How Anxiety Fuels Your Anxiety
Learn ways to get a grip on the worry spiral revealed by new research
Worry is an inevitable part of the human condition, from childhood to that very last breath. We worry when bad stuff happens, when good stuff doesn’t happen, or when we can’t shake the fear that something bad might happen.
When worries fuel outright anxiety — marked by fast breathing, shortness of breath, or a racing heart — it can lead to chest pain, dizziness, or even full-blown panic attacks. Anxiety can ruin your sleep, cause depression, and add to the risk of dementia, along with putting you at risk for a host of physical illnesses.
Thing is, we’re often blind to the warning signs.
Anxiety messes with the mind-body connection, causing us to lose touch with the physical effects of all that worry, spiraling us into ever-deeper anxiety, a new study published in the journal Neuron reveals.
“We might believe we are very in tune with our bodies, but what we’ve seen is that anxiety can actually reduce our ability to notice changes in our breathing,” says study leader Olivia Harrison, PhD, a researcher at the University of Otago in New Zealand. “If we don’t realize when we are breathing faster or harder due to being worried, then we could more easily have further symptoms such as feeling lightheaded,” Harrison explains. “If we don’t realize what is happening in our body, then these symptoms can make us feel even worse and worry us even further.”
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Anxiety affects all ages
While anxiety is a totally normal emotional response that generates nearly identical symptoms as stress, the two are distinct in how they prey on our minds. Stress is a response to real things that happen or loom. “Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor,” according to the American Psychological Association.