SELF – 47 Underlying Illnesses That Can Seem Like Anxiety

Many illnesses that can seem like anxiety may not actually be anxiety. While more is being learned about anxiety and how it can affect us, thanks in part to celebrities sharing their personal stories, reducing stigma and increasing public awareness, not all anxiety is anxiety alone. The Psychiatric Times recently listed 47 physical illnesses whose symptoms can masquerade as anxiety.

SELF wanted to educate readers about how common misdiagnosis is, and share with them how to tell the difference between symptoms that are psychological and those that are physical. I was very pleased to help out with this great piece. To read the full post at SELF, click HERE.

Any illnesses that affect the autonomic nervous system—the system that regulates your breathing, heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature—could be mistakenly assumed to be anxiety, licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., tells SELF. This is especially true if you’re worried about these symptoms (which is only natural).

Arousal of your sympathetic nervous system, which activates your fight or flight response, is part of the normal threat response to danger, and is often a hallmark of acute anxiety, Dr. Clark explains—but it is also a complicated physiological system that connects many other bodily systems, including cardiac, endocrine, gastrointestinal, metabolic, neurological, and respiratory systems. “The brain-body connection makes it tricky to tease apart what is the root cause, and a careful review of all possibilities is critical to getting the right care,” Dr. Clark says.

However, some conditions may leave little clues that can tell experts what’s going on. For example—heart attack pain is often intense and coupled with other pain in the upper body, while chest pain related to anxiety is more targeted and usually comes after stressful thoughts, Dr. Clark says.

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD