Did You Know | Health

7 Unusual Ways Anxiety Can Affect Your Body That You Wouldn't Expect

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An anxiety disorder is one of those things that if you don't have it, you probably don't understand it. Even if you do have it, a lot of the time you don't fully realize what is going on with your body.

You might think that one thing is wrong, when actually it's just anxiety coursing through you, tearing down a lot of your body's defenses as it goes.

A lot of people spend years struggling with physical symptoms before they discover the root of the cause is actually their mental health. To help you understand some of your miscellaneous pains and problems, we've compiled a list of some of the unusual ways that anxiety can express itself that you may not have known.

1. Back Pain

The muscles in your back react to stress a lot more than you think. When you become stressed, your muscles tense up, sometimes subtly enough that you don't notice, and over time they become exhausted.

Lower backs are especially susceptible to this stress-induced pain, but it's often suggested that the person experiencing the pain apply heat to the area each day to help loosen up the muscles.

2. Cold hands and feet

You would think that it's just a circulation issue, but if you're constantly feeling like your extremities are freezing, it might be because your body is trying to combat the anxious feelings.

Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, revealed that the adrenaline anxiety releases in your body affects the way your blood acts.

"When we become anxious, adrenaline gets released into our body, causing several physical changes that could help you fight 'danger' or run away from it," Ungerleider said. "Blood is shunted away from our hands, feet, and abdomen to our large muscle groups such as thighs and hips. This is a primitive, evolutionary reflex to help us flee from an emergency."

3. Excessive Yawning

Sure, you might be tired, but there is also a chance that all of that yawning is caused by your anxiety.

Researchers aren't sure of the definitive answer yet, but they have a few suspicions. Ungerleider explained one popular theory.

"Some researchers believe it is related to thermoregulation of the brain or triggered by a rise in blood cortisol levels."

4. Excessive gas

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If you start to notice that you're burping or passing gas a lot more than you used to, you should try and think about your anxiety levels.

Your body changes a lot when it gets stressed out, and your stomach is one of the biggest problem areas.

"One of the physical changes that happens is increased acid in your stomach causing [gastrointestinal] upset as well as swallowing too much air, leading to belching," Ungerleider says.

5. Olfactory hallucinations (aka smelling things that aren't there)

Have you ever sworn that you could smell something that no one else was smelling? Well, olfactory hallucinations are actually a frequent symptom for people who are about to have an anxiety attack.

"If a person experiences a stressful situation in the presence of a certain smell, they make new neuronal connections, connecting the part of the brain that controls smell with the part that is firing during anxious states or states of panic," Dr. Jannelle Louis, licensed naturopathic doctor said. "The result is that the next time this person experiences similar anxiety or thinks about past trauma, he or she may have an olfactory hallucination of the same smell."

6. Hives

A lot of people experience an almost allergic reaction to their stress where their body breaks out in hives.

One person shared her experience with hives and anxiety, and expressed just how frustrating it can be. “Full body chronic hives run my life when I’m struggling with my anxiety .They aren’t just on my thighs, they make their way to my arms, legs, back, sides, shoulders, feet and hands," Kaitlyn A. said. "They’ll get so bad sometimes I’ll experience anaphylaxis and will need to seek medical attention. Each time it’s nothing to do with allergens because I’ve done all of the testing; it’s simply stress and anxiety induced. It makes me feel like I’m a problem.”

7. Dry Mouth

One of the more odd symptoms of anxiety is having a dry mouth. It makes you constantly feel like you are thirty and it can be really frustrating.

But why does it happen? Ungerleider says, "Feeling anxious or stressed can reduce the flow of saliva in your mouth leading to dry mouth."

If you are experiencing any strange symptoms or just know that you've been highly anxious lately, make sure you talk to your doctor. Mental health should not be taken lightly.

Source - The Mighty / Bustle / Everyday Health / Healthline

Tanya has been writing for Shared for two years. She spends too much time thinking about dogs, Marvel movies, and ice cream. You can reach me at tanya@shared.com