16 Symptoms Of Anxiety And What To Do About Them
Updated December 18, 2018
Reviewer Audrey Kelly, LMFT
It's hard to accomplish anything or even cope with your life when you aren't at your best. Many types of problems are easy to identify and solve. Anxiety, on the other hand, can disrupt your daily functioning even when you don't realize that's the cause. If you don't feel quite right but can't pinpoint the reason, check for these 16 symptoms of anxiety.
- Feeling Fearful
Of course, there are certain times when you have a very good reason to be afraid. If you're facing real, immediate danger, it's the natural reaction. However, if you're plagued by constant fears of death and dying, going crazy, having a serious illness, or being attacked, that fear is more likely a symptom of anxiety.
What to do: Distract yourself from your fearful thoughts. You can use the thought-stopping technique to control obsessive fears. All you have to do is picture a stop sign or just say, "Stop!" when you find yourself focusing on a fear.
- Feeling Like Crying Frequently
You may have the feeling like you're going to cry at the slightest provocation. If your anxiety shows up as a feeling of being on the verge of tears, it's usually because the stress in your body is affecting your emotions.
What to do: Stop the urge to cry before it happens. Do that by managing your other anxiety symptoms as they happen.
- Feeling Overwhelmed
When you're suffering from symptoms of anxiety, you can easily feel overwhelmed. It may seem like you just don't have the time, energy, patience, and other resources you need to manage your life. The truth is that although you may believe that your circumstances are overwhelming, it's actually your physical and mental response to your situation that make you feel overwhelmed.
What to do: Stop what you're doing and focus on your mental and physical wellbeing for a few moments. Are you eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and taking care of physical illness and injury? What about your mental wellbeing? Are you practicing self-compassion and self-acceptance? Do these things, and your situation will seem less overwhelming?
- Feeling Jittery
One of the more physical symptoms of anxiety is a feeling of being jittery. You may develop a tremor in your hands or feel extremely dizzy. This happens because your body is in flight or fight mode. It's preparing itself to respond to danger, even though there isn't any real danger at hand.
What to do: Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe deeply and slowly.
- Heart Symptoms
Some of the most difficult symptoms to deal with are feelings that seem like physical manifestations of heart trouble. Many symptoms of anxiety attacks feel like heart problems. You may have heart palpitations, you may feel your heart pounding, you may have a fast heart rate, or you may even feel like you're having a heart attack.
What to do: If you haven't already done so, seek medical help to make sure your heart is healthy. If it is, you can deal with these symptoms by deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. Also, research shows that listening to music can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
Hyperventilation means excessive breathing. You breathe too fast, you take unnecessarily deep breaths, you obsess about your breathing, and you may feel like you can't get enough air. You may also feel lightheadedness, weakness in your arms and legs, and a rapid heartbeat.
What to do: Slow down your breathing dramatically. Distract yourself from thoughts about your breath. To help prevent hyperventilating, avoid wearing tight clothing.
- Feeling Nervous
Nervousness is a feeling that something bad could happen at any moment. It's common to be nervous before important events or performances. However, if you feel nervous most of the time without a specific reason, you may be suffering from anxiety.
What to do: Accept that everyone faces embarrassment and rejection eventually, and so will you. Other things you can do are write your nervous thoughts in a journal, get enough sleep, and stay active.
- Muscle Tension
Stress can cause muscle tension. If your muscles are feeling tense and sore even when you haven't been working out or using them much, you're likely suffering from one of the most common symptoms of anxiety.
What to do: Try using systematic muscle relaxation exercises. One exercise is to lie still on your back, breathing deeply. Then, contract the muscles of your toes and hold the tension for a few seconds. Release the tension completely. Move upward to your feet and then to your head, tensing and relaxing each muscle group one at a time.
- Nausea And Belching
Anxiety often comes with a feeling of nausea. Anxiety can also cause you to belch uncontrollably. You may feel sick to your stomach and may even feel the urge to vomit. When nausea keeps coming back for no apparent reason and prevents you from managing your daily activities well, you are probably experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorder.
What to do: Eat light, regular meals and drink enough water. Talk to your doctor about using herbal remedies for nausea or anxiety.
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 related to anxiety. On the other hand, if you sweat any time you feel nervous and that happens often, your sweating might be a symptom of anxiety.
What to do: Avoid clenching your hands when you feel nervous. Put on breathable clothing. Practice deep breathing. To prevent nervous sweating, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
Chills are often the first sign of an anxiety attack. When you feel that chill run down your spine, other signs and symptoms of anxiety may come soon afterwards. Anxiety can cause chills because your body, in preparing for the heat of battle, causes a rapid change in body temperature. Your body redirects your blood to your heart, causing temperature decreases in your skin.
What to do: Get your blood flowing by getting up and walking around a bit. If you feel especially cold, put on a sweater or jacket.
- Low Energy
Anxiety can rob you of your normal feeling of energy and strength. You may feel fatigued and sleepy when anxiety strikes. This lack of energy can come from your constant battle with anxiety symptoms. One way this can happen is that you avoid situations that make you nervous, and your body gets used to not responding at all.
What to do: Coffee might help you with low energy. A better way to deal with low energy is to get yourself used to doing things when they come up. As soon as you make a firm decision, act on it immediately. Exercise can also help increase your energy level. Even getting out of the house can have a positive impact if you tend to isolate yourself.
- Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are nagging thoughts that come into your mind over and over again, even when you're trying to think of something else. You can have intrusive thoughts about bad memories, sex, or doing violence. If you have panic disorder, your intrusive thoughts might be about the panic attacks you experience. Intrusive thoughts are worrying thoughts, and they're a classic symptom of anxiety.
What to do: If negative or worrying thoughts keep coming into your mind, you can try the thought-stopping technique mentioned above. If you need more help controlling these thoughts, you might benefit from talking to a mental health counselor.
- Racing Thoughts
Anxiety can cause you to have racing thoughts that are hard or impossible to slow down. Racing thoughts can be caused by other disorders, too, some quite serious, such as bipolar disorder. They're common in anxiety attacks.
What to do: Distract yourself from racing thoughts by watching a movie or listening to a podcast. Get some exercise. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, because sleep deprivation can bring on rapid thinking.
- Memory Problems
Forgetfulness, memory loss, and other memory problems are often caused by anxiety. That's because anxiety takes a lot of mental energy. In one study, researchers found that people with higher levels of anxiety had less capacity in their working memory. Instead of focusing on the things you want to remember, your mind is focused on worries and fears. You might notice that your forgetfulness is worse in the evening as your brain and body become tired.
What to do: Again, getting enough sleep is crucial to managing your anxiety. You can also deal with the forgetfulness by learning how to create mnemonic devices, which are clues to remind you of things you might forget.
There are a lot of reasons you might have nightmares. You may have PTSD after a traumatic event or situation. You might be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, or maybe you just ate too much pizza right before bed. But if you're having nightmares frequently, it's more likely due to some type of anxiety.
What to do: When you have a nightmare, practice relation techniques to get back to sleep. Try systematic muscle relaxation or deep breathing. The only way to prevent nightmares caused by anxiety is to deal with your symptoms of anxiety disorder when you're awake.
Anxiety signs and symptoms can keep you from doing the things you want to do. It can also make your life miserable. However, you can overcome even the most uncomfortable symptoms of anxiety. If your anxiety is extreme, a doctor might suggest a medication to help you cope until you get your anxious thoughts under control.
The best way to learn to manage the anxious thoughts behind your anxiety symptoms is to work with a counselor to learn ways of changing your thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy is especially helpful for people with symptoms of anxiety. Your therapist can teach you how to identify the thoughts behind the symptoms, evaluate them, and replace them with more helpful thoughts.
You can talk to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp.com for help with overcoming anxiety and all the symptoms that come with it. After you take a simple quiz, you'll be paired with a therapist who is well suited to your situation and needs. Online therapy through Better Help is private, affordable, and convenient. When you learn to control the thoughts behind your anxiety symptoms, you can live a calmer, more peaceful life.