Can Anxiety Damage the Brain?

Brain Health - VishwaRaj Hospital

Anxiety is a disorder that leads to nervousness, panic, and fear. These are mainly psychological issues and can be due to past events, stress, and hormonal imbalances. Though anxiety cannot be termed as a neurological condition, it can still cause neurologic symptoms. Moreover, several nerve disorders can also have anxiety as a symptom. As a result, it is highly intertwined and a major cause of concern.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can also have a wide range of symptoms. These include –

  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Muscle tremors
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Neck pain
  • Tingling sensation
  • Chest pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Difficulty in sleeping

Emotional symptoms related to anxiety

Apart from the physical ones, there are also emotional signs that are associated with anxiety. Some of them are – restlessness, panic attacks, nervousness, compulsive behaviors, obsession, etc.

People with anxiety often suffer from long-term effects. They often struggle with insomnia, depression, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and difficulties related to chronic pain.

Is it anxiety or a neurological disorder?

The severity of the anxiety can sometimes manifest as the symptoms of various neurological diseases. People suffering from anxiety can display physical symptoms, which are quite similar to several neurological issues like brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, and Lyme disease.

Sometimes, the symptoms are too similar, and healthcare professionals suggest multiple diagnostic tests. The results aid in making the right assessment. It is vital that you take medical assistance immediately to sort out the confusion.

Neurological symptoms due to anxiety

It is true that anxiety does not cause any type of nerve damage. But, it can still cause symptoms. Check out some of them listed here.

  • Difficulty with vision

Anxiety and other symptoms associated with it, like hyperventilation and migraine, can cause vision issues. It can cause dilation in the pupils, which ultimately affects the ability to see perfectly.

  • Fatigue

One of the most common occurrences of anxiety is fatigue. It is mainly due to the extreme exhaustion that you face. Moreover, people suffering from anxiety also have insomnia. Difficulty in sleeping can also cause considerable fatigue.

  • Headache

Anxiety can lead to the development of different kinds of headaches. Some of the most prominent ones include migraines and tension headaches. These headaches have various other symptoms. But, anxiety can basically trigger them. Though, it is not really clear as to why anxiety can lead to it.

  • Nerve pain

Due to anxiety, nerve pains can occur. Also termed as psychogenic pain, it causes the brain to activate the pain sensors. However, there is no recognized cause responsible for this pain.

  • Tingling sensation

The manifestation of anxiety in hyperventilation and adrenaline can cause a tingling sensation in the legs and arms. Hyperventilation actually constricts the vessels, due to which blood flow to the legs and hands decreases. It is the exact opposite of adrenaline. In that case, the blood vessels dilate and pump more blood towards the muscles. It is why people can experience numbness, tingling, or even a sensation of hotness and cold.

Effect of anxiety on the brain

While mild anxiety is considered normal, too much of it can cause severe consequences to the brain. When you have elevated levels of anxiety, the body begins to prepare for a flight or fight situation. It occurs when the amygdala sends distress codes to the hypothalamus. Now, it is the hypothalamus that is known as the command center of the brain. It releases several hormones to combat the situation.

As a result, your heartbeat and blood pressure increases. Moreover, there is also a rise in the blood flow and the breathing pattern. In essence, the hypothalamus prepares the body to run or fight the situation.

The entire process takes up a substantial amount of energy. As a means of compensation, the hippocampus releases the hormone – cortisol. It is released to restore energy in the body.

Now, if you are suffering from anxiety disorders, then the enhanced cortisol levels can affect the brain and ultimately harm the brain cells.

Apart from these, the high levels of cortisol can also cause insulin resistance. It means that now you have a greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes. As per numerous studies, people suffering from type-2 diabetes have more chances of having Alzheimer’s disease.

Treatments for anxiety

Before you opt for any treatment for anxiety, you must have the proper diagnosis. It is advisable to contact medical professionals for this. There are primarily two types of treatment methods – medicines and psychotherapy. Sometimes, a unique combination of both works best.

Usually, anti-depressants and sedatives can help with anxiety. However, you must take it only if the doctor prescribes it. It is not meant for long-term use.

In psychotherapy, you attend sessions with a therapist to work on the anxiety. The therapists are trained to help you handle the issue expertly. You can also opt for CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).


Mild anxiety is common and is more or less present in every human being. But, when it becomes chronic or leads to a disorder, proper treatment is essential. Unless you can discover the trigger point, you will continue to face it throughout the day. It will not only make your life difficult but also affect your loved ones.

However, with the aid of modern medical advancements, you can get the appropriate treatment with medical consultations. You can also indulge in therapy and include meditation as part of your life. Making subtle but vital changes can ultimately assist you in dealing with anxiety.

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