Anxiety can cause a lot of unusual and upsetting symptoms. But one issue that few people are aware of is the way that anxiety can affect genital health. Studies have shown time and time again that high levels of anxiety and stress affect the body in a myriad of ways, with no place untouched.
Vaginal discomfort is a complicated issue, because in general even anxiety related vaginal discomfort requires a doctor's visit, and it can be hard to diagnose whether the problem is from anxiety or from something else. Anxiety has been linked to women's genital health and if not addressed, can cause notable vaginal discomfort.
How Stress Causes Vaginal Discomfort
It is highly unlikely that someone would experience anxiety-related vaginal discomfort without first experiencing other, more common, symptoms of anxiety. It is important to share your history of anxiety with your doctor when seeking care for vaginal discomfort as otherwise it can be very difficult to diagnosis anxiety as the cause of your problems.
Even though you are suffering from anxiety, the main issue here is stress. Anxiety causes stress to be placed on the body, and that stress has a way of altering your body's internal chemistry - including hormones, healthy bacteria, and more.
Vaginal infections, also known as vaginitis, are actually fairly common from stress (as well as poor sleep, which some may experience as a result of anxiety). The vagina is filled with healthy and unhealthy bacteria, and ideally these will retain a healthy balance.
But when you have anxiety, your stress may reduce your body's ability to maintain this balance, and a vaginal infection may be the result. Even if caused by stress, you likely will require treatment with antibiotics making it important for you to seek medical treatment.
Vaginal discharge may also increase as a result of emotional stress and anxiety. Vaginal discharge doesn't necessarily cause "discomfort" within the vaginal walls, but it can cause discomfort, self-consciousness, and shame all of which can then further increase anxiety.
Though the cause is not entirely clear, it has been found that high amounts of stress can cause itching, burning, and dryness within the vaginal wall. These can all cause significant amount of discomfort, and may be due to the way that anxiety affects hormonal regulation within the body.
Cramping and Pain
Anxiety can occasionally cause excess cramping and pain. Again, this pain may not be centered directly within the genitals, nor is it necessarily related to the muscles in the genital wall, but for many women cramping in the area surrounding the vagina causes increased pressure and pain in the vaginal area as well.
Finally, anxiety causes significant discomfort awareness. In other words, general aches and pains that healthy adults experience every day may feel more severe to someone with anxiety, because the anxious mind has a tendency to become over-sensitive to this discomfort and focus on it to such a degree that it amplifies the discomfort.
Reducing Vaginal Discomfort
Unlike other anxiety symptoms, many forms of vaginal discomfort will not completely clear up on their own. See a doctor to make sure that you don't have an infection, as they may recommend antibiotics or creams to improve vaginal health. Make sure to stay away from douching, or anything that could disrupt the pH of your vagina.
Remember, while it is important to treat the discomfort, it is equally important to learn to manage your anxiety to ensure that you no longer put your body under the level of stress that creates this type of discomfort.
Anxiety itself doesn’t cause vaginal issues directly. But it can create stress, which may weaken the immune system and open the door for some vaginal diseases. It may also make someone more aware (and thus more sensitive) to otherwise “normal” discomforts that would have gone unnoticed without anxiety. This is why treating anxiety is as important as treating the discomfort.