Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Most people consider anxiety to be something of internal stress and struggle, constant worrying or over-thinking, but there is really much more to it. Anxiety has many physical symptoms that can pop up without warning or seem to eat away at us over a period of time.

This topic has been on my mind the last week or so because the closer I get to my SSDI hearing, the more of these physical symptoms of anxiety begin to manifest for me. My mind can only worry so much, but when it hits something of a peak, that is never the end, is it? For anxiety to blatantly “get worse” it often means other parts of my body being subjected to something akin to torture.

Maybe you’ve never considered the ways anxiety can physically obstruct someone from being at their best, so here is a list of a few of the ways anxiety can effect us physically.

  • Difficulty breathing (feeling out of breath all the time or having trouble catching one’s breath)
  • Breathing too quickly (hyperventilation)
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking (generally in hands or feet)
  • Stomach pain (like an acidic feeling or a scraping pain)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tense muscles causing general body pain potentially in neck, back, or abdomen
  • Tension headaches (from tense head muscles)
  • Sweating
  • Blacking out/fainting

Of course, one might also include the ever-dreaded panic attack which often includes many of these symptoms at once as well as the overwhelming sensation one is about to kick the bucket.

Understanding that anxiety manifests physical symptoms can help us better gauge 1. how anxious we are, and 2. what we can do about it.

For example, noticing that my body has been in a position where I have been sitting rigidly and very tense for several hours gives me some insight about my anxiety level. At the same time, combatting this particular symptom with a hot bath or a hot tub or even a massage from someone will not only make the symptom lessen, but will also help lessen my anxiety.

When it feels like I have been trying to digest a handful of gravel for a week I don’t usually run out and consume a bottle of tequila and the spiciest Indian curry I can find. I generally stick to, you know… yogurt and macaroni and cheese.

If I feel like I can’t breathe, I try to avoid situations that might exacerbate it. Trying to do very physical things (running, even walking at times) can make me begin to panic if I feel like I can’t breathe, which can ultimately trigger a panic attack. Taking it easy, breathing deep, and moving slowly for a bit tends to help me in that arena.

Ultimately, recognizing physical symptoms of anxiety (as well as the mental symptoms) can help us gain a better understanding of what we’re dealing with as well as give us some clues as to what we can do to help ourselves feel a little better.

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6 responses to “Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  1. Anxiety has definitely taken a toll on my physical health over the years. I have developed stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and near-daily migraines. In a nutshell, it’s slowly killing me. I have started exercising every day and it seems to be helping a little, especially right after I have done the exercise. My depression and anxiety both take a little break for a couple of hours at least. I am hoping to continue this, for both my physical and mental health. I have tried meditation, practicing mindfulness, etc., but I need more practice to be better at it. It is hard to tame those anxious thoughts for successful meditation, but I know it’s worth it to try. I have constant tension in my body and it makes me very tired.

  2. Excellent post, which shows how debilitating and powerful anxiety can be, not to mention the toll it takes on our overall health.Being in tune to our bodies and how we are feeling at any given time, as you suggest, is a type of mindfulness; noticing and accepting how we feel in the moment.

  3. Anxiety is so prevalent, even in milder forms, and yet so easily accepted as normal within our society. You’re very right about the need to remember the physical manifestations and toll it can take on a person’s well being.

  4. I have a few friends I can call when I feel a panic attack come on. Thinking about having an attack while having an attack can really panic you out. 🙂
    Talking to a friend helps take my mind off of the situation. Great info!

  5. I actually have no physical concept of relaxation. S’why I used to drink and do drugs. ><

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