Anxiety and Taxes: More Related Than You Thought
By Martha Michael
Time is ticking and the pressure’s on to pull together your tax documents. And the closer it gets, the more your body may be showing signs of discomfort.
Although that nervous stomach or lump in your throat is normal, if your fears and anxiety grow, they can have a significant impact on your health. What you do with your anxiety matters. It’s best to not ignore it because you can’t evade the negative effects of long-term worry any more than you can evade taxes.
Don’t Deny It
One of the least healthy reactions to anxiety is denial, according to an article in Psychology Today. Most people are familiar with short-term consequences such as fatigue or nausea. But your anxiety may also trigger headaches, muscle pain, or diarrhea.
Physically, your body copes with fear by speeding up your heart rate and breathing pattern while tensing your muscles -- useful if you need to run away. But when you’re enduring that physical state with no resolution, you may experience an erosion to your relationships, job performance, or other aspects of your health. And when you get used to living with those triggers, you eventually develop chronic anxiety.
“Face the problem and act and you'll tame your fear,” the article says.
Approximately 20 percent of U.S. residents develop anxiety disorders, which are evidenced by social phobias or extreme self-consciousness, among other symptoms.
The Harvard Medical School website lists several disorders related to anxiety:
- Phobias - Irrational fear of specific things such as spiders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder - Experiencing flashbacks from abuse or trauma, sometimes including trouble sleeping and angry outbursts
- Generalized anxiety disorder - Greater worry than reasonable for daily living, which lasts six months or more
- Panic disorder - Feeling terrorized without provocation, sometimes accompanied by dizziness, perspiration, or weakness
Not every one of these disorders leads to physical challenges, but there are a number of links between physical issues and untreated anxiety.
Physical Features of Anxiety
There’s increasing research to show that your emotions and your physical body are interrelated, and sometimes the result of excessive anxiety is addiction or substance abuse. But there are also illnesses related to long-term, persistent worry.
The Mayo Clinic has a list of medical problems associated with chronic anxiety, including:
- Heart Disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Respiratory disorders
Because of its connection to such serious illnesses, untreated anxiety can be fatal. Women make up approximately two-thirds of individuals with anxiety disorders. And in the case of panic attacks or phobias, victims of heart attacks or strokes are most likely to be female. A nurses health study at Harvard concluded that phobic women were 59 percent more likely to have a heart attack, and 31 percent were more likely to die from it.
Respiratory disorders result from anxiety in high numbers. When patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, have a high level of anxiety, they’re typically hospitalized more often and have less effective lung function.
Because issues such as depression and anxiety are pervasive, it’s a good idea to treat your physical symptoms on multiple fronts. Harvard has seen successful treatment of gastrointestinal and respiratory issues by addressing patients’ problems with anxiety.
One method that’s widely used to treat disorders ranging from depression to autism is cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. The Harvard website defines it as a process in which practitioners help patients identify the cause of their emotional discomfort and design strategies for lifestyle changes to reduce its negative impact. Therapists look for patterns of behavior that feed their anxiety and teach patients techniques to promote relaxation and calm.
Another effective method of treatment is psychodynamic psychotherapy, which is most useful when anxiety is rooted in deep-seated emotions of conflict or trauma. A clinical trial at Columbia University compared psychotherapy with relaxation techniques and found that patients with panic disorder had significantly fewer symptoms when treated with talk therapy.
About one-third of Americans with anxiety never get treated. While defining an emotional condition isn’t always easy, take note if you suffer from such symptoms as stomach aches, migraine headaches, or life-threatening illnesses that are often associated with anxiety.
You can begin the process of reducing physical discomfort by bringing your symptoms to the attention of your chiropractor. Challenges associated with digestive issues, for instance, are evidence of a breakdown in your gastrointestinal system. And while chiropractic care doesn’t treat these disorders directly, it is available to improve your health through a properly functioning nervous system.
Your central nervous system controls and coordinates every cell, tissue and organ of the body. Pain in your body may be related to nerve interference originating in the spine. So, while you may be addressing an emotional imbalance such as anxiety, you can also get treatment for the resulting physical ailments.
Life involves countless decisions, possibly thousands in a day. And if feelings of dread or excessive worry are plaguing your mind and your body, address it right away. It may be all the tax reform you need.
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