18 Common Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated April 7, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Rashonda Douthit , LCSW

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.

Learn More About How Anxiety Affects Your Body

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.

1. Headache

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.

2. Nausea

Many people experience nausea when they experience a lot of anxiety. You may feel nauseous right 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.

  1. Chest Pain

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.

  1. Shortness Of Breath

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.

  1. Dizziness Or Lightheadedness

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.

  1. Tremors Or Twitches

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.

  1. Excessive Sweating

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.

Learn More About How Anxiety Affects Your Body

  1. Restlessness

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 suffer from these physical effects of anxiety.

  1. Insomnia

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.

  1. Fatigue

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.

  1. Weakness

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.

  1. Unexplained Pain

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.

  1. The Increase Of Menopausal Symptoms

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.

  1. Impaired Immune System

Studies have also found that many people who suffer from 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.

  1. Digestive Issues

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.

  1. Decreased Libido

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.

Getting Help

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 access a licensed mental health professional from the comfort and safety of your home is key.

review of literature suggests that online counseling is just as effective as traditional therapy. It provides access to 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.”

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