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Anxiety and a Feeling of Malaise

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Anxiety and a Feeling of Malaise

Everyone - even those without any mental or physical health problems - occasionally experiences a feeling of malaise, where it is as though they have an illness or something wrong with them, but it's almost impossible to identify what that issue is.

Those with anxiety seem to experience this feeling more than others. That brings up an interesting question: what is causing this feeling of malaise, and what can be done to prevent it?

How Anxiety Causes Malaise

Anxiety is a total body experience. It leads to significant changes all throughout the body on a chemical level, leading to issues that affect everything from stomach imbalances, blood flow changes, digestion issues, and more.

Malaise itself is often unidentifiable, and although you may be able to pick out some symptoms (like a bit of nausea, etc.), it's often hard to exactly pinpoint what's "wrong." You may feel ill, or "off," while not necessarily feeling truly sick.

Its causes are not well understood. Most agree there are combinations of triggers that cause malaise. Just a small selection of the issues that cause a malaise feeling include:

  • Digestion Problems When you have anxiety, many things go wrong in your body. Your intestinal flora can increase. Your stomach starts to move food down your intestines at a slower pace. Certain nutrients go in and out of your body at rates not ideal for your overall health. Digestion and nutrition issues affect every area of your body and can lead to feelings of illness.
  • Stomach Acids When you have anxiety, your stomach acids also change, often increasing. An increase in stomach acids may cause your stomach to feel ill.
  • Nausea (General) Other issues may cause feelings of nausea as well. For example, there is some evidence that certain hormones and neurotransmitters released during anxiety tell your body to make you nauseated. This is why the gut is known as the "Second Brain" and supposedly extremely sensitive to even minor emotions.
  • Adrenaline When you have anxiety, adrenaline is pumping through your body. That causes your body to experience stress. It changes your blood flow, and it puts your muscles on edge. It leads to fatigue. All of these issues can resemble what you would feel if your body knew something was wrong and may create this uneasiness that you can't seem to shake.
  • Immune System Changes Anxiety also alters the immune system, and the immune system is responsible for your entire body feeling as though something is wrong. That's why malaise is common before an illness. It's possible that when anxiety alters the immune system, the change in stasis leads to various physical ailments.
  • Fatigue Anxiety is also incredibly draining, and fatigue can lead to a feeling of discomfort as well. When you're fatigued, you often feel as though parts of your body are ill or sick, or your brain isn't thinking/working clearly.

It should also be noted that anxiety changes brain chemistry, hormone function, organ function, blood function and air intake, glucose, and nutrient availability, and more. There are so many different changes caused by anxiety that any number of them can cause this type of malaise feeling.

Intensified Normal Feelings

Perhaps even more relevant is that not all malaise is actually malaise. Another symptom of anxiety is an oversensitivity to physical sensations, where the way that you feel is amplified because your mind focuses on it too much. For example, being full after a meal is not that great a feeling, but most people ignore it. Those with anxiety simply can't ignore it no matter how hard they try. They focus on it, and it feels worse to them than it feels to others, making you feel sick or ill.

Every time you eat something that doesn't make you feel great, or you are sitting in a position that pushes on your stomach, or anything that can cause any change in the way your body feels, you may find yourself noticing it more than someone without anxiety would and feeling ill as a result.

Are There Ways to Overcome Malaise?

Malaise is a subjective feeling that is hard to describe, and that makes it hard for you to necessarily overcome it since there may not be anything to overcome.

The best thing to do is take care of your overall health first - not just for your anxiety, but also so that you can ensure that your body has everything in needs to prevent anything that can trigger malaise unrelated to your anxiety. Make sure you're properly hydrated, that you're eating foods that you digest well, that you're sleeping, and more.

You should also make sure that you start exercising. Exercise is a crucial component in hormone production and use and has a calming effect on your mind and stomach. Exercise is something you absolutely must do in order to effectively reduce your anxiety.

But almost all of the issues that lead to malaise are related to processes inside of your body that you can't control without stopping your anxiety. You can't turn off adrenaline or improve the health of your intestinal flora unless your anxiety is kept under control.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question

Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

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