Can Grief Cause Anxiety? | Understanding the Link Between Grief and Anxiety
Grief is a powerful emotion and so is anxiety. These emotions in excess can impact our lives and health significantly. While these two emotions may seem distinct from each other, there is a connection between them that we ought to know. Many people who experience grief are likely to experience anxiety as well.
In a way, grief is a reaction to a loss that looks different in everyone, whereas anxiety is a reaction to fear and threat that can also differ in how it manifests in people.
In this blog, we’re taking a look at the relationship between grief and anxiety, how unresolved grief can affect us, and how you can cope with anxiety when you’re grieving.
What is Grief?
Grief is a response to the loss that we experience. The loss can be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a long-term relationship, or anything similar. Grief brings with it a mixed number of emotions from sadness to anger and from guilt to confusion. It is a personal experience and can be unique to everyone, with no rules or way for healing.
Grief isn’t a formal diagnosis as there are no specific symptoms of grief. However, there are stages of grief that we can associate with healing and the grieving process.
These five stages of grief can include;
- Depression, and
Let’s see what’s the link between grief and anxiety and how grief can cause anxiety.
The Link Between Grief And Anxiety
Grief and anxiety can co-exist and can even intertwine. The force of grief can trigger a heightened state of anxiety and then, in turn, can worsen the grief and its symptoms.
Here is how grief and anxiety can be linked;
- Overwhelming emotions: Grief can cause overwhelming emotions in us such as helplessness and hopelessness and these emotions can trigger anxiety symptoms such as irritability, loss of control, loss of focus, and restlessness.
- Uncertainty: Grief is often followed by uncertainty about the future and this fear of the unknown can also trigger anxiety symptoms and cause a lack of security in the knowledge concerning the future.
- Bodily symptoms: The thing with grief and anxiety is that both of these emotions have physical manifestations. If you’re experiencing grief, then you may notice a change in appetite, sleep issues, fatigue, or other body aches heightened. The same happens when you are anxious.
- Complicated grief: In some cases, grief can become too complex and cause prolonged grief disorder as well as excessive emotional distress. This can increase the chances of developing an anxiety disorder such as GAD or panic disorder.
Other symptoms of grief to watch out for:
- Muscle tension
- Stomach aches
- Racing heart
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep issues
- Shaking and trembling
Grief can also increase the level of stress triggering the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the body can also worsen the symptoms of anxiety.
While grief can be sated over time, it can still make you experience complicated emotions and experiences such as;
- Acute grief especially right after the loss where you experience excessive sadness and insomnia.
- Regret about the loss but also make space for other experiences, feelings, and emotions.
- Prolonged grief symptoms when you can’t part from painful emotions for more than a year and find it hard to accept the loss. Prolonged grief can lead to unresolved grief which, in turn, can cause anxiety disorders.
In various studies, it has been found that adults with prolonged grief also experienced separation anxiety disorder and people with an existing anxiety disorder had a higher chance of developing prolonged grief disorder after facing a loss.
Coping With Anxiety During Grief
1. Practice Self-Care
To cope with anxiety during grief, you can try to focus on yourself and care for your needs. Self-care can make you reconnect with yourself and make you feel better as well as decrease anxiety symptoms. You can try getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night, eating a well-balanced diet, try engaging in 30 minutes of exercise every day, and practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and more.
2. Seek Out Support
Social support during times of mourning can be a great help. Even if you want to spend time alone during your grief, it’s OK, but try not to self-isolate as it may increase anxiety symptoms and worsen your health and well-being. Try to connect with your loved ones, seek grief counseling, or join a grief or anxiety support group. Talking to people and seeking support can help you deal with grief and anxiety.
3. Find Healthy Outlet For Emotions
Try to find some healthy outlet for your emotions. You can use journaling, art expression, engaging in activities you enjoy, and more to find peace when you’re grieving. Having the ability to express your emotions can also help you reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.
4. Try Anxiety Management
When you’re grieving, it can be hard to focus on other things but try to engage in some anxiety management techniques for your sake. You can try deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness to focus on the present moment and not worry about the future or ruminate about the past. You can also try grounding techniques for anxiety to deal with anxiety during grief.
5. Seek Professional Support
If your grief-induced anxiety persists and becomes too overwhelming, enough to interfere in your daily life, then it is recommended that you speak to a professional about it. Seeking professional help can help you figure out what’s keeping you from moving on, what triggers your anxiety, and how you can move on. You can also get tailored therapy to meet your needs.
Grief and anxiety often follow each other with one influencing each other in complex ways. Understanding the complicated relationships between grief and anxiety can help you get a step close to healing and moving forward. Using the aforementioned ways to cope with anxiety during grief can help you navigate the complications of grief and anxiety easily.
Know that it’s OK to ask for help during these tough times and by doing so, you are not weak. It’s natural to experience grief after a loss and when you’re unprepared for the loss, it can cause you to feel anxious instead. Try to focus on self-care, seek social support, find a healthy outlet for your emotions, and seek professional intervention when needed.
I hope this article helped you understand the relationship between grief and anxiety and how to cope with grief-induced anxiety. Let us know what you think about the article in the comments below.