Can Anxiety Disorders Affect Pain?

//Can Anxiety Disorders Affect Pain?

Can Anxiety Disorders Affect Pain?

Financial woes, the housing crisis, an unstable world: these are some of the reasons that the diagnosis of anxiety disorders is rising, up nearly 300% since 2000. Anxiety disorders can include any of the following conditions.

Panic disorder

Symptoms include sudden onset and intense feelings of nervous apprehension, fear, and anxiety. There is no obvious trigger.

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Characterized by repetitive thoughts and/or actions. Sufferers can also have recurring thoughts that plague them and also often develop routines that they are unable to deviate from (e.g., locking doors repetitively when leaving the house or compulsive hand washing).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Onset of PTSD follows a traumatic event, including war, fire, assault, or other violent event. Sufferers of PTSD relive the event in their minds and can be nervous, jittery, angry for no reason, and more prone to abuse of alcohol or drugs as avoidance behaviors.

Social anxiety disorder

Characterized by extreme anxiety about what they will say or do in public. This disorder is not restricted to performance or public speaking; this can be any interaction with the public and can last for weeks leading up to and following the event.

Generalized anxiety disorder

General stress and worry about anything with no specific trigger or focus. This can be a crippling sense of panic and anxiety and is not centered on any particular event or occasion.

Phobias

Irrational fear of certain situations, such as fear of leaving the house (agoraphobia) or fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia). Those with phobias experience extreme terror, shortness of breath, and heart attack-like symptoms when faced with their fear.

Beyond the above symptoms, people who suffer from anxiety disorders are also more prone to either suffer from chronic pain more intensely or develop chronic pain conditions as a result of their anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders feature clenched muscles and an inability to relax the body. Over time, tight muscles and shallow breathing can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue, along with other issues on the skeletal level, such as spinal alignment problems and joint issues from improper use due to poor posture (slumping over when seated or lying down or sitting for extended periods of time).

Many chronic pain conditions occur commonly in those with anxiety disorders, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Migraines
  • Fibromyalgia 

Chronic pain in combination with anxiety may also result in a lower tolerance for pain. Additionally, those patients who become dependent on medications to deal with chronic pain may also develop a high tolerance for prescription medicine and suffer from complicating side effects from that.

Anxiety disorders are complicated enough, even without a diagnosis of chronic pain. Have you experienced increased pain as a result of anxiety?

Image by Simon Brass via Flickr

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