Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety: Signs You Need To Know 2023
Anxiety is a feeling of worry about the future. It may be about something happening later that day or even next week. It can include emotions of fear, worry as well as negative thinking.
Anxiety is a normal response to stressors. These can be everyday stressors like traffic or more traumatic events such as an illness or losing a loved one. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five adults suffers from mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or phobia-related disorders, of which excessive anxiety may play an important role.
Experiencing anxiety without any identifiable stressors can lead to an anxiety disorder. Excessive worry about real or perceived threats may also lead to anxiety. Physical anxiety symptoms, like body aches, stomach problems, nausea, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, and insomnia, can also accompany these feelings.
If untreated, it can result in a panic attack, an episode of intense anxiety, chest pain, fear of impending doom, persistent fear, and other intense physical symptoms. Coping strategies such as mindfulness, journaling, talk therapy, and identifying triggers can help manage all forms of anxiety. However, if anxiety starts to impact daily functioning, seeking professional help may be necessary.
Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety can include the following:
- Increased heart rate.
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy.
- Feeling restless or on edge.
- Sweating or having a hot flush.
- Headaches and body aches.
- Stomach discomfort (e.g., indigestion, nausea).
- Shortness of breath.
- Tingling sensations in the body (pins and needles).
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, or dread about what may happen in the future. Occasional anxiety is a part of life and a normal reaction to life events such as an important meeting at work, an upcoming test, or when making an important life decision. Because it is a future-oriented emotional state, it takes us away from enjoying our present.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. These may be the everyday stressors in our lives or a bigger, more stressful, or traumatic event. A mild to an optimal level of anxiety can keep us motivated or focused on our goals- but when it gets too much, we may feel it in our bodies.
Intense anxiety from recurring panic attack symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder, or other anxiety disorders may result in physical symptoms, such as trouble breathing, muscle tension, or other bodily signs listed below.
Read on to find out what anxiety’s physical symptoms are.
What Are The Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety?
Have you ever felt that pit in your stomach before a big test or meeting? Or a rapid heartbeat and sweating before a presentation? Everyone’s bodies react to and feel anxiety differently, but there are some common physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder that many of us feel occasionally. But how does anxiety cause these symptoms?
Anxiety is a natural response of the body to stress, but if it becomes chronic, it can cause physical symptoms in the body and may develop into what is termed a generalized anxiety disorder, where feelings of anxiety are out of control, and they are interfering with your day-to-day life. It does this by triggering the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body to respond to a perceived threat. This response is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response, and it causes a range of physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and muscle tension.
The prolonged release of stress hormones can cause a range of physical symptoms that can negatively affect a person’s quality of life, leading to anxiety disorders.
Anxiety can have pronounced physical effects on many parts of our body. Below is a list of physical symptoms anxiety may cause.
- Increased heart rate
Anxiety can cause the heart to beat faster and harder as the body prepares to respond to a perceived threat. This can lead to a feeling of palpitations or a racing heart, often referred to as tachycardia.
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy
Anxiety can cause the blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to the brain and causing a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness.
Anxiety can make a person feel on edge or restless, making it difficult to relax or sit still.
Anxiety can cause excessive sweating, as the body tries to regulate its temperature in response to the fight or flight response.
- Headaches and body aches
Anxiety can cause muscle tension, leading to headaches and other body aches. This increased muscle tension can include arm, leg, or back pain.
- Stomach discomfort
Anxiety can affect the digestive system, causing symptoms such as indigestion and nausea.
- Shortness of breath
Anxiety can cause rapid breathing or hyperventilation, leading to a feeling of shortness of breath and trouble breathing.
- Tingling sensations in the body
Anxiety can cause the body to release excess adrenaline, which can cause tingling sensations or pins and needles in the hands, feet, or other parts of the body.
Anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to insomnia or other sleep disorders.
All of the above-mentioned can be physical signs of an anxiety attack and should be taken seriously.
In addition, anxiety can also weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Read on to find out what you can do if you experience physical symptoms and need to calm anxiety.
How To Calm Anxiety
Know Your Triggers
Taking the time to identify and understand your triggers can be very helpful in calming your anxiety down before it becomes a full-fledged panic disorder. This can allow you to either avoid these triggers or approach them cautiously. You can do this by closely examining the situations that make you anxious and the accompanying physical symptoms. You can jot these down in a notebook. This also creates more self-awareness and a stronger mind-body connection.
Anxiety can keep us from being fully present in our lives. When we worry about the future, we are disconnected from the present. Mindfulness can take us back to the present by connecting us with the here and now, thus relieving anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness can mean sitting with our thoughts, deep breathing, meditation, and grounding techniques. Grounding entails checking in with our senses: What can I hear, feel, see, and taste/touch? This can bring our awareness back to the present and ward off panic attacks.
Talking To A Friend
Talking to a friend can help us feel validated and understood. By talking about our experiences, they can make more sense to us. This can also help us discover solutions or see things in a different light. Social support can also help us feel less alone and helps us ward off symptoms of social anxiety disorder, an anxiety disorder made worse by interacting with others. If you have a friend with anxiety, explore some solutions to help them.
Catching Your Negative Thoughts
Anxiety can cause us to think negative thoughts, also called cognitive distortions. These are negative thinking patterns that can cause us to view the world in a pessimistic way. Some common cognitive distortions in anxiety are catastrophizing, all-or-nothing thinking, and jumping to conclusions.
We may exaggerate, inflate or see things in an unfavorable light.” I can never do anything right” or “My boss hates me” are examples. By catching our negative thoughts, we can learn how to challenge them by asking ourselves: Is this 100% true? What proof do I have for this? How is this thought serving me right now?
Writing our thoughts down is an incredibly powerful tool to help calm anxiety. By externalizing our anxious feelings, we can make better sense of them and feel more in control. It also allows us to release negative emotions rather than suppress them. Journalling also provides an opportunity to notice patterns and engage in positive self-talk.
Taking care of yourself is important so that you can function well and care for those around you. When we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we may neglect self-care.
Self-care means developing behaviors that promote both physical and mental well-being. This can include taking a walk, spending time enjoying something you do or eating healthy.
There are some natural remedies for anxiety that have also been tried and tested. These include essential oils, spending time in nature, exercise, and breathwork. These can calm the nervous system, release endorphins and help us feel better.
When Do You Need Professional Help?
If you’ve tried some of the behavioral and emotional strategies outlined above but still struggle with overwhelming anxiety, it may be time to seek professional help. A mental health practitioner such as a psychiatrist or psychologist can assess how severe your anxiety is and recommend appropriate strategies to treat your physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. A professional can look closely at your triggers, develop coping strategies or even prescribe anti-anxiety medication to treat intense anxiety. Online therapy that provides cognitive behavioral intervention is also a good option that is easily accessible.
The Bottom Line
Anxiety is a serious mental health condition affecting our daily lives and overall well-being. It can cause physical symptoms in the body as well as negative thinking patterns. There are several strategies one can use to help overcome anxiety. If anxiety is getting in the way of your daily functioning, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional.
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