lungs heart liver digestive system spleen muscles

Stress, Anxiety, and Your Immune System

The Fight or Flight Response:

Your body’s reaction to stress

Your body is built to put all its energy into making you faster or stronger in response to stress or danger. To explain why your body can feel sick from stress, this illustration compares the changes that happen in our body during the “Fight or Flight” response and the symptoms we feel with chronic anxiety or anxiety attacks.

Each of your body's systems prepares to use energy on physical action. However because we are not running away and using this energy, our body's "Fight or Flight" response can make us feel sick or overwhelmed.

Click on the illustration or the list below to read in the blue box how different parts your body respond to stress...

Your Lungs

Your breathing rate increases and deepens because your body is preparing to use more oxygen.

This causes hyperventilation if you are standing still. Hyperventilation can make you feel light headed or dizzy, or cause a headache.

Your Heart

Your heart rate and blood pressure increases. Your body is preparing to transport more oxygen to its muscle tissue.

During an anxiety attack Some feel heart palpitations or chest pain You might feel like your heart is going to “jump out” of their chest.

Your Liver

Your liver releases extra sugar (glucose) to fuel your muscles. Your liver also releases hormones to convert fat and protein into sugar to fuel your muscles.

Your Digestive System

Your digestive system slows to divert energy away from digestion toward activity.

This is why you can feel nauseous or sick when you are stressed or anxious.

Your Spleen

Your spleen releases more red blood cells to help carry oxygen to your muscles.

With chronic stress or anxiety your spleen can reduce the number of immune cells it produces.

Your Muscles

Your muscles tense and are ready for action

Your Adrenal Glands

Your adrenal galnds release the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline into your blood stream increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.

During a panic attack, adrenaline can cause you to feel shakiness or weakness.