Anxiety is a condition whose side effects can, in the long term, ultimately lead to physical collapse. While severe anxiety attacks can cause the sensation that you are about to faint or pass out, it is actually quite rare that anyone does: it is far more likely when you have had long-term, persistent anxiety that does not abate (which usually accompanies conditions such as psychosis, but can also be a result of a very stressful lifestyle and a lack of coping mechanisms).
This article will talk about the symptoms and side effects of anxiety than can lead to collapse over the long term, as well as discussing some coping mechanisms to help you ease your anxiety before it causes physical collapse.
Collapsing = Anxiety?
Anxiety likely does not cause collapsing. If you've completely collapsed, talk to a doctor. But anxiety can cause a feeling as if you want to. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to find out more about your anxiety symptoms and how to stop them forever.
Anxiety Symptoms That Drain the Body
Anxiety very, very rarely causes fainting. It can, because anxiety causes hyperventilation and muscle weakness, and in some cases how you react to that (like holding your breath) can cause you to collapse. My anxiety test will help you understand this further, but while there are symptoms that resemble a need to fall, it's not common for anxiety to lead to complete and uncontrollable collapse.
What anxiety does do is cause many symptoms that overwhelm the body and cause it to feel like giving out. These symptoms include:
- Rapid Heartbeat When you get anxious, your heart rate speeds up. In combination with chest pain from rapid breathing and tension in the muscles, an increased heart rate may lead you to believe that you are about to collapse from a heart attack. In addition, a rapid heartbeat releases adrenaline in the body, the aftermath of which can include feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.
- Hyperventilation Anxiety can also cause you to breathe too quickly, which robs your body of carbon dioxide - something it needs to flourish. This causes the blood vessels that run to your brain to constrict, and keeps your nervous system from receiving the blood that it needs. While anxiety attacks may not last long enough for hyperventilation to lead to fainting (which is can do), it is more likely to simply cause dizziness, chest pain and a feeling of numbness in your limbs, which mimics the feeling of being about to pass out.
- Sweat Sweating is very common with anxiety and can also potentially lead to collapsing issues. Sweat causes your body to lose water and can cause dehydration, which results in a large amount of stress for the body. The 60% of water that makes you up keeps all your cells running smoothly, reproducing and feeding your body with nutrients. This is partly why the body can go longer without food than it can without water. When your body is mildly dehydrated, the effects can include dizziness and weakness. Severe dehydration is known to result in fainting. For this reason, hydration is very important for people who experience anxiety.
- Shaking When your body shakes or shivers, a large portion of your muscles are flexing involuntarily. This is because they are preparing themselves to move quickly if they have to. The nervous system is checking in with all the muscles and making sure they are ready for action. However, the strain on the muscles and the involuntary nature of the movement is draining both mentally and physically.
- Tension Stomach/Headaches These symptoms are signs that your body is already feeling overwhelmed by your anxiety. Worrying can cause an increase in the release of stomach acids, which may lead to stomachaches and/or ulcers. The mental strain of persistent negative thought cycles that seem inescapable often has the effect of making your head hurt as your psychological pain becomes physical.
As you can see, none of these symptoms appear to lead to collapsing or fainting directly. But they do create an experience that can sometimes feel like the need to collapse. You may even sit down, or feel yourself so frightened and weak in an anxiety attack that you feel you have to lay down immediately. But they do not tend to lead to true "passing out" that most people expect when they think of collapsing.
How to Keep Your Anxiety Under Control
In order to prevent this feeling of collapse you absolutely have to keep your anxiety under control. There are many different methods for safely, naturally, and inexpensively keeping your anxiety symptoms from draining you to the point of collapse. Some examples of these include:
- Practicing Meditation or Yoga Exercises and rituals designed to relax your body and mind may help you to move outside of yourself and to let go of the stress that is causing all your symptoms. Doing this once a day can greatly decrease your overall stress by giving you a physical and mental break, as well as a more positive outlook on life. They may also help you improve your breathing, which is important for avoiding collapse.
- Keep a Diary or Journal Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you to spot the thoughts that don't make sense or the ones that run in a circle and inspire you to work through them, figuring out why you believe them and what might be more useful or productive to believe. It is also a chance to say what you really think without the pressure of other people judging you for it, which can be a very soothing freedom to have.
- Get Enough Sleep Feeling anxious can make it hard to sleep, but all the symptoms of anxiety can make it especially important for your body to have a chance to recharge and regenerate all those cells that keep you running. Sleeplessness is also a known cause of physical collapse, so do whatever it takes to get to sleep. Try and build routines involving a set bed-time, turning off ALL the lights (including covering up your phone and computer so they aren't glowing at you), and maybe reading to yourself from a soothing book with calming imagery or rhymes, such as something you enjoyed hearing or reading as a child.
- Try Group Counseling It can be helpful to realize that you are not alone in your feelings, and can help to dissuade you from the idea that you deserve unhappiness or that you can handle it (more than likely, it will be clear to you that the other people with symptoms like yours deserve happiness and need help, which may help convince you that you do, too.
Not collapsing from anxiety often has more to do with your mindset than your physical symptoms, since your mind is what determines whether your symptoms continue for the length of time it requires to lead to collapse. While during an attack you may feel like collapsing, think of it as your body reminding you what could happen in the long term if you don't take steps to address the problem.
Find out more about how to control that anxiety forever by taking my free anxiety test now. This test will examine your symptoms and provide you with the tools you need to stop your anxiety forever.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.