Anxiety linked with a higher risk for certain chronic conditions

As an everyday emotion, anxiety can be a good thing, prompting us to take extra precautions. But when anxiety persists, it can undermine our physical health. Evidence suggests that people with anxiety disorders are at greater risk for some chronic medical conditions.

The July 2008 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch describes several conditions affected by anxiety:

Gastrointestinal disorders: About 10% to 20% of Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or functional dyspepsia. In these disorders, the nerves regulating digestion appear to be hypersensitive to stimulation. There are no firm data on the prevalence of anxiety disorders in people with such digestive disorders, but a recent New Zealand study found an association between high anxiety levels and the development of IBS.

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