How Can Anxiety Affect Your Mental Health?
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
March 10, 2023

Anxiety can greatly affect mental health, but people often have the wrong idea about it.

Understanding how anxiety affects our thoughts and feelings is important to develop effective ways to deal with anxiety and improve our mental health.

This article talks about the link between anxiety and mental health. It shows how anxiety affects our thoughts and feelings and gives ways to deal with it.

Understanding the connection between anxiety and mental health can help you take control of your feelings, so let’s dive in!

What is Anxiety?

Fear, worry, and unease of varying intensities can be experienced as anxiety.

It’s a normal emotion experienced by everyone at some point in their life.

Yet, when it is prolonged and extreme, when there is excessive anxiety, it can be seen as an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems in the United States, affecting more than 40 million adults each year.

Signs and symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is an intense emotional response to perceived or real danger or threat that produces physical and psychological symptoms.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Racing heartbeat.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking hands and legs.
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks or making decisions.
  • Feeling restless.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Hyperventilating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • “Pins and Needles” in hands and feet.
  • Nausea (wanting to vomit).

Thoughts can include:

  • Having a hard time focusing on tasks.
  • Getting easily frustrated.
  • Not feeling connected with others or yourself.
  • Feeling “on edge” or panicky.
  • Feeling of impending doom.

People with anxiety may also experience a sensation of apprehension or alarm when confronted with certain circumstances.

What type of anxiety disorder do you have?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are several types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
  • Panic disorder (PD).
  • Social anxiety disorder (Social phobia or SAD; panic or anxiety in social situations).
  • Separation anxiety disorder.
  • Specific phobias (such as agoraphobia).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I discuss each type in detail in my other article here.

For each type, the level of distress and length of symptoms can be different, leading to different levels of intensity.

Anxiety is a complex and varied illness that can have short-term and long-term effects on a person’s mental state and, ultimately, physical health.

Anxiety’s negative impact on our physical health is a real concern. I talk about how anxiety interferes with the gut-brain axis in my article here.

A person with an anxiety disorder may also be struggling with other chronic health conditions such as depression, heart disease, diabetes, and such.

In fact, it is very common to see someone struggling with depression also have an anxiety disorder.

Doctors and mental health providers have recently concluded that anxiety and depression are two faces of one disorder.

Understanding how anxiety affects the mind is important if you want to learn how to deal with it well, so let’s learn more about how this disorder affects a person’s mental health.

Key Takeaway: Anxiety can be an ordinary feeling, but when it is intense and unrelenting it may signify a disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders with their own unique set of symptoms which range from mild to severe depending on the individual’s level of distress.

Effects of anxiety

Anxiety can be good and bad for our mental health because it can make us feel better or worse.

Anxiety can help us prepare for difficult tasks, but when it’s too strong or lasts too long, it can cause serious mental problems.

Anxiety affects our mental health because it touches our thoughts, feelings, and bodies.

Anxiety affects our thinking processes by making us more prone to negative thoughts and worrying about things that may not happen.

It also makes it harder for us to concentrate or remember information.

We may become overwhelmed with fear and worry, which can interfere with problem-solving abilities and make decision-making more difficult.

Emotional consequences of anxiety may involve a range of feelings, from fear to frustration, accompanied by physical reactions such as sweating or trembling hands.

These feelings tend to last even after the threat is gone.

This is why people with anxiety disorders often feel worried, even when there is no danger around them.

Long-term exposure to stress hormones caused by anxiety can cause headaches, stomachaches, and racing thoughts at night, making it hard to sleep and tiring you.

Also, a person’s mental and physical feelings of unease can be made worse by an increased heart rate or blood pressure, dizziness or lightheadedness from shallow breathing, and a racing mind.

Anxiety can greatly affect a person’s mental health, and knowing how it can affect your mind, body, and emotions is important.

Fortunately, there are many effective ways to deal with anxiety and panic that can help improve your overall mental health.

Key Takeaway: Anxiety can have a harmful effect on our mental health, causing us to have difficulty concentrating and problem-solving, and making us undergo emotional distress. Physical symptoms can also appear, including fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. If not managed properly, anxiety can become overwhelming and cause much harm to us.

Coping Strategies for Managing Anxiety and Mental Health

Using ways to deal with anxiety and your mental health can greatly reduce stress and improve your overall health. The following activities are all good ways to relax the body and mind:

Deep breathing

Most people breathe in quickly and shallowly into their chest. It can give you anxiety and drain your energy. With this method, you’ll learn how to breathe deeper, all the way down into your belly.

  1. Get comfortable. You can lie on your back in bed or on the floor with a pillow under your head and knees. Or, you can sit in a chair with the back of the chair supporting your shoulders, head, and neck.
  2. Use your nose to take a deep breath. Fill your stomach with air.
  3. Exhale through the nose.
  4. Put your hand on your stomach. The other hand should be on your chest.
  5. Feel your belly rise as you breathe in. Feel your belly go down as you breathe out. Your hand on your chest should move less than the one on your belly.
  6. Take three more deep and full breaths. Breathe deeply into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath.

Using the 333 rule for anxiety

The 333 rule for anxiety can be used immediately after you practice the deep breathing method for additional anxiety relief.

This method is one of the most common ways to deal with anxiety and panic attacks by returning to the present moment. This technique can help calm the body and mind and can be done anywhere, at any time. It’s a technique that’s easy to remember and use.

Here’s the quick version of the 333 rule – You do these one after the other:

  1. Name three things you see.
  2. Name three sounds you hear.
  3. Move three parts of your body.

Progressive muscle relaxation

It works like this:

  1. While you inhale, tighten one group of muscles, like your upper thighs, for 5 to 10 seconds. Then, when you let out your breath, suddenly relax that group of muscles.
  2. Give yourself 10 to 20 seconds to relax, then move on to the next muscle group (for example, your thighs).
  3. Pay attention to the changes you feel when the muscle group relaxes as you release the tension. When letting go of tension, imagery can help. For example, as you relax each muscle group, you can imagine that the feelings of stress are flowing out of your body.
  4. Slowly move up the body by contracting and relaxing muscle groups as you go.

Mindfulness meditation

This practice involves focusing on the present moment without judgment or criticism, allowing for an acceptance of what is happening in one’s life right now.

Practicing mindfulness can help reduce anxious thinking patterns and improve overall mental health.

Guided imagery

Guided imagery is a way to relax or meditate with a clear mind. Focused relaxation is a way to calm your mind by focusing on a certain object, sound, or experience.

In guided imagery, you think about a peaceful place or event on purpose.

The goal is to help people feel calmer by helping them relax and be more aware. The idea is that what you think affects how your body acts.


Physical activity has been shown to be beneficial for reducing anxiety symptoms, as it releases endorphins which act as natural mood boosters while also helping to clear out excess adrenaline from the body caused by fear or stress responses.

Wholesome diet

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats are full of nutrients that help the brain work well.

Avoid processed foods with too much sugar or unhealthy fats, which can worsen anxiety symptoms.

Taking care of yourself in these ways can help you feel mentally and emotionally better in a big way.

Professional Help for Treating Anxiety and Mental Health Issues

Talk therapy

These sessions are done one-on-one with a therapist or counselor privately.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is an excellent way to treat anxiety.

There is a lot of research and scientific evidence to support the fact that people do better when using this therapy method.

With the rise of safe online services, people no longer have to worry about transportation or privacy issues when trying to connect with a mental health professional. is a great, trustworthy place to find a full range of private, secure talk therapy services provided by licensed professional counselors and therapists.

For your first month with them, you’ll get a 20% discount.

Medication and Supplement Therapy

Sometimes, you may need to take medication together with talk therapy to get the best relief from your anxiety.

Fortunately, many medication options are available, and your doctor can choose the best one for you. I go into much detail about the medications in this article.

When talking about benzodiazepines, we need to be very careful bout choosing the appropriate drug to manage our symptoms. This is because not all benzodiazepines are the same. Read more about these differences here.

Sometimes, an antihistamine is prescribed to treat anxiety. I write about hydroxyzine’s (Vistaril, Atarax) role in treating anxiety disorder here. I highly recommend reading it if you are an older adult or caring for an elderly loved one, as there are some negative drug effects you must know about.

A very safe, non-prescription option that has a lot of clinical evidence supporting its use is Lavender! Read about this amazing plant’s anti-anxiety properties here.

If you prefer, you can watch the video on my YouTube channel below. Just click on the image and you will be brought to the video directly.


Key Takeaway: It is important to seek professional help from a qualified mental health practitioner for managing anxiety and mental health issues. A professional should be consulted when addressing anxiety or mental health issues, and a plan of action could involve cognitive behavioral therapy, changes in lifestyle habits, and drug treatments (with caution) – all to be discussed with your doctor.


In conclusion, it’s clear that worry can have a big effect on mental health. It can have serious and long-lasting effects if you don’t get help for your anxiety.

There are many ways to deal with anxiety and its effects on your mental health, which is good news.

It is often necessary to get professional help for both anxiety and any underlying mental health problems to get long-term relief from the symptoms of these conditions.

Whatever you decide to do, please seek out help.

Your mental health is very important, and there is no shame in empowering yourself to take action and get proper treatment.

That’s what my website and YouTube channel are all about!

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