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Anxiety symptoms: physical

There are many symptoms of anxiety, and they all occur as a result of the stress response, also known as the fight-or-flight response. This is a highly effective mechanism designed to help you deal with physical threats.

When you experience so much stress that you feel out of control of a situation, your brain automatically triggers this response, sending a signal to the adrenal glands, which then pump adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, activating the sympathetic nervous system and causing a sudden burst of energy.

When this happens it causes a number of physiological changes.

Immediate anxiety symptoms

  • Your heart starts pounding: adrenaline makes your heart beat faster.
  • You feel dizzy: adrenaline makes your blood pressure go up.
  • You feel short of breath: adrenaline makes you breathe more quickly.
  • You get chest pain: a pounding heart and quickened breathing causes tightness in the chest

Your body is getting ready for fighting or fleeing, so these things make sure that your blood is oxygenated so that the muscles in your arms and legs can work more effectively.

  • You sweat: adrenaline activates the sweat glands to cool you down.
  • You feel tense: adrenaline prepares your muscles to act more quickly.

Because your body is preparing for physical activity, your muscles and senses get primed for action, and you sweat a lot so that you don’t overheat in the process.

  • You feel cold, your hands feel clammy: adrenaline causes blood to drain away from the skin.
  • You get butterflies in your stomach: blood flow gets diverted away from your stomach.
  • You need to go to the toilet: adrenaline affects the bladder muscles.
  • You have nausea or abdominal pain and churning: hormones affect muscles in the digestive tract

Your blood is sent to high-priority areas (the fighting or running muscles) and away from low-priority areas like extremities (hands and feet) and the surface of the skin (possibly to reduce blood loss in case of injury). In the same way, digestion is deemed low-priority, and you feel the need to go to the toilet because in desperate situations like these, the lighter you are the better!

anxiety symptoms

An unsuitable, unsustainable system

So you know that the stress response is intended to protect you from immediate physical danger. Once it has served its purpose and the stress has passed, your autonomic nervous system switches over from the sympathetic to parasympathetic, you feel much calmer, and normal bodily functions like digestion resume. 

The trouble is that nowadays the threats and challenges you face are not physical, but psychological; not short term, but long term. That means that your stress response is continually being activated and doesn’t know when to switch off. This is not what it was designed for!

Further anxiety symptoms

When adrenaline and cortisol remain for too long in the blood stream, they have a wear-and-tear effect on the body, leading to complications such as:

  • Hair loss: caused by intense and severe anxiety, sudden loss of hair around the scalp
  • Rashes: adrenaline and cortisol cause skin reactions and increase skin sensitivity
  • Dry skin: as blood flow to the skin is diverted, it can become dry, itchy and sore

These symptoms speed up the ageing process, which itself can be a cause of anxiety and depression.

  • Headaches: tension-type headaches and migraines lasting from 30 minutes to several days
  • Increased risk of illness: adrenaline weakens your immune system

These symptoms can make you less effective at work and cause absence from work, again causing more anxiety.

    • Loss or increase in appetite: anxiety can cause an imbalance of hormones which disrupt eating habits
    • Loss of libido: anxiety puts non-essential actions like digestion and reproduction on hold, where they can remain if the stress is ongoing

These symptoms can affect your self-image and put a strain on your relationships.

    • Muscle tension: when anxious your muscles contract and can remain in the contraction state
    • IBS: anxiety disrupts digestion, in the long term causing IBS – and more anxiety as a result

In extreme cases, anxiety can interfere with normal heart function, increasing the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Anxiety can also cause high blood pressure, and chronic hypertension can lead to coronary disease, weakening of the heart muscle and heart failure.

The vicious circle of anxiety symptoms

As you can see, anxiety can cause a wide range of physiological symptoms, making you feel even more anxious and causing a vicious cycle which can be hard to break.

How can hypnosis help?

The good news is that hypnotherapy can help you break this vicious cycle of anxiety and anxiety symptoms. How?

By inducing a deeply relaxed state of body and mind, hypnosis helps you elicit the relaxation response, introducing calming hormones and chemicals such as dopamine, endorphins and seratonin into your blood stream. These are the perfect antidote to adrenaline and cortisol, signalling your body to turn off the stress response and restore balance.

With repetition, your body gets so used to having these calming hormones around that the anxiety symptoms are reversed. If you need help overcoming anxiety and its many symptoms, contact me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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