Anxiety is a mental health condition. It is also the most common. Many people struggle with anxiety, and many of those people that do will qualify as having a mental health disorder.
But it’s important to note that a “mental health disorder” doesn’t mean that your anxiety is strictly mental. While many of us understand that anxiety comes with worries and fears, as psychiatrists, we understand that there is more to anxiety than just thoughts, and that – for many – it is the physical symptoms of anxiety that cause the most distress.
Causes of Physical Anxiety Symptoms
The amygdala is a small portion of your brain responsible for triggering the “fight or flight response.” When you’re faced with some type of danger, your amygdala sends messages that speed up your heartbeat, move blood around to your muscles, induce sweating, and make sure that your body is prepared to fight or flee quickly.
What we call “anxiety” is when the amygdala triggers the fight or flight response in inappropriate moments. This occurs when a person is under intense stress, and their worries or experiences cause their body to react as though it is in danger.
But the brain is complicated. Someone can have anxiety without necessarily experiencing many worrisome thoughts. Over time, the amygdala may start triggering the fight or flight response not only when there are no dangers present, but when there are also no stressful or anxious thoughts present. This causes someone to experience the physical symptoms of anxiety without the telltale worries and fears that most people associate with anxiety.
Psychiatry Treats Physical Anxiety
Even though a person may not notice any worries despite struggling with physical anxiety, there are psychological treatments that can be used to help train someone to address and control their emotions and their fight/flight response. The human brain responds well to psychological treatment, even in the absence of the worries and fears that we expect to see as triggers of these emotions.
Similarly, many anxiety medications can help ease the mind so that the fight/flight response is not triggered as often. This can provide relief from many of the physical anxiety symptoms and make it easier to learn to cope with stress and anxiety in the future so the symptoms do not return.
It is one of the many ways a psychiatrist can help support you on your path towards recovering from and managing physical anxiety.