An anxiety disorder doesn’t only affect one’s mood, it also changes the way you interact with the world around you. In turn, altering responses and behaviors. In short, anxiety can be all-encompassing and become emotionally, mentally, and physically drained from being on edge all the time. With that, it may also cause what’s known as anxiety fatigue.
This sort of exhaustion can cause real complications in not only dealing with anxiety but also daily functioning. Throughout this article, we’re going to explore anxiety fatigue and understand how it affects the body. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
How Does Anxiety Affect Your Body?
Above all, anxiety is both a response to stress and a form of stress. When the body is under stress the autonomic nervous system becomes stimulated, thus causing the physical symptoms.
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for processing the actions that you don’t intentionally make, like heart rate, breathing, and urination. However, it’s unique that it’s also the same part of the brain that reacts to fear.
When you’re under a great amount of stress or anxiety it causes the autonomic nervous to jump into action. It’s intended to protect you from stress, but can actually make the internal suffering morph into a physical one. ¹
Those that routinely have to deal with anxiety can attest to their body’s response causing physical pain, disorientation, and fatigue. Alongside these, here are some of the more common physical reactions to anxiety:
- Chronic pain
- Weakened immune system response
- Fluctuations in diet and weight
- Digestion complications
- Respiratory response issues (including high blood pressure and heart palpitations)
- Disturbances in sleep regularity
- Mental fogginess
What is Anxiety Fatigue?
Anxiety fatigue is the response that those with anxiety have. It’s an all-encompassing experience that primarily affects energy levels and mood. The exhaustion from an adrenaline high specifically after an anxiety attack (panic attacks) is a chief contributor to anxiety fatigue.
Those with anxiety fatigue are engaged in a consistent battle to try and reduce their worries while also attempting to carry out normal lives.
This fight to perform optimally while also handling the burdensome anxiety can create disturbances in day-to-day functionality. These functional breakdowns can be as simple as not getting adequate sleep and having a reduced appetite. However, they can also be more complex concerns, such as isolation from others to contemplations of self-harm or suicide.
Anxiety From Poor Sleep
Inadequate sleep can be a major contributing factor to the manifestation of anxiety. In fact, having a lack of energy can have ripple effects on performing professionally and personally in life.
In a vicious cycle, anxiety can create a lack of sleep, resulting in insomnia. Insomnia is an unfortunately common side effect of a range of anxiety disorders. Lack of sleep and other sleep disturbances such as oversleeping can exacerbate other symptoms as worsening overall fatigue settles in. ²
Sleep complications are a common problem for those suffering from mental health conditions. Those with anxiety can have dramatically impacted sleep than those that don’t have to deal with the routine physiological stress that anxiety can bring. Its also been shown that those with anxiety are more prone to experience nightmares which can trigger insomnia. ³
Long-Term Health Effects
Those with cyclic anxiety can begin to experience long-term effects of mental stress and fatigue especially if they go unaddressed and properly treated. Panic attacks are common for those with anxiety disorders and can consist of both a mental and physical response. Those who have experienced panic attacks describe the following: ⁴
- A loss of control of movement
- Feeling numb
- Dissociated from their body or environment
- Having shortness of breath
These symptoms may sound scary, but they typically only last ten to twenty minutes. However, it can last longer and everyone’s own experiences are different.
Coming down from a panic attack can result in anxiety fatigue, in which the body needs to rest to recover from the reactivity of the triggering event.
Stress has the moniker of being a silent killer as it’s harder to pinpoint and control than other health complications like cancer or diabetes. Anxiety is often a contributing factor to heart disease and its resulting malignant manifestations like heart attacks and strokes. ⁵
Having the ability to deal with stress, discuss anxieties, and putting plans in place to tackle these conflicting factors can help ease existing heart disease symptoms.
How to Treat Anxiety Fatigue
The best thing to start to treat the fatigue of anxiety or anxiety itself is to be honest about struggles with anxiety and stress. Finding ways to deal with stress healthfully while also seeing a mental health professional for the underlying anxiety can greatly reduce the risk of having more destructive symptoms.
Routine Changes & Self-Care Options
In order to deal with the fatigue fallout that anxiety can bring about, it’s important to first to take a look at a sufferer’s routine and see where changes can be made in order to live healthfully with anxiety. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one simple cure for anxiety so it will take a few things in the proper balance in order to make coping with this mental health condition a bit easier.
One thing that can immediately combat fatigue is changing and committing to a consistent sleep schedule. Picking and committing to going to bed at the same time and sleeping with intention. In other words, you don’t fall asleep doing something else like watching TV, can aid in giving a well-rounded and deep sleep.
Eating a consistent diet that contains the necessary minerals and nutrients that are responsible for providing adequate and stable energy can help in combatting fatigue. It has shown that those with anxiety that provide themselves with three well-rounded meals, including breakfast, can reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms .⁶
Exercising is a great way to not only stay in shape but also tacking stress as physically working out can relieve stress as well as provide dopamine, a hormone that is beneficial in counteracting anxiety and depression. ⁷
Talk Therapy, CBT & Grounding
Talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy done in conjunction has shown promise in greatly reducing how a patient responds to anxiety. ⁸
One such cognitive behavioral modification that can interrupt and hopefully blunt the severity of panic attacks is grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are practices that patients experiencing anxiety can utilize to try and break the spiral and bring themselves to a calmer state. ⁹
One such popular and proven way to ground during a panic attack or an anxiety spiral is to perform a 5-4-3-2-1 technique, in which the one experiencing a panic attack will: ¹⁰
- Identify FIVE things they can see.
- Acknowledge FOUR objects they can touch.
- Point out THREE sounds they can hear.
- Address TWO scents they can smell
- And finally, name ONE thing they can taste
It may sound silly at first but when these grounding techniques are performed, it can greatly shorten the time of anxiety attacks and help ease the sufferer out from the weight of that physiological response.
However, it isn’t uncommon for a medical professional to treat anxiety with medication. Anti-anxiety, antidepressants, and antipsychotics are common medication types that are utilized by medical professionals to try and treat symptoms of anxiety.
Anti-anxiety meds are commonly benzodiazepines, antidepressants are usually SSRIs and for antipsychotics, it is commonplace for a mental health professional to prescribe risperidone or olanzapine. ¹¹ However medications should be utilized when a combination of all the above-listed options isn’t providing the result needed to cope properly.
Worrying is a part of life. However, when that worry solidifies and begins to weigh you down, you might be dealing with anxiety. Carrying around that constant concern can create a great deal of strain both physically and mentally.
So, when you are starting to feel worn out from the rumination, it’s important to seek help. Reaching out and being vulnerable can be daunting but it can help in easing the burden and can prevent further stress from building and having it manifest in physical ways.
Finding the right treatment option can hopefully create an easier life to live without the fear creating a fog of fatigue to fight through.
Do you still have questions about anxiety fatigue?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Harvard Health University Publishing: Recognizing the physical symptoms of anxiety
² SleepFoundation: Anxiety & Sleep
³ National Center for Biotechnical Information: Bad Dream Frequency in Adults with Anxiety
⁴ Mind Foundation UK: Anxiety & Panic Attacks
⁵ National Center for Biotechnical Information: Anxiety as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease
⁶ Mayo Clinic: Coping with anxiety: Can diet make a difference?
⁷ Harvard Health University Press: Can exercise help treat anxiety?
⁸ National Center for Biotechnical Information: Cognitive behavioral therapy in anxiety
⁹ Dissociative Identity Disorder Foundation: Grounding Techniques
¹⁰ University of Rochester Medical Center: 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety ¹¹ GoodRX: “Medications to Treat GAD”