When people talk about curing their anxiety, it's because they want to improve their mental health. They want an easier time enjoying life, engaging in activities, and finding happiness in the world around them. That's the main reason that anxiety is considered such a problem.
But what you may not realize is that anxiety can affect you physically in many ways as well, especially in the long term. While science is still attempting to learn more about the relationship between anxiety/stress and long-term health issues, there have been links to several problems, including an increased risk of infection.
Infection = Anxiety?
Once you get an infection, it has become a medical problem, and you need to discuss what to do with your doctor. But an increased risk of infection is a very real anxiety symptom. Start learning to stop your anxiety today.
Take my free 7-minute anxiety test to get started.
How to Differentiate Health From Anxiety
Anxiety is a complicated disorder, and one that has a host of symptoms - many of which most people assume are due to something other than anxiety. Get your free anxiety profile by taking my free 7-minute anxiety test now.
Anxiety does not cause infection. Infection is caused by a growth of bacteria in and around a wound or inside the body. Without those bacteria, an infection couldn't occur, and it doesn't appear likely that anxiety contributes to getting that bacteria on or in your body.
But what anxiety does appear to do is increase the risk of infection. That's because anxiety causes stress, and numerous studies have shown that stress weakens the immune system - the same immune system that is designed to fight off bacteria.
Anxiety Influencing Infection
Many studies have linked the idea that a weakened immune system from stress can increase your risk of infection. While the increase isn't large, it is large enough that it can represent a significant problem, especially if your immune system is weak for any other reasons.
Stress also appears to affect your ability to overcome an infection. Once you get infected, you need your immune system as strong as possible. Anxiety weakens the immune system so that your body has to work harder to fight off an infection.
There is a reason to believe that sweating can play a role, since a wet wound may increase infection as well. Furthermore, those with anxiety tend to eat poorly and sleep poorly - both of which may influence infection by causing a weaker immune system.
Infection Creating Anxiety
One thing that is interesting is that various infections can also cause anxiety. With the exception of serious infections - like HIV - this type of problem is fairly rare. But it's something that has been linked to the development of anxiety disorders.
However, it's important to note that assuming it's an infection because you do not understand it is only going to fuel your anxiety more. It is incredibly rare for an infection to cause symptoms that mimic anxiety, and when they do, it's more common for the infection to be accompanied by many other more serious symptoms that would obviously land you in a hospital setting.
You shouldn't necessarily worry that your anxiety will influence infections. You also need to be aware that anxiety does not affect most infections and the difference is minimal. Often people with anxiety tend to experience fear over the idea of an infection and believe that any infection must be the result of anxiety. The difference isn't as significant as many make it out to be.
But the difference is there. In fact, studies have shown that in momentary extreme stress your immune system actually improves, possibly because it's preparing for some type of danger. But over time as a result of chronic stress (aka, anxiety) your immune system overcompensates by becoming much weaker and thus increasing your risk for stress-related infections. Even the common cold is more likely in those with stress.
Additional Motivation to Cure Anxiety
It's hard enough to live with anxiety. The ability to avoid the risk of new infections should be yet another motivator to learn to cure your anxiety forever.
If you're ready to start, take my free 7-minute anxiety test. It'll give you a comprehensive profile of your anxiety and tips for how to solve it.
Goehler, Lisa E., Mark Lyte, and Ronald Gaykema. Infection-induced viscerosensory signals from the gut enhance anxiety: implications for psychoneuroimmunology . Brain, behavior, and immunity 21.6 (2007): 721-726.
Neufeld, Karen-Anne M., et al. Effects of intestinal microbiota on anxiety-like behavior. Communicative & integrative biology 4.4 (2011): 492-494.
Morse, Donald R., et al. The effect of stress and meditation on salivary protein and bacteria: A review and pilot study . Journal of human stress 8.4 (1982): 31-39.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Nov 29, 2017.