Insecurities are natural, but for some people those feelings can be toxic, especially in a romantic relationship. Lisa Jaremka of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University has proof to back that up. She recently led a study that involved examining cortisol levels from 85 couples who had been married for an average of 12 years. The study also examined levels of T-cells, which regulate immunity in white blood cells. She assessed their stress levels over a period of three days and found that the anxious individuals had much higher stress levels than the less anxious people. They also had lower T-cell counts, which put them at risk for infections.
“These concerns about rejection and whether or not you are truly cared for do have physiological consequences that could, in the long-term, negatively affect health,” Jaremka said. It’s normal for people to have some insecurity and anxiety, but chronic anxiety is different and can have significant health consequences. Although this study did not look at how relationship anxiety affected physical health, Jaremka believes it is safe to assume that those with higher stress levels and lower T-cell counts probably are more vulnerable to illness, cardiac problems, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.
Another perspective looks at this connection through the lens of attachment. Attachment anxiety can cause people to be unwilling to forgive transgressions in the relationship and can lead to rumination and depression. These, too, can weaken immune systems and put people at risk for negative health conditions. Jaremka hopes that future research continues to focus on this subject, but until then, urges people with relationship anxiety to find adaptive and productive ways to relieve their stress. Taking up yoga, meditation, and other forms of exercise are excellent ways to reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being and mental and physical health, whether they are done individually or as a couple.
Doheny, Kathleen. Relationship worries can make you sick. (n.d.): n. pag. U.S. News & World Report. 22 Feb. 22. Web. 22 Feb. 22. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/02/22/relationship-worries-can-make-you-sick
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