Worry is your body's response to a stressful situation which you usually deal with a 'fight or flight' response. Not all situations, however, can be addressed by fighting or fleeing. When unresolved worry lingers, what may start as a problem in your mind may soon wreak havoc in your body.
People react to situations differently, so what may trigger worry for one may not be the same for the next person. Nevertheless, the effects of worry on the body appear to be the same for all.
Most people worry about their social conditions, financial standing, health and ageing. While it may seem normal for you to feel anxious about any of these issues, worrying for whatever reason may actually be unhealthy for your body.
Worry and heart disease
A recent study shows that there is a high correlation between worry and incidence of coronary heart disease. This may be due to your body's natural reaction to stress as it releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. When your body carries a load of the stress hormones, your heart rate increases, your blood may become thicker, you breathe heavily and you perspire some more. In some people, particularly men, chronic worry has preceded a stroke or heart attack.
Worry and your immune system
You may notice at one time or another that you may have succumbed to the flu while you were going through a stressful time in your life. Worry, stress and anxiety can weaken your immune system and make you prone to infections and sickness. When your body releases stress hormones, your immune system reacts by sending out white blood cells to your skin or lymph nodes. This compromises your immune system and leaves the other parts of your body open to attack by micro-organisms like viruses, allergens and bacteria.
Worry and your digestive system
Stress hormones can also trigger muscle tension as a defense mechanism against physical attack. While not all stressful situations involve physical threats, the body does not make this distinction, and reacts by tensing up just the same. The tension may reach all the way to your stomach and can lead hyperacidity, stomach ulcers, and bouts of diarrhea or constipation.
Worry and your nervous system
Prolonged periods of worry can also take its toll on your mind. Those who repeatedly worry about an issue may eventually develop depression. This may be the result of high levels of stress hormones interfering with the release of serotonin, a brain chemical responsible for feelings of well-being. Sleep may also escape you as you focus your mental energies on a problem all day and all night. You may also find it difficult to concentrate on other activities if you worry about one thing all the time.
Worry and the reproductive system
When constant worry triggers the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, it often leads to the absence of menstruation which affects fertility in women. Worry may also lead to the constriction of various arteries in men, leading to impotence.
Other disorders associated with worry and stress are skin allergies, unexplained itching, skin problems such as hives, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and eczema, excessive hair loss or alopecia, and tooth and gum diseases.Originally published on Jun 22, 2009