Anxiety disorders make it hard to lead a normal life. Constant feelings of anxiety may make it hard for you to focus. Chronic stress can also lead to other health problems.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from anxiety also develop accompanying conditions. In addition to unique problems, these coexisting conditions can change the way in which anxiety disorders manifest themselves.
Anxiety and Depression
Depression often occurs with anxiety disorders. In anxiety disorders, a person suffers from a near constant fear, sometimes of real possibilities and sometimes of things that aren’t likely to happen. In depression, a person suffers from an inability to carry out tasks, often due to a perceived lack of energy.
Unfortunately, these seemingly different conditions can trigger one another. Someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder may experience feelings of helplessness or uselessness in the face of their symptoms that trigger feelings of depression. Alternatively, someone suffering from depression may be unable to keep up with work or school and have feelings of anxiety due to falling behind on grades or bills.
Of course, anxiety disorders and depression don’t need to cause each other in order to occur at the same time; these can be caused by unrelated things. For example, Seasonal Affective Disorder can cause depression due to lack of sunlight or changes in the amounts of sunlight that can prevent your body from working like it’s supposed to. A person that suffers from anxiety year-round may also be impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, isn’t usually considered an anxiety disorder, but it is closely related. This condition, suffered by people who undergo traumatic events, is characterized by both depression and anxiety. The good news is that this condition is usually temporary, though it may last for months or years.
Anxiety and Substance Abuse
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from anxiety disorders and related conditions also develop substance abuse problems. This is often an attempt to manage symptoms without the help of a healthcare provider. Sometimes this may be because you don’t have access to a healthcare provider, because you are afraid of undergoing proper treatment, or for any other number of reasons. Substance abuse problems carry their own dangers, but they also may worsen rather than improve symptoms of anxiety disorders and related conditions.
Many people with anxiety disorders take up smoking because the nicotine in tobacco products makes them feel better for a short time. However, it also makes it harder to breathe, which can trigger or complicate panic attacks.
Similarly, alcohol may help you feel better, though it has been linked to depression. It can also make symptoms worse for people who have depression or PTSD.
Even those who don’t want to take medication or help for their anxiety disorder or related condition should try to work with a healthcare provider or community organization to quit or cut back on drugs, alcohol, and nicotine, especially if you think that the use of these substances is making your symptoms worse.
Anxiety and Physical Disorders
Anxiety disorders and related conditions increase the level of stress in your life. Stress, however, is not just a feeling, but a physical process. During what is called the “stress response,” the body is flooded with chemical messengers that change the way that it operates. This is fine from time to time, but in cases of chronic stress, it can cause other problems.
One of these is called Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. Characterized by frequent stomach aches and other symptoms (including diarrhea), this painful condition can be caused by and can cause anxiety.
A potentially more serious condition occurs when panic attacks cause regular spikes in blood pressure. These spikes can wear out blood vessels increasing the chances of a more serious cardiac event in the future.
In some cases, as is the case with anxiety and depression, two accompanying conditions can occur for different reasons, though finding relief for one can bring relief of the other. In other instances, as is the case with anxiety and IBS or substance abuse, managing anxiety can prove to eliminate or lessen the other condition.
While many people try to manage anxiety disorders on their own or through support networks, if you believe that your anxiety disorder has lead to or has worsened a coexisting condition, it is time to reconsider seeking the help of a healthcare provider to find a way to better manage your anxiety disorder.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. Every possible effort has been made in preparing and researching this material. We make no warranties concerning the accuracy, applicability of its contents, or any omissions.