Think of how it feels to be “anxious.” Most people would describe themselves as being nervous and also say that their chest tightens up and it becomes harder to breathe. The word “anxiety” actually does come from the ancient Greek phrase that means constrict. Animals, including human beings, feel anxiety as a response to danger or fear.
While it would be hard to avoid being anxious all the time, it is possible to deal with excessive feelings of anxiety. While this is a normal part of life it anxiety shouldn’t cause us to stop being productive or keep us from enjoying family and friends. To deal with anxiety in any form, it would be best to understand it as much as possible.
One of the first things that happens in a situation that causes anxiety is that the brain and nervous system prepare us with a bit of extra energy. But the second step protects the body and the nervous system from serious problems by returning to the normal, more relaxed state. If a person remains in an anxious state for a long period not only can the person’s life be affected because of depression, excess worry etc. there may be some physical damage as well.
The heart beat increases during anxious moments, primarily to a substance called adrenaline. Increased blood flow helps give some muscles more strength and prepares the body for action. The tightness in the chest that some people describe is actually quite real. Some people may feel they are choking or have become completely out of breath. If we don’t attempt to deal with this and correct it, we may become dizzy or faint due to lack of oxygen.
It’s interesting to note that medical literature describes the tightening of the throat as a common part of anxiety. We may have difficulty swallowing and some people even describe the “lump” in their throat. This should disappear with the lessening of anxiety and probably won’t cause us any permanent harm.
But it’s important to understand that if we don’t correct a situation that is the cause of our anxiety we may be setting ourselves up for heart problems and other maladies. Continuous stress and an abnormally anxious state will wear the body down over time. We have to allow our natural defenses to come to our aid in dangerous and stressful situations, but we must avoid the possible rise in blood pressure and other conditions that may come from anxiety.
Some doctors are concerned about the effects of anxiety on the human immune system. Weakening the body’s defense against disease opens us up for several serious health problems. Longer term anxiety can lead to serious mental health issues as well.
Doctors have separated anxiety situations into two general categories – acute and chronic. The first is related to higher blood pressure, increased heart rate and so on. Chronic stress seems to cause longer term damage, such as build up in blood vessels and other blood-system damage. It is important that we understand anxiety and stress and do what we can to limit its effects on the body.