative news. Constantly fixating on the negative can have damaging psychological effects, escalating feelings of loneliness, disconnection, and hopelessness.
5. Anxiety Can Put Strain On Your Relationships
Untreated anxiety also can have damaging effects on an individual’s relationships.
Catastrophizing and Self-Sabotaging in Relationships
Individuals with anxiety often become trapped in cycles of overthinking- questioning, overanalyzing, and often catastrophizing each and every interaction they have.
For example, anxiety might cause an individual to jump to the conclusion that their friend dislikes them because they didn’t promptly respond to a text message.
Anxiety can also make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships by creating a disproportionate fear of rejection, which can lead individuals to withdraw from their relationships as a defense mechanism. This social isolation can also occur when individuals with anxiety worry about being a burden to those around them.
Tips for Living With and Managing Your Anxiety
When left untreated, anxiety disorders can have serious and broad consequences on physical and mental health, quality of life, and relationships, but if you’re struggling with anxiety, don’t lose hope! Anxiety can be overwhelming and scary, but it’s also treatable, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.
A great place to start is a conversation with your doctor or therapist. They can help guide you towards what options are available and might work best for you. You also might consider exploring whether Wondermed is right for you by taking our eligibility survey.
Prioritize Your Overall Well-Being
One way you can reduce the burden of anxiety in your life is by prioritizing your well-being by implementing healthy lifestyle changes like eating nutritious, well-balanced meals, regularly participating in a form of physical activity you enjoy, getting plenty of sleep, and limiting your consumption of substances like alcohol and caffeine.
Form Healthy Stress-Relieving Habits
Holistic practices to manage your anxiety may also be effective and include:
- Reducing social media use
- Spending more time in nature
- Connecting with friends and family
- Embarking on a weekly Wondermed ketamine session
Treat Your Anxiety At the Root with Ketamine Treatment
The Wondermed protocol is an innovative, promising alternative treatment for anxiety disorders. Unlike traditional anxiety medications (SSRIs/SNRIs, benzodiazepines), which treat anxiety as a chemical imbalance, ketamine treats anxiety from the root, allowing the growth of new connections within the brain to produce lasting change.
Wondermed partners with providers to offer their patients a new option for alleviating their anxiety with a therapeutic protocol that entails low-dose, oral ketamine treatments and resources to support integration in a customized program.
Wondermed’s comprehensive protocol allows patients to heal anxiety from the care of Wondermed trained, partnered provider.
Whether you’re just beginning your journey to take control of your mental health, you’re on the path to healing, or you’re looking to support a loved one who may be suffering, Wondermed is here to help answer your questions and provide the resources to reclaim the true you.
Finding a way to manage and alleviate symptoms of anxiety can be liberating and pave the way to a higher quality of life. It’s important to acknowledge that these problems may not always disappear with anxiety, so having the support of a medically trained professional is encouraged based on your individual needs.
Ready to discover a new way to heal your anxiety?
Check your eligibility to see if ketamine treatment is right for you.