Long Term Effects of Stress and Anxiety

Some people say stress, some say anxiety. These are differing terms that mean something different depending on the circumstance and effects. They have some similarities such as what can happen to the body. The both have long term effects that can have larger affects on us. Here stress and anxiety will be defined. All of the similarities and differences will be discussed. The long-term affects will be examined. Finally, some solutions to both stress and anxiety will be provided.

Anxiety on the other hand is a “feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come” (Holland, 2018). Anxiety has to do with fear and how it causes a reaction in us. This can be physical sensations, or thoughts that can be uncontrolled. I have had discussions related to anxiety and the thought reactions and have related it to going down the rabbit hole, with no idea what is going to happen nor how the reaction will be once we have arrived. Then we get to anxiety related disorders which are marked fear that are uncontrolled and interrupt our daily living. This can be fear of leaving the house because there is a fear that some horrible event will happen, or it can be persistent worry about events that could happen, but there is little evidence that they will.

Stress and anxiety are related, but there are differences and separation to both of them. Everyone experiences both stress and anxiety in their life time. Stress can lead to anxiety, it can cause it. There are similar reactions to how stress is experienced in our body and how anxiety is experienced. For both people may physically tense up, be easily fatigued, have stomach issues, or even trouble sleeping. the way we differentiate between normal stress/worry and anxiety is by examing if the symptoms experienced by a person proportional to the worry (Rooij & Stenson, 1999). For example, running from a grizzly bear and screaming, a normal response most would deem, compared to be stuck on a table unable to move and crying uncontrollably because a spider is across the room, an extremely strong response to a smaller threat.

There are some long-term effects on the body and mind are caused by stress and anxiety. Harvard Health (2008) found that Anxiety was related to chronic illness such as GI issues and heart disease. The Mayo Clinic (2017) included other worsening symptoms such as headaches and migraines as well as sleep issues. Often having long-term anxiety can lead to depressive states. The main point is that continued experiences of anxiety and stress can cause issues that can affect us deeply. These effects can be life long if not treated properly.

There are some solutions to reduce stress/anxiety. Some of these treatments are medication related such as

  • Antidepressants

    • • SSRIs – Selected Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

    • • MAOIs – Monamine Oxidase Inhibitors

    • • Trycilics

  • Benzodiazipines

    • • Xanax

  • Beta Blockers

There are also therapies which are proven to be effective and useful in treating Anxiety related disorders

  1. • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): which looks at the interactions between thoughts, feelings and behaviors and works to create differing responses

  2. • Mindfulness: a therapy that is more present focused and works to increase awareness of that present moment

  3. • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – Focuses on accepting events that occur pleasant and unpleasant and commit to goals that are value and belief based.

  4. • Dialectic Behavior Therapy – Based on CBT but focuses on the dialectics (opposites) that can create change in an individual

  5. • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – A form of therapy that looks at root experiences and how those experiences have shaped our decision-making and views.

There are some things that people can do on their own too.

  1. • Try journaling, sometimes getting the thoughts out help

  2. • Participate in yoga, helps to relieve some of the physical manifestations of stress

  3. • Focus on slow deep breathing

  4. • Visualize calm, our anxious brain learns from experience, give it some calm moments

At Pathways Psychology Services, we have therapists who utilize these therapies to work with individuals who experience stress, anxiety and other mental health disorders. If you or someone you know needs help with overcoming their anxious thoughts or stress inducing events contact Pathways Psychology Services at 630-293-9860. We can help.

By Zach Meers, LCPC, NCC

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