The relationship between anxiety and illness

Anxiety and illness often complement each other. Physical health issues are inherently worrying, but even more so when you also have mental health issues. Anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) are often associated with diseases such as heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory diseases.

Although the relationship between anxiety and illness has been established, in terms of the causal relationship between the two, it is a bit like a chicken and egg scenario.

Does anxiety trigger biological processes that cause physical health problems? Does poor physical health (for example, migraine or arthritis) cause anxiety? Or do other factors, such as genetic or environmental factors, cause anxiety and physical health problems?

What research have It clearly shows that those with physical health problems and anxiety tend to have more severe symptoms, poorer response to treatment, and more likely to develop fatal diseases.

What the research shows

  • Research on the relationship between anxiety and physical health usually group anxiety disorders as a whole. So, for example, we don’t know whether people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) are more likely to suffer from different types of physical health problems than people with panic disorder.
  • Research have However, research shows that people with SAD are generally more likely to have health problems. A study of 202 Iranian students examined the impact of social phobia on physical health and found that students with social phobia scored lower in terms of overall health and vitality.
  • As expected, those with chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD have a higher incidence of anxiety. Again, the causal nature of this relationship has not been determined and may be complex, but it is reasonable to assume that at least some of the connections involve fear of respiratory failure.
  • Higher anxiety rates are related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in people diagnosed with gastroenteritis.
  • There is a correlation between phobic anxiety and sudden cardiac death.
  • It has been proven that people with high blood pressure, thyroid disease, and cancer have a higher anxiety rate.
  • A study of 4,181 people found that most people who suffer from both anxiety and physical health problems first report anxiety.

What this means to you

What do these findings mean to you? If you have been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and have physical health problems, it is important to discuss these two issues with your doctor.

Those who suffer from both anxiety disorders and physical illnesses have a poorer quality of life, so it is very important to receive treatment to solve anxiety disorders and physical health problems.

If you have a physical health problem such as IBS, asthma, COPD, or heart disease, and you have symptoms of anxiety but have not yet received a formal evaluation, you may need to ask your doctor whether this step is appropriate.

If it turns out that you do suffer from anxiety, your doctor will be able to tailor a treatment plan that best suits your needs.