Many people do not realize that anxiety comes with many physical symptoms. Those who live with untreated anxiety, who have never sought help for their condition, often worry that there is something medically wrong with them. This can add to the stress and anxiety that they feel.
Being able to recognize the physical symptoms of anxiety is important. Physical symptoms can manifest when you are feeling anxious. You may notice these physical manifestations when you are in the midst of an anxiety attack or situational anxiety. There are physical signs of anxiety that can occur even when you don't think you have a reason to be anxious. And there can also be lasting physical effects of anxiety on your overall health.
If you experience physical symptoms of anxiety, you may have an anxiety disorder. It is important to seek treatment to prevent further effects on your physical health. Understanding how anxiety affects your body can help you make choices as to your treatment and how you address potential medical conditions.
Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
There are a few common physical symptoms of anxiety that you may experience over time. When you have anxiety frequently, or you frequently feel anxious or nervous, these physical symptoms can manifest even when you are not in a situation that makes you anxious.
It is quite common for people with anxiety to experience frequent headaches. The onset of the headaches may occur when you are in a situation that is causing you severe anxiety. However, they may also develop simply as a result of the stress your body is going through due to the constant feeling of anxiety. You can treat headaches with over-the-counter medications, but some people find little relief with these medications, especially if the anxiety is still in full swing.
Many people experience nausea when they experience a lot of anxiety. You may feel nausea or stomach pain after eating or whenever you are in a nervous situation. Nausea that persists and worsens with spicy or acidic foods and beverages can be cause for concern. The stress of your anxiety can cause a buildup of acid in the stomach and, over time, this can cause lasting digestive issues.
3. Frequent Urination Or Diarrhea
Some people have frequent urination or diarrhea when they experience anxiety. This is your body's physical reaction to the stress that it is being put under due to the anxiety. Stress causes a buildup of cortisol, which can cause urination or bowel irregularities. In some cases, drinking less caffeine can help alleviate some of these symptoms.
Physical Manifestations Of Anxiety
When you are in the midst of an anxiety attack, or you are having situational anxiety, you may experience some immediate physical symptoms. Physical manifestations of anxiety can occur even if you can maintain control and appear calm on the surface. Controlling your emotions and outward appearance to others will not affect how severe these physical manifestations of anxiety can be.
4. Rapid Heartbeat
In the midst of an anxiety attack, or during increased situational anxiety, you may experience a rapid heart rate or feel your heart pounding in your chest. This can frequently happen if you often feel anxious. An increased heart rate frequently happening for a long period may increase your risk for heart disease and certain heart conditions over time.
Some people experience chest pain when they have an anxiety or panic attack. Chest pain will likely be centered, and you may feel as though you are having a heart attack. With a heart attack, however, the pain is more likely to radiate down your arm or into your shoulder.
Many people with anxiety discover that they have a hard time breathing when faced with anxiety-inducing situations. Your breathing may become short and rapid and you may even hyperventilate. If this occurs, it is important that you make a conscious effort to take slow, deep breaths as much as possible to get your breathing under control.
Due to the rapid heart rate and the shortness of breath, many people also experience dizziness or lightheadedness when they are having an anxiety attack, or are in high anxiety situations. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, sit down immediately and remain seated until you regain your equilibrium. Trying to fight your way through the anxiety attack on your feet could cause you to faint or fall, putting you at risk for injury.
Physical Signs Of Anxiety
There are physical signs of anxiety that are frequently present in an anxious person, even if they are not faced with a particularly stressful situation. These physical symptoms of anxiety may be present even when you are trying to relax or can think of nothing that is making you severely anxious at the time.
Tremors or twitches are common in people with high anxiety. Your hands may shake, or your feet may twitch. You may have twitching fingers or numbness and tingling in your hands and feet. These symptoms may only occur when you are anxious, or they may occur all the time.
Many people experience excessive sweating frequently when they have anxiety. Excessive sweating can happen even if you are trying to remain calm. Your body is reacting to the stress and fear that you are feeling, and therefore you will feel hot or cold and break out in a sweat.
Many people who have anxiety are frequently restless. They may be unable to sit still for any length of time and must always be doing something. If sitting and listening to someone in a class, for example, they will be moving their feet or drumming their fingers on the table. They are likely to find sitting still without fidgeting difficult and they may pace often.
Physical Effects Of Anxiety
There are many physical effects of anxiety that can occur over time when you live from anxiety for long periods. If you have high anxiety for weeks, months, or even years, you may notice some significant physical changes. The longer you have high anxiety that is left untreated or unaddressed, the more likely you will be to endure these physical effects of anxiety.
Many people who have high anxiety have problems with insomnia. The mind is so focused on things that happened throughout the day, or things that might happen tomorrow or some point in the future, that the person is unable to quiet their mind to go to sleep. The higher your anxiety, the more likely you will have trouble sleeping. Insomnia is especially severe for people with anxiety because, the less sleep you get, the worse your symptoms of anxiety will be, creating a vicious cycle.
Some people who have high anxiety frequently experience fatigue. The fatigue could be caused by a lack of sleep due to insomnia, however, fatigue can also occur simply because the body is exerting vast amounts of energy when you are anxious. You aren't able to sit still, you may be twitching, or having some of the other physical symptoms of anxiety already discussed. All of this expended energy can make you feel depleted, as though you just don't have anything left to give.
Likewise, weakness can be a physical effect of anxiety. As you experience a lack of sleep and increased energy output, your body becomes weak. You may constantly shake your foot when you sit because you cannot sit still with your anxiety, but then later feel incapable of walking through the parking lot of the grocery store because your legs feel weak from all of the movement.
Some studies have found that there are painful physical symptoms that can be associated with anxiety. Some people have unexplained pain that has no medical cause that can be found. One study found that, in a vast number of patients with unexplained painful physical symptoms, many of them had high anxiety. Approximately 45 percent of anxiety patients report experiencing unexplained pain.
Studies have also shown that anxiety can worsen menopausal symptoms in people who are in pre- or post-menopausal. The most common symptom reported was hot flashes. In a group of over 1000 women, 10 percent of them had increased hot flashes with anxiety.
Studies have also found that many people who are going through anxiety have weakened immune systems. They are unable to fight off illnesses such as colds and the flu, as well as other communicable diseases. When they contract these illnesses, it takes much longer for them to recover.
Digestive issues can abound when you have high anxiety for long periods of time. Increased stomach acid for an extended period can lead to acid reflux or stomach ulcers. The buildup of cortisol, combined with extreme stress, can also cause medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Some people who experience high anxiety over a long duration discover that they have a decreased libido. You may simply never feel the desire to have sex. This can put a strain on your marriage or intimate relationships.
If you recognize, or regularly experience, the physical symptoms of anxiety listed in this article, you should seek out the help of a therapist right away. Addressing your anxiety and treating it, as well as learning coping skills, can help prevent the anxiety from causing long-term health effects.
Online counseling is well-suited for individuals experiencing anxiety because scheduling, awaiting, and getting to and from the appointment may generate even more anxiety. Being able to connect with a licensed mental health professional from the comfort and safety of your home is key.
A review of literature suggests that online counseling is just as effective as traditional therapy. It gives you a chance to work with well-qualified, licensed mental health professionals at your fingertips. A therapist can help you get to the root of your anxiety and provide you with tools to combat symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, has shown to be very effective in helping to treat anxiety. Another benefit of choosing online counseling is that it is typically more affordable when compared to face-to-face sessions.
Read below to see what current clients have to say about their experiences with our counselors.
“Monje is by far my favorite therapist I’ve worked with. She has taught me many different and effective coping mechanisms for my anxiety. I felt comfortable with her right away and never felt judged. She is extremely patient, caring and kind. I highly recommend Monje!”
“I was skeptical of counseling before I started, Brianna was the first counselor I was paired with. After only 2 months of sessions once a week for an hour, I have already seen improvement with my overall mental health, as well as how I handle stressful/anxiety situations. She is friendly and understands my concerns. She keeps a structured session (as requested). She lets me choose the topic and keeps me on track. She helps me on my bad days and makes my better days feel like great days.”
Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:
What does anxiety feel like physically and mentally?
What are some physical symptoms of anxiety?
Can anxiety cause actual physical symptoms?
What are the most common physical symptoms of anxiety?
What are weird symptoms of anxiety?
Can anxiety cause weird body sensations?
What is high functioning anxiety?
How do I get rid of physical anxiety?
What does anxiety feel like in your head?
Can anxiety make you tired and dizzy?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does anxiety affect you physically?
One way that anxiety can affect you physically is by increasing acid production in the stomach, which might lead to heartburn, acid reflux or an ulcer. People with anxiety disorders might also have a higher rate of heart attacks. People with a panic disorder can experience similar physical signs.
Other digestive problems and heart disease can arise when an individual experiences anxiety over a long period of time.
What are the main signs of anxiety?
Main signs of anxiety, including general anxiety disorder (GAD), are excessive worrying, restlessness, feelings of doom and lack of concentration. However, two of the most common signs are excessive worrying and restlessness. Other main signs are fatigue, sleep problems and racing thoughts.
People with social anxiety disorder can exhibit similar signs in addition to avoiding eye contact and fearing judgment. Social situations can be a great cause of anxiety for them.
What are the physical sensations of anxiety?
Physical sensations one might feel when anxious are tingling or numbness in the extremities, rapid heart rate, sweating, twitches or tremors and unexplained pain.
What are physical symptoms of stress and anxiety?
Muscle fatigue is a physical symptom of stress and anxiety. When a person under stress or when one has an anxiety disorder, their sleep schedule might be disrupted, resulting in fatigue and that also affects the muscles. Jaw pain from clenching or grinding the teeth is another symptom. As mentioned previously, a person might experience unexplained pain in different parts of the body. Pain might present in the back and then move to the leg and then the neck, for example.
With shallow breathing, one’s heart rate will increase. This can result in feeling dizzy or faint.
How do you calm an anxious stomach?
Some things you can do to calm an anxious stomach are to look at your stress level and your diet. If you’re experiencing a lot of stress, then it’s time to examine where the stress is coming from and how you can alleviate that stress. For example, do you find yourself rushing out of the door to get to work? If so, prepare what you need to have the next day early in the evening the day before. Go to bed at a reasonable time, so you’re getting enough sleep.
Look at your diet. Donuts, coffee, fast food. Chocolate in the afternoon? Start reducing refined sugars, caffeine, and bad fats, little by little, and replace them with veggies and lean protein or whatever healthful foods fit with your diet (vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc.). This takes practice and dedication. It’s okay if you slip. Just get right back on. Set yourself up for success by having whatever healthful foods work for you on hand and ready to go. Make lunches and dinners ahead of time.
An anxious stomach is a nervous stomach. Calm those nerves with regular exercise and meditation. This, too, takes practice and dedication. If you skip, get back on schedule – the sooner the better – with no negative self-talk.
With excessive worry, you might worry over things you have no control over. Catch yourself when you do this and then gently release the thought and think about something else that is pleasant and calming. You can also give yourself reminders that you can control only what you can control.
How do you stop anxiety sickness?
Anxiety can make you feel nauseated and maybe even give you diarrhea. Some things you can do on your own is improve your diet, reduce or eliminate caffeine, and exercise and meditate regularly.
Exploring what is making you anxious with a therapist or counselor and learning techniques to manage your anxiety will also help with anxiety sickness.
There will be times when your anxiety seems to get the better of you. That’s okay. Examine what’s going on in your life to discover why this might be happening and look at ways to get yourself back on track.
What does anxiety attack feel like?
An anxiety attack or panic attack can exhibit some of the symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, sweating and dizziness. Some people also have tingling in the extremities. Other people have said that they have feelings of unreality and feel that they might go crazy. Other people believe they’re having a heart attack because of the increased heart rate and numbing in the arms.
You will not die or go crazy from an anxiety attack. Allow all these “weirdnesses” to happen and pass without getting caught up in them, which can breed more “weirdnesses.” Unclench your teeth and your fists, take a deep breath, hold for a few seconds, release slowly, wait for a few seconds and inhale again and repeat until you feel steady.
Does anxiety go away if you ignore it?
Anxiety will not go away if you ignore it. If anything, anxiety demands our attention, especially if we try to ignore it. What you can do is acknowledge the anxiety first and then use the techniques you and your therapist have gone over, so you can manage your anxiety disorder.
Other things you can do on your own that have been mentioned already are eating a better diet, cutting back or eliminating caffeine, exercising, and meditating. These anti-anxiety approaches require little to no money.
Sometimes, anxiety and depression go hand in hand. The above suggestions can help you manage depression as well.
If your anxiety and/or depression feels unmanageable though, then seek help from a mental health professional.
What are 5 emotional signs of stress?
The 5 emotional signs of stress are irritability, indecision, difficulty concentrating, headaches, and the use of drugs, including alcohol, to relieve stress.
Can your stomach hurt from being nervous?
Yes, your stomach can hurt from being nervous. Nervousness can cause a buildup of excess acid in the stomach, which, in turn, can cause acid reflex. This can result in stomach pain.
You might also experience “butterflies” or a “knot” in your stomach.
Can anxiety make you feel weird?
Yes, anxiety can make you feel weird, but it’s important to keep in mind that these are sensations and thoughts and nothing more. Feeling dizzy, racing thoughts, unexplained pain and muscle tension are some of the contributors to feeling weird. When experiencing anxiety, it’s important to take a step back and not get caught up or fear these sensations. Instead, recognize them as symptoms of anxiety. Remind yourself that you’re working on managing your anxiety and employ techniques you have learned to mitigate the anxiety. These symptoms didn’t arrive overnight, so it will take some work and dedication and patience to manage your anxiety disorder and even panic attacks.
How do I get rid of stress in my life?
One can never completely be rid of stress. Healthy stress is important because it keeps us aware of our surroundings, so we can react appropriately. Yet, when stress crosses over from healthy to unhealthy – feeling stress often and strongly – stress can have a negative impact on our health.
To rid yourself of this excess stress, ask yourself how you’re taking care of yourself. Do you exercise regularly, eat healthful foods for the most part, limit your caffeine intake, get enough sleep? Do you surround yourself with healthy people who have a positive influence on you? These are just some of the ways to rid, or manage, the extra stress in your life. Other ways include meditation, a clean and organized home (and office if you work in an office and car if you have one) and free time to work on hobbies.
How do you know you have emotional stress?
Emotional stress can result from a stressful situation in your life, from a traumatic event or from a mental health disorder, such as an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Emotional stress can manifest in different ways like having a lower libido, being irritable, experiencing mood swings and feeling overwhelmed and other signs as discussed earlier regarding anxiety.
If you especially feel like you’ve been running on empty for too long, you might be experiencing emotional stress. This would be a good time to take an inventory of your life to see where the emotional stress is stemming from and then brainstorm ways to reduce it. You could also meet with a mental health professional who can help you deal with your emotional stress.
When should I see a doctor about anxiety and stress?
A good way to determine if you should see a doctor about your stress and anxiety is to ask yourself if what you’re experiencing is interfering with your day-to-day life? If so, then it might be time to seek medical advice. Talk to your primary care physician about your physical health. There might be a medical reason as to why you’ve been feeling anxious. Your doctor will want to rule out anything that could be the cause of your anxiety, such as thyroid issues.
If your doctor is unable to come up with a diagnosis for the cause of your stress and anxiety, then your doctor will suggest that you speak with a mental health professional. From there, you’ll be able to discuss with your therapist what you’re experiencing and how it prevents you from having the life you want to have. You and your therapist will work together to come up with a treatment plan, so you can learn to manage and, in some cases, overcome your anxiety. Although stress is present in our lives and can be a good thing, you’ll also learn to manage it, so it doesn’t negatively impact you.