Can anxiety influence your weight? Yes! Learn to manage it – 13/09/2021

Although it is most recognized for behavioral changes, anxiety can also have serious consequences on your physical health.

In the short term, anxiety increases your breathing and heart rate, concentrating blood flow to your brain and other necessary organs in the face of expected danger.

However, a high degree of anxiety can lead to dizziness and nausea. Thus, a state of excessive or persistent anxiety can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health. This is not because an anxiety crisis, such as a panic attack, will result in an immediate health problem, such as a heart attack or stroke, but rather because it can cause a series of changes in your life that over time. term are harmful to your body.

Anxiety disorders can occur at any stage of life, but usually start in early adulthood. According to the US National Institute of Mental Health, women are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men.

Stressful life experiences can also increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder, with symptoms starting immediately or even years later. Also, having a serious medical condition or substance use disorder can also lead to an anxiety disorder.

Thus, anxiety can lead to more serious problems such as depression, panic attacks, headaches (migraines), irritability, extreme fatigue, reduced libido, tachycardia, respiratory problems and even influence weight reduction or gain .

Anxiety and body weight

Weight gain can occur because anxiety interferes with your sleep, eating, and exercise routine, as well as increasing the release of stress hormones. However, there are factors related to unintentional weight loss through forgetting to eat and using some medications.

Anxiety and Weight Reduction

  • Occasionally, antidepressants can cause weight loss. In one study, some medications showed effects on weight loss over a long period of use. Specifically, the antidepressant bupropion can result in weight loss. However, it is not an antidepressant often used to treat anxiety disorders. More often, the use of antidepressants helps control food intake through the improvement of depressive and anxiety symptoms. That is, if depressive and anxiety symptoms have increased food intake (or made it difficult to perform physical activity), the opposite occurs when these symptoms improve.
  • Anxiety can reduce your appetite. A review found that your body produces a hormone called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) that influences your desire to eat.

Anxiety and weight gain

  • Anxiety can disrupt your sleep, which has an important link to weight gain. A 2010 study found that participants lost less body fat and more lean mass when they slept for 5.5 hours instead of 8.5 hours. Those who slept less time also reported feeling hungrier during their waking hours. Anxiety can cause sleep disturbances and, in turn, increase fatigue, both of which can cause you to crave unhealthy foods and exercise/movement less.
  • Anxiety can cause increased cortisol, which can increase body fat storage. A 2011 study showed that while anxiety can speed up metabolism and release appetite-suppressing hormones, there is also a correlation with increased cortisol levels. Scientists believe that the body releases cortisol when it is experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety. A 2013 research review suggested that high levels of cortisol can cause weight gain or make it harder to lose weight. When anxiety or stress triggers your body’s “fight or flight” response, more cortisol begins to circulate, disrupting your metabolism and causing an increase in appetite and cravings for sweet, high-fat, and salty foods.
  • Anxiety can make it harder to make healthy food choices. People with anxiety may have difficulty making decisions about what to eat, resulting in unhealthy food consumption. What’s more, distracted eating can make you eat more, paying less attention to what you’re eating or how much you’re eating.
  • Some antidepressant medications can cause weight gain. Mainly, antidepressants called tricyclics (such as amitriptyline, clomipramine and nortriptyline), paroxetine and mirtazapine are drugs that can increase appetite and thus generate weight gain. However, most antidepressants are neutral for weight gain or loss.
  • Anxiety can reduce interest in training. Exercise can help you lose weight, relax and have many health benefits. But when you’re feeling anxious or depressed, training may be the last thing you feel like doing. A 2011 study showed a connection between anxiety and a lower rate of physical activity participation. When some people are anxious, they move and exercise less, and the less you move, the harder it is for your body to expend energy and your metabolism slows down with less physical activity.

How to manage anxiety and weight fluctuation

1. Keep a worry diary. Every time you find yourself struggling with an anxious thought or feeling, write it down. Getting anxiety out of your mind and putting it on paper can make it less urgent or immediate, which can help you get rid of anxiety, let off steam, and sleep.

two. Do mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness practice, which involves focusing on the present moment in an open way to the experience that arises, has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms and decrease our body’s stress responses (including hormonal and inflammatory responses). In fact, your body can begin reaping the anxiety-reducing benefits after a single session. To perform: Sit comfortably and close your eyes; focus on your breathing; when thoughts arise, acknowledge them and bring your attention to your breath; repeat every time you get distracted by a thought.

3. Try going to the gym or at least walking. Exercise helps you lose weight, but a review of research has also shown that it reduces physical and mental symptoms of anxiety and improves mood and sleep—all of which will help you lose weight. It’s like a positive feedback loop that will leave you feeling better mentally and physically. If your anxiety is making regular exercise difficult, start slowly and once your anxiety is under control it will be easier to get to the gym and start exercising. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a 10-minute walk can be just as effective in relieving anxiety as longer, more intense exercise. Set goals along the way to continuous improvement.

Collaboration of Pedro Rosa, psychiatrist. Graduated in medicine from FMUSP (Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo), residency in psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry of Hospital das Clínicas at FMUSP, doctor in science at FMUSP, researcher at the Laboratory of Neuroimaging in Psychiatry (LIM-21) at FMUSP. He works in a private practice and in hospitals in São Paulo (Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein and Hospital Sírio-Libanês).


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