Stress Response Hyperstimulation and Anxiety Symptoms
Many anxiety disorder sufferers become concerned and confused about why anxiety can cause so many symptoms, and especially when they don’t feel anxious or stressed.
Many also travel to doctor after doctor and have test after medical test done in the hopes of discovering the cause of their symptoms.
This ongoing quest for answers occurs because many anxiety disorder sufferers don’t understand anxiety, how it affects the body, how it can cause hyperstimulation, and how hyperstimulation can cause the many odd and bizarre symptoms even though medical tests have all come back normal.
This article will give you a brief overview of hyperstimulation and its connection with anxiety, anxiety disorder, and the many anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety And The Stress Response
Anxiety can be defined as:
- A feeling of worry, unease, apprehension, or nervousness about an imminent event or future situation with an uncertain outcome.
- Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear or danger or misfortune.
- A state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning.
Anxiety is caused by apprehensive behavior. Apprehension can be defined as:
- Anxiety/fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.
Fear - that something bad or unpleasant will happen – drives anxiety!
The moment we become afraid (that something bad or unpleasant will happen), the body sets off a stress response that secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it. This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, or the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid like a “deer caught in headlights”).
The stress response gives us a boost in energy and resources when in danger because of the many changes the stress response brings about. Therefore, anxiety activates the stress response, and the stress response causes body-wide changes…and a lot of them. For more detailed information, visit our “Stress Response” page.
Stress responses are our ally when in danger due to the increased ability we have to fight or flee. But because of the many physiological, psychological, and emotional changes brought about by the stress response, stress responses stress the body – they push the body beyond its natural equilibrium. To maintain a healthy state of equilibrium, the body needs sufficient time to recover after a stress response ends.
When stress responses occur infrequently, the body has sufficient time to recover from the stress response changes. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, the body doesn't have adequate time to recover, which can cause it to remain in a state of semi stress response readiness. We call this state “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants that stimulate the body. Other sources call this state “hyperarousal” or “dysregulation.”
Hyperstimulation And Anxiety Symptoms
While infrequent stress responses don’t impact the body in any significant manner, hyperstimulation, which chronically stresses the body, can.
You can think of it this way. A vehicle was built to experience normal driving conditions except for instances where you have to floor the accelerator pedal to pass or get out of harm’s way. Pushing the gas pedal to the floor revs the engine (causes the engine to dramatically increase its revolutions, which then converts to higher speed). Short bursts of a highly revved engine are acceptable, as automobile manufacturers build their vehicles with this provision in mind. But always driving with your foot to the floor will cause engine damage as the engine wasn’t designed to endure that sustained level of revolutions.
The body and the stress response function similarly. While sporadic episodes of elevated stress are acceptable and easily tolerated by the body, chronic stress, such as that caused by hyperstimulation, will eventually cause anomalies in how the body functions. These anomalies can present symptoms.
For example, a body that becomes hyperstimulated can engage all of the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated. This chronic activation can cause the associated systems, organs, and glands that are affected by the stress response to become overly used and chronically stressed. This chronic stress can cause them to present symptoms of over use, such as:
Elevated blood pressure
The stress response causes blood vessels to constrict so that if one is severed in battle, constricted blood vessels reduce the possibility of bleeding to death. Blood vessels are also constricted to shunt blood away from parts of the body less vital to survival and to parts more important for survival. While blood vessel constriction is beneficial when in real danger, hyperstimulation can cause high blood pressure due to the chronically constricted blood vessels.
Chronic muscle tension and pain
The stress response causes muscles to tighten so that they are more resilient to damage when fighting. This is beneficial when in real danger but chronic muscle tension can lead to chronic muscle stiffness and pain. Fibromyalgia is thought to be caused by chronic stress.
Numbness, tingling, and a variety of odd sensory-based sensations and symptoms
The stress response stimulates the nervous system, which is comprised of specialized cells called neurons. Neurons communicate with each other via an electrochemical process (the combination of electricity and chemistry). Because of their electrochemical makeup, neurons are particularly sensitive to stimulation.
While nervous system excitement is beneficial when in real danger, a chronically stimulated nervous system can create all sorts of nervous system and sensory symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, zaps, deafness, blurry vision, and a host of others.
Trembling and shaking
Stress hormones are stimulants that stimulate the body. While instant stimulation can be beneficial when in real danger – so that we have the energy and reaction time required to fight or flee – chronic stimulation can cause persistent trembling and shaking. Many anxiety disorder sufferers experience persistent trembling and shaking.
These are just a few of the multitude of symptoms hyperstimulation can cause. In fact, every anxiety symptom is caused by either the stress response or stress-response hyperstimulation (when the body becomes chronically stressed).
Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress
Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. We call them anxiety symptoms because overly apprehensive behavior is the main source of the stress that causes the body to become stressed or chronically stressed and then symptomatic.
We don’t have to be afraid of anxiety symptoms since they are merely symptoms of stress or chronic stress. But, we do need to eliminate the body’s unhealthy level of stress as research has shown that chronic stress can lead to health problems down the road.
If you want more specific information about each symptom, visit our “Anxiety Disorder Signs and Symptoms” section and then click on each symptom.
Recovery Support members can visit the “Hyperstimulation And Its Effects” section (in chapter 14) for a detailed look at hyperstimulation, how it affects the body, and how to recover from it. Recovery Support members can also visit the Anxiety Symptoms section (chapter 9) for a more detailed explanation about every anxiety symptom, including how to eliminate them.
Hyperstimulation and homeostasis
Hyperstimulation doesn’t just affect the systems, organs, and glands affected by the stress response, it can also affect how the body manages itself, which in turn, can also cause symptoms.
For example, to keep the body functioning normally throughout our lifetime, the body uses its eleven organ systems (integumentary, muscular, skeletal, nervous, circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, endocrine, urinary/excretory, reproductive, and digestive) to check and balance itself in an effort to maintain a relatively constant and stable state of internal balance (equilibrium). This process is called Homeostasis: a process that living things use to maintain stable conditions necessary for survival actively.
These systems work together to control body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, PH balance, CO2 balance, and so on. These systems manage the body automatically in spite of the ever-changing internal and external conditions.
As long as we live a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a healthy diet, keeping stress to a minimum, getting regular exercise, and getting sufficient rest and good sleep, the body does an excellent job of maintaining itself, for the most part, all by itself.
When the body is healthy and functioning normally, the homeostatic process typically does such a good job of keeping all levels and systems in balance and within a healthy range that we don’t notice the multitude of moment by moment changes and adjustments. This seamless homeostasis process occurs because a healthy body is relatively easy to keep within a healthy balance.
For instance, blood sugar levels are easy to keep within a healthy range when the body is functioning normally and demand for blood sugar is normal. Moreover, the body’s temperature is effortlessly regulated when the internal and external environments are kept within normal ranges. PH balance, heart rate, blood pressure, and so on are easily managed when they are all kept within normal ranges. However, hyperstimulation can change all of that.
Hyperstimulation can tax the homeostatic process because the body has to work harder to maintain a healthy balance. Additionally, hyperstimulation can cause dysregulation within each system, thereby making the entire homeostatic process much more difficult. This difficulty can lead to errors in homeostatic management, which can cause under and over adjustments leading to the appearance of “out of the blue” symptoms.
Involuntary anxiety attacks are an example of where a homeostatic process caused an involuntary surge of stress hormones sufficient to create a high degree anxiety attack.
Consequently, hyperstimulation can wreak havoc on the homeostatic process. As the degree of hyperstimulation increases, so can an increase in homeostatic misbehavior and symptoms.
We explain this in more detail in the “Hyperstimulation And Its Effects” section in chapter 14 in the Recovery Support area.
When you combine all of the ways hyperstimulation affects the body, the nervous system, and the homeostatic process, it’s little wonder anxiety-caused hyperstimulation can cause so many odd, bizarre, and out-of-the-blue symptoms.
The chronic activation of the stress response chronically stresses all of the systems, organs, and glands that are affected by the stress response, as well as how the body manages itself. This combination of factors can cause symptoms of any type, number, duration, intensity, frequency, and at any time. As long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated, it can act erratically and exhibit a wide range of symptoms.
Hyperstimulation can cause a wide range of anxiety symptoms that can affect almost every part of the body.
Fortunately, hyperstimulation and its adverse effects can be eliminated! Knowing this information and how to overcome hyperstimulation should be an important part of every anxiety disorder sufferer’s recovery skillset.
We’ve only touched the surface of how hyperstimulation can affect the body and the many symptoms it can cause. Again, we explain hyperstimulation in great detail in the Recovery Support area of our website. We also explain how hyperstimulation affects brain function, how it impacts the nervous system, what’s required to recover from hyperstimulation, how long recovery can take, and ways to overcome the many barriers to recovery and lasting success. If you are interested in overcoming anxiety disorder and the effects of hyperstimulation, we encourage you to become a member of our Recovery Support area and begin your meaningful recovery today.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
- For a comprehensive list of Anxiety Disorders Symptoms Signs, Types, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.
- Anxiety and panic attacks symptoms can be powerful experiences. Find out what they are and how to stop them.
- How to stop an anxiety attack and panic.
- Free online anxiety tests to screen for anxiety. Two minute tests with instant results. Such as:
- Anxiety 101 is a summarized description of anxiety, anxiety disorder, and how to overcome it.
Visit our Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.
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8. Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 2017.
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10. Mariotti, Agnese. "The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication." Future Science OA, Nov. 2015.
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