Symptoms Of Anxiety: Loss Of Appetite And Physical Changes
Updated August 19, 2019
Anxiety is one of the most common mood disorders in existence today. Coverage regarding anxiety is regularly found in magazines, newspapers, and online news sources, most of them focusing primarily on the condition itself, the statistics behind it, and the most common ways that it affects people. What fewer news sources cover, however, are the myriad ways that anxiety can show its face, including the seemingly unrelated, physical impacts of the condition.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is many things: a diagnosed disorder, a state of being, and a descriptor of a temporary feeling. Each of these things can intersect with the others but does not necessarily do so. Someone can feel a great deal of anxiety, for instance, without having a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and someone who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder might not feel their symptoms daily. People who live in a perpetual state of anxiety, too, differ from someone with an anxiety disorder, and someone who experiences temporary bouts of anxiety.
Temporary feelings of anxiety are usually brought about by a catalyst, such as a stressful event, or an emotional upheaval. The loss of a loved one, for instance, can trigger a period of anxiety. A promotion at work can also trigger feelings of anxiety. As the memory of your loved one grows more and more settled; however, or you become more accustomed to the demands of your new job, the feelings of anxiety begin to dissipate. This is the most effective means of determining which form of anxiety you are experiencing: duration and intensity. A temporary spike of anxiety typically leaves within a few hours or weeks, or after the event that caused the spike.
If anxiety is a constant state, it does not necessarily indicate an anxiety disorder; persistent anxiety can be a sign of persistent stressors. If you have an extremely demanding, high-stakes job, for instance, you might find yourself constantly stressed. If your home life is tumultuous, at best, you may have anxiety as a constant companion. If there is an identifiable, verifiable reason for chronic anxiety, it is unlikely to warrant a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders differ from the examples above primarily due to cause: anxiety spikes and stress-borne anxiety both have causes, while a defining trait of an anxiety disorder is the presence of anxiety, in the absence of a distinct cause. This means that anxiety is not a reaction to a stressor, a life event, or an emotional upset, but is instead a nagging, persistent force within your body or brain, without being able to identify the trigger, to soothe the proverbial beast.
Common Signs Of Anxiety
The most common sign of anxiety is feeling stressed. This can manifest as feeling irritable, on edge, or constantly uncomfortable, as though something bad is just around the corner. Anxiety can also come in the form of fear. You might fear to lose your job, losing a loved one, or saying the wrong thing. You could fear to get into a car accident, or hurting someone else without meaning to. Anxiety comes in countless shapes and sizes and affects everyone differently.
Only acknowledging the mental symptoms of anxiety is to do anyone struggling with anxiety a disservice; the symptoms of anxiety are far-reaching and can be extremely intense. Just as depression can often manifest in actual physical alterations to your body, anxiety can have profound and lasting impacts on your physical body and can lead to chronic physical conditions, in addition to the mental effects.
Loss Of Appetite And Physical Anxiety Symptoms
The physical symptoms of anxiety are frequently whittled down to the same effects as general nervousness: sweating, trembling, a racing heart, and feeling hot. More than simple nervousness, though, anxiety can also manifest in the form of headaches, stomachaches, muscle aches, perpetual exhaustion, muscle tension, difficulty breathing, and hot or cold flashes.
Anxiety can also affect your appetite; some people with anxiety might find that their appetite either increases or decreases, which can lead to several other health problems, ranging from losing enough weight to become underweight, all the way to developing an actual eating disorder that will also require treatment to overcome. Anxiety can become so overwhelming that the desire to eat, bathe, or take other basic steps to care for yourself in as full and healthy a way as possible is greatly reduced, or disappears entirely, which can cause additional anxiety to emerge.
Dizziness, nausea, and fainting can also be physical indications of an anxiety disorder, and many people with anxiety or anxiety disorders discover their anxiety after seeking medical attention for their physical symptoms, rather than seeking help for perceived mental deficiencies or issues. While anxiety is usually attributed to the brain and cognitive function, it is a whole-body process that is ruled by and connected to your physical body and physical health just as much as your mental health.
Standard Anxiety Treatment
Anxiety treatment can be used to treat all three kinds of anxiety, though the methods for each will differ. Psychotherapy is the most common means of dispersing anxiety, whether that means easing fear for a single instance of anxiety or treating a chronic, years-long anxiety disorder. Within psychotherapy, there are specific treatment methods, the most commonly used method being some form of exposure therapy, wherein therapists expose their clients to their stressors or fears, in a careful, controlled environment, and gradually eliminate or reduce fear and anxiety. This form of therapy can be delivered in person or online, but both delivery methods should be completed with a qualified healthcare professional, such as those found on ReGain.us.
Some anxiety is best treated through antidepressants or other pharmaceutical drugs, as anxiety can reach a level where psychotherapy is no longer the only necessary intervention. In some cases, these medications are temporary, to curb a particularly intense flare-up, while others will use medication long-term to manage their symptoms.
Alternative Treatment Methods
Exercise can be considered a form of treatment, particularly for physical symptoms. Tension and tightness can be alleviated somewhat by regular exercise and stretching. Keeping your body in peak physical health can ease some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, and can give your body some much-needed attention and care.
Meditation and breathing exercises are also often encouraged for people experiencing all types of anxiety. Because deep breathing has consistently been associated with increased relaxation and decreased stress responses, many men and women with anxiety experience significant relief through both meditation and breathing exercises. These forms of alternative treatment can help both curb chronic anxiety symptoms, and the sudden onset of a panic attack or spike in anxiety levels.
Supplementation can also be used for some anxiety symptoms. If significant GI tract symptoms arise, some people find relief through using a daily probiotic to ease gastric distress. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies have also been linked to the onset of both anxiety and depression, so adding a daily multivitamin to your routine could soothe some of those issues.
Aromatherapy can also function as a complementary treatment for anxiety, as some scents have demonstrated the ability to ease worries and increase one's ability to handle stress. Lavender is the scent most commonly used to ease the symptoms of anxiety, but peppermint oil has also been linked to a decrease in pain caused by headaches or migraines. Aromatherapy can help limit some of the physical manifestations of anxiety.
Symptoms Of Anxiety
Although many people will acknowledge the mental symptoms of anxiety-worry, confusion, difficulty focusing, impulse control issues, and similar effects-the physical manifestations of anxiety are often overlooked or are misunderstood and identified as something else. This is unfortunate, as many people with anxiety or anxiety disorders experience significant physical changes in response to their anxiety, including appetite changes (increased or decreased appetite), headaches, low-grade nausea, muscle tension, hot flashes, and chest pain.
All of these symptoms are important to identify as symptoms of anxiety, because many people experiencing these symptoms may incorrectly identify them as symptoms of a heart attack, fibromyalgia, or another condition that warrants medical attention when a mental health professional would be a better fit. Physical symptoms of anxiety are also important to be aware of because they can create a cycle of anxiety: when physical sensations arrive, they can be downright terrifying, as is the case of someone amid an anxiety attack suspecting a heart attack. Not knowing what physical anxiety symptoms are, people can live in terror of experiencing another round of physical symptoms, which further aggravates anxiety.
Fortunately, the physical changes your body experiences in response to anxiety can be treated as readily as the mental and mood changes you experience, using most of the same tools. A large helping of physical symptoms might encourage some additional healing modalities, such as a greater focus on physical fitness or aromatherapy, but ultimately, resolving the physical symptoms of anxiety is inextricably twined with treating anxiety as a whole, and relief is usually felt with regular psychotherapy intervention.