How Anxiety Affects Health and your LifeSpan - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 12:53 AM Thread Starter
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How Anxiety Affects Health and your LifeSpan


I was doing a bit of research on anxiety and how anxiety affects your lifespan. Did not like what I found. I knew stress was bad for you but didnt realize how much it much it can reduce how long you live. I guess my advice would be to do whatever you can now to reduce your stress and anxiety level now. Because it really is literally killing us!


How Anxiety Affects Health and Longevity

Life's curveballs can have a significant effect on long-term health and well-being, depending on how we deal with them. How you handle stress today can predict your chronic health conditions for the rest of your life. Research concluded in 2018 by Columbia University shows early life childhood stress such as growing up in a home with domestic violence or bullying can literally shave years off the end of your life. Research also shows that overreacting, constantly worrying, and living in a state of perpetual anxiety can reduce life expectancy. If this describes your typical response to everyday setbacks and snafus, it may pay in the very, very long run to learn ways to lighten up and lower stress.

Can You Worry Yourself to Death?

Many studies have found a link between anxiety-prone personality and shortened lifespan. The tendency to always react to frustration, loss, or threat with negative emotions is referred to as neuroticism by researchers who have found this trait to be widespread and worrisome.

A 2019 article published in American Psychology stated that "there is growing evidence that neuroticism is a psychological trait of profound public health significance. Neuroticism is a robust correlate and predictor of many different mental and physical disorders, comorbidity among them.


For instance, for a study published in 2018, researchers at Purdue University followed 1,600 men, ages 43 to 91, for 12 years to examine how those with neurotic personalities fared over time.

 At the end of the study, only 50 percent of the men with high or increasing neuroticism were alive compared to 75 percent to 85 percent of the other group.

The Effects of Stress on Lifespan

So far, there are no clear-cut explanations for why people with neurotic personalities tend to have lower life expectancies than those who are better able to deal with life's knocks.


There's some evidence that neuroticism is related to ​high levels of cortisol, a hormone that's secreted when someone is feeling threatened or stressed and experiences the flight-or-fight response. Too much cortisol has been shown to lower the immune system and affect heart health.

When we are in the fight or flight response (our bodies way of preparing us to survive), we have fast heart beat, high blood pressure, slower digestion. When our body remains in that state, in a state of chronic stress, it can cause health conditions like high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and cardiovascular diseases.


Another factor in the relationship between neuroticism and lower lifespan may be that people who are constantly anxious, stressed, and depressed tend to engage in unhealthy habits. They're more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol and other drugs, and have unprotected sex, any and all of which can lead to life-shortening conditions or accidents, such as an overdose or car wreck. These are all examples of unhealthy or maladaptive coping mechanisms.

How chronic stress is harming our DNA

A number of recent studies have linked stress with shorter telomeres, a chromosome component that's been associated with cellular aging and risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Telomeres are a protective casing at the end of a strand of DNA. Each time a cell divides, it loses a bit of its telomeres. An enzyme called telomerase can replenish it, but chronic stress and cortisol exposure decrease your supply. When the telomere is too diminished, the cell often dies or becomes pro-inflammatory. This sets the aging process in motion, along with associated health risks. There is currently no treatment or cure for anxiety induced shorter telomeres damage to DNA.

The two biggest factors are chronological aging and genetics, but stress is now on the map as one of the most consistent predictors of shorter telomere length. The type of stress determines how big its effect is. It seems exposures to multiple early life adversities, such as child neglect, have the largest effects, since they track through to late adulthood, or they set in place persistent mechanisms that maintain short telomeres throughout life, such as exaggerated stress reactivity and poor health behaviors. So we can see this relationship between stress and cell aging across a lifespan, and it's fundamental to how we're built. Our brains are constantly looking for threats to our survival. When we expose our bodies to years of chronic stress arousal, we see effects that override normal aging, making our telomeres look like they are from a significantly older person. When we look at groups of people with psychiatric disorders related to dysregulated emotional responses, especially depression and anxiety disorders, and compare them to controls who dont have these disorders, they consistently have shorter telomeres.

Another consistent pattern turning up in both clinical and epidemiological samples is that early life adversity is associated with shorter telomeres. This relationship was first observed in adults when early adversity was assessed retrospectively, but now it has been observed in young children prospectively. Maltreatment, abuse, severe neglect and exposure to violence all seem to take a swath from the telomeres.

Your thoughts about this research? I found the info about how stress damages your DNA most disturbing. And its permanent damage that cant be reversed.
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 03:05 AM
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Stress, anxiety, and pressures, all are things that are necessary in societal functioning that can negatively affect lifespan.

The truth is strictly what the ones in power perceives it to be.

Enjoy any good things, even the little and menial ones, as you will never know what impending distresses could descend upon you in a moment.
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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 04:40 AM
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Yeah, I've heard about that before. But when you're naturally inclined to be that way - like us - the choices become somewhat limited. There's medication of course - but in my experience the repercussions can be fairly extreme from them too.
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 10:30 AM
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Shorter lifespan? Blessing in disguise for me. It's not like I have much to look forward to aside from even more crippling loneliness, or like I'm going to be able to live long after my parents are gone, anyway. \_(ツ)_/

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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 10:35 AM
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Meh I'm surprised I lived this long, so anything extras a bonus... or a curse, either or, but that's a very well written post OP, thanks for taking the time 🙂






And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death
Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow,
A poor player that strut's and fret's his hour upon the stage and is heard no more,
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 11:00 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by tehuti88 View Post
Shorter lifespan? Blessing in disguise for me. It's not like I have much to look forward to aside from even more crippling loneliness, or like I'm going to be able to live long after my parents are gone, anyway. \_(ツ)_/
Dont give up. Try to improve your situation. Not easy I know.

My point in posting how anxiety can harm you and even likely shorten your life was to hopefully motivate people to try to do everything to improve there situation and reduce there anxiety. Anxiety isnt just some minor disorder to be take lightly. It can and does kill you. Slowly but it kills you
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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 11:13 AM Thread Starter
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Meh I'm surprised I lived this long, so anything extras a bonus... or a curse, either or, but that's a very well written post OP, thanks for taking the time 🙂
How old are you if you dont mind me asking? What makes you suprised you made it this long?

Yea took a little time to write the post but I thought it was important to get the info out to warn of the dangers of this disorder. People dont see it as dangerous because to may not cause you serious health issues or death for decades. But the anxiety you experienced as a child or person in your 20's can lead to a heart attack or cancer in your 40's or 50's. Kind of like drinking to much alcohol. You wont likely notice the effects in your 20's but it will show up eventually.

Kind of depressing info now im more anxious and wonder how much damage anxiety and stress have done to me already that I cant undo. One more thing to try and not worry about I guess
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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 12:06 PM
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I read up on all this last summer when I had my health scare. You should also look into the relationship between stress and autoimmune disorders. And between autoimmune disorders and psychological disorders like schizophrenia. It's pretty interesting (but terrifying) stuff. Basically, stress can destroy your health in pretty much every way you can imagine. That's been folk wisdom forever, but it's taken science an awfully long time to begin to establish the connection empirically because of how complicated the immune system is. What you're thinking about can have a positive or negative impact on your health. Science, b****es.

I've spent the last 30+ years trying everything I can to fix my life. And I've spent the last couple years finding every possible way I can to keep my mood up and reduce stress. (Clearly it's working, lol.) The problem is, most of the time, the conditions that create stress are situational and more or less beyond our ability to control. It's one thing for a workaholic to stop working 80 hours a week when he doesn't have to and another thing for a person to be part of a hated minority. The first can be fixed, the second can't.

I'm about 99% certain that my chronic stress has given me my current autoimmune issues but my doctors are still in the dark ages and don't cotton to that mystic, new age mumbo-jumbo.

Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there.
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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 02:32 PM
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interesting what truant mentioned that reminded me how similar autoimmune disorders attack itself almost like in mental disorders with self defeating irrational fears but with the brain automatically not working the way its supposed to.

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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 02:41 PM
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I started taking ashwagandha earlier this year for the cortisol lowering effects, don't know if it's effective or not. Was using a meditation app for awhile, but fell out of the habit with work and the recent move. Try to be consistent with cardio to keep my resting heart rate lower. And try to avoid anxiety inducing situations whenever possible.
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post #11 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-21-2020, 09:24 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by truant View Post
You should also look into the relationship between stress and autoimmune disorders. Basically, stress can destroy your health in pretty much every way you can imagine.

The problem is, most of the time, the conditions that create stress are situational and more or less beyond our ability to control. It's one thing for a workaholic to stop working 80 hours a week when he doesn't have to and another thing for a person to be part of a hated minority. The first can be fixed, the second can't.
Interesting I have never thought about the link between stress and autoimmune disorders. I have a bit of arthritis in my back. Arthritis is a autoimmune disease so Im sure the stress in not helping that condition as well. More things to worry about!

Yea situational stress like you mentioned is a lot easier to fix then if your stress is pretty much beyond your control. If you stressed by going through a divorce or you have money problems those situations stress ends when the circumstances end. The stressful situation never really ends for us however we are just naturally anxious
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post #12 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-21-2020, 01:37 PM
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Yes, mental health does affect physical health by quite a bit.
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post #13 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-21-2020, 02:07 PM
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I don't doubt that but I don't know. Both of my grandmothers lived long lives and they always suffered from those traits.
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post #14 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-21-2020, 02:11 PM
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Yes, mental health does affect physical health by quite a bit.
I'd say so. For a young healthy man with no hereditary diseases I feel like my heart's deteriorating from all the anxiety. Tight chest, cramps in the chest, irregular breathing patterns etc. No other causes I can think of. I don't feel this stuff when I have time periods of some happiness.
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post #15 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-21-2020, 03:22 PM
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I want to die, so it's not a problem. It's pretty obvious that our mental disorders come with side effects. Does it look like I give a ****? **** off.
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post #16 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-21-2020, 11:28 PM
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They're conflating anxiety and stress. I'm suppose they're correlated for a fair number of people, especially people who have general anxiety disorder, but personally my social anxiety has always made me so thoroughly avoidant that I've had a much lower stress life than most people (since there's nothing going on in my life to worry about). So, I might live forever.

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post #17 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 02:07 AM
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They're conflating anxiety and stress. I'm suppose they're correlated for a fair number of people, especially people who have general anxiety disorder, but personally my social anxiety has always made me so thoroughly avoidant that I've had a much lower stress life than most people (since there's nothing going on in my life to worry about). So, I might live forever.

yeah came to say that. us avoidants can avoid death forever.


plus i mean what is a few years here and there anyway?

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post #18 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 08:00 AM Thread Starter
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They're conflating anxiety and stress. I'm suppose they're correlated for a fair number of people, especially people who have general anxiety disorder, but personally my social anxiety has always made me so thoroughly avoidant that I've had a much lower stress life than most people (since there's nothing going on in my life to worry about). So, I might live forever.
If your so avoidant that would also raise your stress and anxiety level in other areas. Stress / anxiety from lack of social connection. If you have no goals to because there is nothing going on in your life that creates it own set of problems
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post #19 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 04:46 PM
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If your so avoidant that would also raise your stress and anxiety level in other areas. Stress / anxiety from lack of social connection. If you have no goals to because there is nothing going on in your life that creates it own set of problems
Problems, sure... stress, no. There's nothing significantly stressful about spending months alone not speaking to anyone. It's not like getting up every morning and going in to work.

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post #20 of 29 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 05:59 PM
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They're conflating anxiety and stress.
I've never had the luxury of avoiding stress, so for me there's no functional difference and I tend to equate one with the other. But yes, they are technically two different things.

Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there.
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