How Worrying Too Much Can Really Affect Your Health

The past year has given everyone enough reason to worry, but did you know dwelling on your problems can shorten your lifespan? Excessive worrying happens when a person feels uneasy or overly concerned about a situation, according to WebMD, and it can cause many negative effects on your mind and body. Chronic worry can lead to unrealistic fears and thoughts of impending doom, and affect your relationships with others and your ability to perform daily activities. People can also experience panic attacks, lose sleep, and either stop eating or eat too much.

The stress caused from worry can also impact your nervous system, according to the Hope for Healing Foundation. The human body produces a stress hormone called cortisol, which helps the brain control a person's mood, fear, and motivation. Stimulating an internal fight-or-flight response, cortisol prepares the body to respond to danger by accelerating your heartbeat and increasing your blood sugar. Cortisol can also shut down bodily functions such as your digestive, immune, or growth processes. If you suffer from excessive worrying, you could have an anxiety disorder, according to Harvard Medical School.

Anxiety disorders are common

As WebMD reports, some worry can be beneficial and is normal, but it shouldn't be long-lasting or affect your social life, daily activities, or career. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States. Chronic worry is only one component of the mental illness, which can be triggered by brain chemistry, genetics, personality, and life events, or a combination of any of these risk factors. 

Excessive worry and anxiety can lead to respiratory distress, digestive problems, obesity, and heart disease, according to Medical News Today. Cortisol also causes the immune system to stop fighting infections, putting you at risk for serious illness. Fortunately, the ADAA reports that anxiety is highly treatable. However, per the organization, less than 40 percent of people affected by the disorder seek treatment.

If you experience excessive worrying, Psychology Today recommends speaking with a doctor or counselor for advice. Exercise and meditation can also help ease the physical symptoms associated with anxiety.