15 Anxiety Symptoms And What To Do About Them

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated March 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be hard to accomplish your goals or even participate in your favorite activities when you aren't at your best. When you live with anxiety, it can disrupt your daily functioning—even when you don't realize it may be the cause of the symptoms you’re experiencing. Anxiety can lead to jitters, frequent crying, fearfulness, heart palpitations, and muscle tension, just to name a few. If you’ve noticed that anxiety seems to be impacting your everyday life, seeking professional treatment can be vital. Online therapy can be one way to match with a licensed mental health professional who can offer insight and guidance.

Overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety can be defined as your body’s natural response to stress. In smaller doses, it can motivate you and help you achieve your goals. But when it becomes chronic or severe, it can severely affect your quality of life. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety can be “characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

Anxiety may stem from various factors, including past traumatic events or even physical illness, which can make it harder for someone to live with stress. What might start as a natural stress response can turn into something much more overwhelming if additional factors come into play, affecting how a person manages their day-to-day life.

Symptoms of anxiety

Everyone may experience anxiety differently, but there tend to be a few hallmark signs and symptoms that seem to be commonly experienced by those who live with anxiety. While understanding symptoms can help you recognize a potential condition, only a doctor or other mental health professional can provide you with an official diagnosis. 

1. Feeling constantly fearful

If you're facing real, immediate danger, fear can be a natural reaction. However, if you're experiencing frequent and irrational fears, this could be a symptom of anxiety.  

2. Frequent crying

You may feel as if you're going to cry during seemingly insignificant moments. If your anxiety shows up as a feeling of being on the verge of tears, it may be because the stress in your body is affecting your emotions.

3. Feeling overwhelmed

When you're experiencing anxiety, one symptom you may encounter is frequently feeling overwhelmed. It may seem like you don't have the time, energy, patience, and other resources to manage your life. Although it may seem as if the circumstances at hand are extremely overwhelming, your physical and mental response to the situation can make you feel overwhelmed.

4. Jitters

One of the more physical symptoms of clinical anxiety can be feeling jittery. You may develop a tremor in your hands or feel extremely dizzy. This generally happens because your body is in fight-or-flight mode. It may be preparing itself to respond to danger, even if there isn't any real danger at hand.

5. Heart symptoms

Some of the most difficult symptoms associated with anxiety can be feelings that seem like physical manifestations of heart trouble. Many symptoms that accompany anxiety attacks can feel like heart problems. You may have heart palpitations, feel your heart pounding, have a fast heart rate, or even believe you're having a heart attack.

If you haven't already done so, it can be best to seek medical help to make sure your heart is healthy. If it is, you can try to cope with these symptoms by practicing deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. In addition, listening to music may slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.

6. Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation usually refers to excessive breathing. You may breathe too fast, take unnecessarily deep breaths, and feel as if you can't get enough air. You may also experience lightheadedness, weakness in your arms and legs, and a rapid heartbeat.

7. Nervousness

Nervousness can be defined as a feeling of unease and tension, usually surrounding an upcoming task or occasion. It can be common to feel nervous before important events or performances. However, if you feel nervous most of the time without a specific reason, this might be a symptom of anxiety.

8. Muscle tension

Stress can cause muscle tension. If you're struggling with this, try using systematic muscle relaxation exercises. One exercise may be to lie still on your back, breathing deeply. Then, you can contract the muscles of your toes and hold the tension for a few seconds before releasing the tension completely. Move upward to your feet, legs, and so on until you reach your head, tensing and relaxing each muscle group individually.

9. Nausea and belching

Anxiety often comes with a feeling of nausea. It can also cause you to belch excessively. You may feel sick to your stomach or even feel the urge to vomit. If you experience frequent bouts of nausea or vomiting, contact a healthcare professional. You might also try to stick to a healthy diet, eat regular meals, and drink enough water. 

10. Sweating

If you're sweating because it's a hot day or you've just run a marathon, there's probably no reason to think it's directly related to anxiety. On the other hand, if you find that you’re sweating excessively and frequently throughout the day, particularly in response to stress or nervousness, your sweating might be a symptom of anxiety.

One thing you can do may be to avoid clenching your hands when you feel nervous. If it’s hot outside, try to put on breathable clothing. Practicing deep breathing can also help. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly may also prevent excessive sweating.

11. Chills

Chills can often be the first sign of an anxiety attack. When you feel a chill run down your spine, other signs of anxiety may come soon afterward. Anxiety can cause chills because your body, in putting itself into fight-or-flight mode, generally produces a rapid change in body temperature. As it redirects your blood to your heart, it can lead to a temperature decrease on your skin.

12. Low energy

Anxiety can reduce your energy and motivation. You may feel fatigued and sleepy when anxiety shows up. 

Coffee might help you with low energy, but it can also worsen anxiety symptoms for some people. A healthy way to cope with low energy can be to ensure you’re eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise. 

Getting a good night’s sleep can also boost your energy. Even just getting out of the house and going for a walk can have a positive impact on your energy levels.

13. Intrusive thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can be defined as recurring, unwanted thoughts that come into your mind, even when you're trying to think of something else. If you have panic disorder, which is generally when you experience frequent panic attacks, your intrusive thoughts might be about the panic attacks you experience. Intrusive thoughts can be damaging and often worsen other anxiety symptoms.

If negative or worrying thoughts keep coming into your mind, you can try thought-stopping, which you may practice by saying or thinking “stop” every time an intrusive thought comes into your mind. If you need more help controlling these thoughts, you might benefit from talking to a mental health professional.

14. Racing thoughts

Anxiety can cause you to have racing thoughts that may seem hard or impossible to slow down. Racing thoughts can be caused by other disorders, too, so it can be important to discuss this with your healthcare provider. 

If you have recurrent intrusive or racing thoughts, try to distract yourself by watching a movie or listening to a podcast. Getting some exercise may be beneficial as well. It can also be a good idea to make sure you're getting enough sleep, because sleep deprivation can bring on rapid thinking.

15. Memory problems

Forgetfulness, including memory loss and other memory problems, can be a symptom of anxiety. People with higher levels of anxiety may have less capacity in their working memory. You can strengthen your memory by exercising your brain. Consider playing brain games like crossword puzzles or sudoku and try meditation.

Identifying a potential anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that can cause people to be excessively worried, anxious, or fearful in situations where most others wouldn't feel the same way. They're some of the most common types of mental health disorders, affecting millions globally. The following are some types of anxiety disorders that are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry about everyday situations that are disproportionate to the actual danger presented. Individuals may find themselves overly concerned about health, finances, or family matters, often expecting the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern. This constant state of worry can interfere with daily activities and can coexist with other mental health conditions or physical health problems.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, involves an intense fear of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness, and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others. People with this disorder might avoid social gatherings or public speaking to reduce anxiety, although this avoidance may negatively affect their personal and professional lives. 

Panic disorder

Panic disorder involves unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear, known as panic attacks, which can last for just a few minutes or longer. These attacks come on suddenly and can be triggered by stress or fear-inducing situations, but sometimes they happen without any obvious reason. People with this disorder often live in fear of the next attack.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). For example, someone might feel compelled to clean their hands repeatedly due to a fear of germs. These compulsions can take up a lot of time and interfere with daily life. 

Getting professional help for an anxiety disorder

Anxiety symptoms can keep you from doing the things you want to do, especially when you constantly feel anxious or are living with other mental health conditions. However, you may overcome even the most uncomfortable symptoms with the right mental health services. If your anxiety is severe, healthcare providers generally recommend a combination of therapy and other treatments, such as medications. For example, antidepressant medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders.

You can also learn stress management skills and reduce symptoms by working with a therapist. A type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be especially helpful to better understand thought patterns that lead to anxiety. Your therapist can teach you how to identify the unwanted thoughts behind the symptoms, evaluate them, and replace them with more helpful thoughts. Exposure therapy is another type of therapy that involves gradual, guided exposure to the sources of your anxiety, helping you build tolerance and reduce fear over time.

Overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms?

Seeking help online for anxiety

If you live with anxiety, the thought of visiting a new location to speak with a therapist you’ve never met before can seem daunting. Online therapy may help you feel more comfortable seeking professional help, as you can attend sessions from the comfort of your home at a time that fits your schedule. You may also choose between video calls, phone calls, and online chat options, which may further help you feel at ease with the therapeutic process.

A 2021 systematic review analyzed the effectiveness of internet-delivered treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It found that there were usually large effects on symptoms of worry and anxiety, as well as moderate to large effects on depression, functional impairment, and quality of life. The researchers stated that “results support the effectiveness of Internet‐delivered treatments for GAD.”


Anxiety symptoms can involve nervousness, memory problems, racing thoughts, low energy, chills, and sweating, among many others. Treatments for anxiety disorders exist to help you if you find that anxiety is hindering you from your life goals and relationships. Working with a licensed therapist may be one way to address the root of anxiety and develop effective coping skills to manage its symptoms.
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