Long-Term Effects of Anxiety

Anxiety developed from the natural process of fight or flight. Anxiety used to tell us when a situation became dangerous, and it increased our abilities to fight off the danger or reduce it by getting away. This need for a fight-or-flight response is generally not often necessary for people today, but it still occurs when people become anxious about things such as work, school and family events. The long-term effects of this anxiety can negatively impact various aspects of a person's life.

A woman is feeling anxious. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Basics

People deal with anxiety differently. Some focus on the anxiety-producing situation, but others have developed ways to deal with and effectively cope with their anxieties. For people who have learned to effectively cope with anxiety, it generally benefits them and propels them to achieve their goals and make advancements in their life. On the other hand, the inability to cope with anxiety can have negative results.

Considerations

When a person can no longer control her anxiety and it has begun to negatively affect her everyday life, the long-term outcome could be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder, all require intensive long-term treatment to overcome negative effects and reduce their symptoms.

Complications

Long-term bouts with anxiety or anxiety disorders can cause a person to turn to unhealthy ways of coping. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who battle with anxiety for extended periods of time are at risk for developing substance abuse problems; smoking addictions; and continuous overeating, which leads to weight problems and health issues.

Health

Every time a person is faced with a stressful situation in which he experiences anxiety, the hormone cortisol is released. When a person experiences anxiety regularly over the long term, the release of cortisol will occur too often and actually have a negative effect on a person's memory.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, or ADAA, long-term anxiety problems such as anxiety disorders can put a person at an increased risk for developing health problems. Possible health problems include insomnia; digestive or bowel problems; and damage to the kidneys, blood vessels and heart, notes the Mayo Clinic.

Significance

Long-term battles with anxiety have a significant effect on the overall life of the person they affect. In the long run, anxiety can complicate friendships, cause problems at work and in a person's career and may increase a person's feelings of isolation and lack of confidence.

Also, over time, anxiety can increase the chances that a person will develop depression. The ADAA points out that 50 percent of the people who have anxiety also experience depression.

In addition, dealing with anxiety for a significant period of a person's life can leave her to contemplate or attempt suicide. The longer anxiety goes untreated and the more intense it becomes, the more likely a person will be to consideration ending her life as the only way to overcome her anxiety.

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