Mental & Emotional Health
Panic Disorder

Anxiety: Is It "All In Your Head?"

Everyone suffers from anxiety occasionally. And it’s not always a bad thing. Anxiety before a test, for example, can help us study harder. If we want to do well on a job interview, we’ll be spurred to do our homework on our prospective employer. But it’s a problem if anxiety becomes so exaggerated or severe that we cannot function (i.e. if we become too anxious to take the test or show up for the job interview).

But is it “all in your head?” Is anxiety a condition that affects you only on emotional level? The short answer is no. Although anxiety is a mental state, it manifests with physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, a pounding heart, muscle tension and headaches.

Filza Hussain, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System behavioral health provider, says that happens because the brain is a “central command center” for the rest of the body and can influence all its different system. When anxiety overtakes the brain, according to Mayo, it has the ability to affect all the different organ systems – and create physical symptoms even though there is nothing wrong with the organ itself.

But don’t avoid dealing with it. If you think you’re suffering from anxiety disorder, consult your primary care physician. And if you think your anxiety attack is severe enough to warrant immediate care, don’t hesitate to go to the emergency room. In examining patients who believe they are suffering from anxiety, both primary care and emergency room physicians will first rule out physical conditions such as heart and thyroid problems.

There’s some good news, though: anxiety disorders, while scary, are manageable. Talk to your health-care practitioner about the best way to handle your condition. Although there are medications to help in both the short and long term, there are alternatives. Experts cite exercise, breathing techniques and yoga as possibilities. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on altering your thought patterns, may also be effective.

Adapted from For more information from Mayo on relaxation techniques, click here. For more information on anxiety disorder, click here.


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