What is chronic anxiety?
Anxiety is best defined as a state of restlessness that can be caused due to many reasons. Some of the most common reasons for anxiety are nervousness, lack of confidence and fear. Usually, anxiety is something that is temporary. People in stressful situations feel anxious and once the stressful scenario has passed, normal functioning resumes. Chronic anxiety is a problem that affects people irrespective of the situation they are in.
It is defined as anxiety for no particular reason. If a person who suffers from chronic anxiety is asked the reason for their anxiety, they will be able to give a long list of reasons, but it is usually seen that the things they are anxious about are completely normal and the amount of anxiety they exhibit is unnaturally high.
Their anxiety is also persistent in that it doesn’t fade or reduce in intensity even after stressful situations have passed.
Can chronic anxiety actually cause physical pain?
The human nervous system is a very complex mechanism that we have yet to fully understand. It is completely possible that continued periods of high anxiety can cause several stress related problems. Stress and anxiety contribute to physical aches and pains directly and indirectly.
The most common ways that stress can cause physical problems and poor health are indirect. A person who suffers from chronic anxiety and stress is less likely to pay attention to their personal habits and diet. These two elements are the most important deciding factors that determine the health of a person. Someone who has a poor diet will surely run into problems.
A stressful person is also careless when it comes to personal safety and has a distinct lack of focus when performing important tasks. If a person loses focus while driving or working on factory equipment, it is a surefire recipe for disaster. Such a person is at a higher risk of injuring himself or herself along with several other people.
Chronically anxious people can also be dangerous in hazardous situations where clear and quick thinking is critical for safety. A chronically anxious person is much more likely to create problems during a fire evacuation or similar scenario. A stressful person also acts as a homing beacon for unscrupulous people who like to create problems.
Surveys conducted on criminals clearly indicate that whenever they pick victims for their crimes, they routinely go for the person who is more stressed because that person will make mistakes when it comes to avoiding a confrontational situation.
But how can chronic anxiety directly cause body pain?
When it comes to chronic anxiety and physical pain, there is a greater chance of that physical pain coming indirectly rather than as a direct consequence of anxiety. However, there are certain ways in which chronic anxiety can directly cause physical pains.
Anxiety changes the chemical makeup of the nervous system. This is the reason that the nervous system behaves to differently in times of stress and duress. The changes that occur in the nervous system happen so that it can respond faster than usual to the presence of a threat.
This functioning however, comes at the expense of other important functions of the body. Some of the things that are given a lower priority when the nervous system is stressed are digestion and the immune system.
People who are stressed have poorer digestive and immune systems that makes them a prime target for pathological organisms. This is the reason that stressed people fall ill faster and easier than people who are not stressed.
Other functions that are also suppressed during times of anxiety and stress are the repair and maintenance work that the body does to repair the damage that is incurred on a daily basis. This includes the regeneration of muscles and tissues. If a person suffers from chronic anxiety, this repair work is halted or greatly reduced, making bodily wear and tear much more significant.
As the body’s ability to heal itself reduces, the damages incurred start accumulating and contributing to actual physical pain. Some of the most common problems experience by people who are chronically anxious are joint pains and muscle pains. This happens because the pathways that the body uses to repair and regenerate muscle and bone tissue are not available.
Another problem that is commonly reported among anxious people is chronic headaches. One of the worst manifestations of pains and aches caused by anxiety is a migraine. This is the most debilitating type of headache that is so painful that it is frequently described by sufferers as the feeling of having a continuously tightening vice on the head. Migraines are among the most common problems suffered by people with chronic anxiety.
When a person is anxious, the nervous system is distracted from running and maintaining the body to other tasks geared towards eliminating the source of stress and anxiety. Chronic anxiety is a problem that is not rooted in actual tangible reasons.
It is a problem that arises out of thinking and is predominantly an abstract issue. It is a psychological problem that does not go away unless something fundamental about the thinking and reasoning process is changed.
This is something that cannot be accomplished unless the nervous system is removed from stress and the person takes some time to actually think about abstract topics. It is in effect a catch 22 situation. The mind can’t think when it is stressed and it needs to think in order to get out of stress.
A negative feedback loop is created which only tends to blow the problem out of proportion. This is how anxiety causes physical aches and pains. The person afflicted by anxiety continues to remain anxious and the damages being caused continue to grow.
The body cannot remain in a state of stress for extended periods of time, but anxiety creates the perfect set of conditions that are required to keep the mind and body in this heightened state of fight or flight for an indefinite period of time that keeps stretching longer and longer.