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Some Commonly Experienced Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Feeling like the world is constantly on edge? Does worry and fear hijack your daily routine? Anxiety disorders, characterized by excessive worry and dread, are a prevalent mental health condition affecting millions. These anxieties can disrupt your sleep, work, and relationships, manifesting in a surprising variety of physical and psychological symptoms.

This article delves into some of the commonly experienced symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic attacks.

At the outset, I want to remind you that anxiety can be a chameleon, with hundreds of different ways of showing up. This list serves as a starting point, not an exhaustive one. Additionally, some of these symptoms can also be caused by other medical conditions.

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, don't hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional. They can help determine the cause and guide you toward appropriate treatment.

Let's explore these common anxiety symptoms to gain a better understanding and equip you with the knowledge to manage them effectively.

DisclaimerThis article explores some of the commonly experienced symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause and get appropriate treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders manifest in a variety of physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. Here's a look at some of the most frequent ones:

Physical Symptoms
  • Common: Shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, chest tightness, sweating, muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, digestive issues (diarrhea, nausea)
  • Less common: Dizziness, lightheadedness, tingling or numbness, tremors, hot flashes, chills
Psychological Symptoms
  • Common: Worry, fear, difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, irritability, restlessness, feeling overwhelmed, problems with memory, difficulty relaxing
  • Less common: Depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself), derealization (feeling unreal), intrusive thoughts, fear of losing control
Behavioral Symptoms
  • Avoidance of triggers (situations or things that cause anxiety)
  • Restrictive eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased substance use (alcohol, drugs)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty completing tasks
Managing Anxiety Symptoms

While anxiety symptoms can be distressing, there are effective strategies to manage them. Here are a few tips:
  • Relaxation techniques: Practice deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Maintain a regular sleep schedule, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices can help you focus on the present moment and reduce anxiety-provoking thoughts.
If you're experiencing anxiety symptoms that are interfering with your daily life, consult a mental health professional. They can help you develop a personalized treatment plan to manage your anxiety and improve your overall well-being.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders in detail

Let's now discuss in detail, some of the anxiety disorder symptoms which are commonly experienced in generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic attacks. [Note: Anxiety is capable of creating hundreds of different symptoms, so this is by no means an exclusive list.]
  • Shortness of breath / Shallow Breath, and Smothering Sensations: This is a common symptom, feeling like you can't catch your breath or someone is squeezing your chest. Rest assured that this is just a harmless sensation! Don’t be concerned that you aren’t breathing properly because you are! If you weren’t breathing properly you would be unconscious. This is a common symptom, and there are techniques to manage it. Find here → 4 Powerful Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Panic Attacks.

How to tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety?

Shortness of breath can be a symptom of both anxiety and other medical conditions. To determine if your shortness of breath is caused by anxiety, it's important to pay attention to other symptoms you're experiencing and to consider any recent changes in your life that may have triggered the anxiety.

Shortness of breath caused by anxiety is often accompanied by other symptoms of anxiety. Other symptoms of anxiety that may be present include rapid heartbeat (racing heart), chest tightness, sweating, trembling, and feelings of panic or dread (fear). Additionally, the onset of shortness of breath may be sudden and occur in situations that are known to trigger anxiety, such as in social situations or during public speaking.

If you have a history of anxiety or panic disorder, it is more likely that your shortness of breath is related to anxiety.

However, note that shortness of breath can also be caused by a medical condition. So it is always best to have it evaluated by a medical professional to rule out any underlying condition.

It is also worth noting that in some cases, people may experience shortness of breath as a symptom of a panic attack, which is a sudden and intense episode of anxiety. This can be accompanied by other symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, and feelings of impending doom. If you think you might be experiencing a panic attack, seek help from a healthcare professional.

Can anxiety cause diarrhea?

Yes, anxiety can indeed cause diarrhea, and there are several mechanisms by which it can do so.

Firstly, anxiety triggers the fight-or-flight response, a natural bodily reaction that prepares us to deal with danger. When this response is activated, our bodies release hormones that can increase heart rate, breathing, and digestion. This heightened activity in the digestive system can lead to diarrhea.

Secondly, anxiety often leads to muscle tension throughout the body, including the muscles in the digestive tract. This tension can slow down the normal digestive process, causing diarrhea as a result.

Thirdly, anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns. When we don't get enough sleep, our overall physical health can suffer, including our digestive system. Poor sleep can make us more prone to digestive problems, such as diarrhea.

Lastly, anxiety can also have a psychological impact. The distress caused by anxiety can make it difficult to cope with physical symptoms like diarrhea and may even exacerbate the condition.

In summary, anxiety can influence the digestive system both physically and psychologically, leading to the onset or exacerbation of diarrhea in individuals experiencing anxiety.

Can anxiety cause nausea?

Yes, anxiety can cause nausea. In fact, it is one of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety. When you are anxious, your body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause several changes in your body, including:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
The nausea caused by anxiety is often described as a feeling of butterflies in the stomach or a sick sensation in the pit of the stomach. It can be mild or severe, and it can come and go. In some cases, anxiety-related nausea can lead to vomiting.

Nausea due to anxiety is not a physical illness; it is a symptom of a psychological condition. However, it can still be very unpleasant and disruptive.

Can anxiety cause frequent urination?

Yes, anxiety can make you urinate more often. It's a common sign of anxiety disorders and can mess with your daily life.

There are a few reasons why anxiety can lead to frequent urination. One reason is that anxiety kicks off the body's "fight-or-flight" response, which can cause various physical changes, including making you pee more.

Another reason is that anxiety can tense up your muscles, which can squeeze your bladder and make you feel like you have to go to the bathroom more.

Lastly, anxiety can also make you want to drink more liquids. When you're anxious, you might get thirsty and feel like you need to pee more often.

Does anxiety cause chest pain?

Yes, Anxiety can indeed cause chest pain, and this connection between mental and physical health is not uncommon.

When anxiety takes hold, your body initiates a stress response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones set off a chain reaction in your body, leading to several physical changes, including an increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Muscles throughout your body, including those in your chest, can become tense due to this stress response.

Types of Anxiety-Related Chest Pain:

  • Sharp, Stabbing Pain: Anxiety-induced chest pain can sometimes manifest as sharp, stabbing sensations. It may feel as though you're experiencing a sudden, piercing discomfort in your chest.
  • Dull Ache: On the other hand, anxiety can also produce a persistent, dull ache in the chest area. This ache might be described as a constant, nagging discomfort.
  • Tightness or Pressure: Some individuals with anxiety may experience chest tightness or pressure as if there's a weight or band wrapped around their chest.
  • Burning Sensation: Anxiety-related chest pain can occasionally present as a burning sensation in the chest, akin to heartburn.
  • Racing Heart or Pounding Sensation: During periods of anxiety, it's common to feel as though your heart is racing or pounding in your chest, which can contribute to chest discomfort.
While anxiety-related chest pain is generally not a cause for grave concern, it can be highly uncomfortable. Moreover, distinguishing between anxiety-induced chest pain and chest pain stemming from a heart condition can be challenging. For this reason, if you experience chest pain, it's vital to seek medical advice to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Distinguishing Anxiety Chest Pain from Heart Attack:

Anxiety chest pain can indeed feel very real, and at times, it might even be mistaken for a heart attack. However, there are key differences between the two:
  • Accompanying Symptoms: Anxiety-related chest pain is usually accompanied by other anxiety symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, and sweating. These additional signs help differentiate it from chest pain caused by heart problems.
  • Severity and Radiation: Heart attack pain is often more severe and can radiate to other parts of the body, such as the shoulders, arms, jaw, or back. In contrast, anxiety chest pain is typically localized in the chest area.
If you ever experience chest pain, especially if it's severe or you are uncertain about its cause, consult a healthcare professional to ensure your well-being.

Some Commonly Experienced Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

  • Depression: It is very common to experience symptoms of depression as a side effect of anxiety. It is important not to mistake these feelings for clinical depression, which is a real illness. The overwhelming probability is that you are not having clinical depression, and just feel depressed as a side effect of your anxiety disorder symptoms. You may read also → Anxiety And Depression: Symptoms, Self-help, Medication, and Treatment.
  • Shoulder and Neck Aches and Numbness in the Head and Face: These anxiety manifestations can be both scary and rather uncomfortable. It is not uncommon for a person to go numb throughout their entire body during times of high anxiety, although the feeling of numbness is most common in the face and head. To get permanent relief from these anxiety disorder symptoms you have to remove the anxiety disorder that is causing them. However, you can achieve temporary relief from these nervous system responses by firmly massaging the neck and shoulders. It is probably easiest to get a friend or partner to do this for you.
  • Insomnia: Another very distressing and debilitating of the anxiety disorder symptoms, insomnia (a sleep disorder) can be described as the inability to fall asleep or to remain sleeping. Many anxiety sufferers find it difficult to sleep beyond 3:00 am and may often wake up feeling acute anxiety or panic. Don’t worry about not getting enough sleep. It is a common misconception that the human body requires 8 hours of sleep when in fact it is capable of operating fine on just 3 - 4 hours. Learn here → 8 Tips to Break the Anxiety Insomnia Cycle.
  • Hypersensitivity to Light, Touch, and Sound: The main reason why anxiety sufferers are so aware of the anxiety disorder symptoms they experience is because anxiety causes the central nervous system to become highly sensitized. This is a normal part of the body’s natural defense mechanism as it prepares the body for the slightest sound or movement. Do not be disconcerted if you experience over-sensitivity of the senses during anxiety. Once your anxiety begins to subside your nervous system will become desensitized and the senses will return to normal.
  • Rapid Gastric Emptying: This condition can cause a person to feel full early on in a meal and may also create the sensation that they are unable to breathe properly. Diarrhea may then be experienced after the meal and the person may get the sensation that their digestive system is emptying rapidly. It is advisable to avoid eating spicy food and not to drink large quantities of liquids during and immediately after meals. This will help with digesting food properly.
  • Heartburn, Indigestion, Diarrhea, and Constipation: These are very common anxiety disorder symptoms. The fight or flight anxiety response causes the system to divert blood away from certain body parts to the muscle tissue to provide them with the oxygen they require so that the body can prepare to defend itself. The digestive system is a part of the body where a lot of blood is used as blood is needed there to adsorb nutrients from digesting food. When blood is sent away from the stomach as a result of high anxiety levels, digestion then slows down causing the muscles around the stomach to become tight and knotted. This results in the above anxiety manifestations, which can be effectively relieved by regular relaxation and exercise.
  • Weird Dreams or Nightmares: Nightmares are harmless, yet all the same they can be very distressing. Dreams usually emulate what is going on in a person’s life but with a strange twist. When a person is content with life, their dreams usually reflect this and in fact, good dreams are often not remembered. On the other hand, when someone is in a state of anxiety they tend to have bad or twisted dreams. Don’t let nightmares bother you and don’t bother to think about them when you wake up. They mean nothing.
  • Heart Palpitations and Rapid Heart Beat: Anxiety often causes a racing heart and occasional skips (palpitations), which are usually harmless. However, if palpitations are frequent, occur with chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or you have a history of heart problems, see a doctor to rule out other causes. Seek immediate help for severe chest pain, fainting, extreme shortness of breath, or severe dizziness with palpitations.
  • Perspiration: When in an anxious state, the body’s preparation for fight or flight causes it to release sweat to cool pending physical activity.
  • Headaches: Muscle contractions around the neck and shoulders can cause intense discomfort in the head. Tension headaches or the feeling of having a tight band around the scalp is a common symptom of anxiety.
  • Blanching or Paling of Skin: During anxiety, blood is diverted away from certain parts of the body to the muscles so it can prepare to protect itself. When this occurs the fine blood cells in the skin which provide its healthy pinkish texture, are deprived of blood and consequently the skin loses color and appears light and pale. Many people with generalized anxiety look pale almost always. As with all anxiety disorder symptoms, this skin paling is not a sign of any illness and the skin will return to its normal color once the anxiety disorder has been remedied.
  • Twitches and Involuntary Limb Movements: Anxiety is comparable to a piece of machinery that is badly wired. The anxious body is filled with charged and confused nerve impulses and misfiring neurons, which although quite harmless can cause muscles to randomly twitch or spasm. Ironically these twitches and spasms are most common when the anxiety sufferer is trying to relax. These nervous system responses are just part of the body’s natural defense mechanism. The subconscious mind triggers these sensations because it is trying to send a message that the person must stay alert and prepare for danger.
  • Shivering or Shaking: Just about everyone who is scared or nervous experiences shakiness, especially of the hands. This occurs because the muscles spasmodically contract, thereby creating friction between the body and muscle tissues. The friction causes heat and heightened body temperature.
  • Tingling Feelings in Hands and Feet and Weakness in Arms: Anxiety causes an intense reaction that causes over-sensitivity of the central nervous system. Circulation and levels of carbon dioxide fluctuate and muscle tension is adapted to prepare the body for defensive mode.
  • Skin Rashes: Dryness, psoriasis, and skin rashes are very common stress and anxiety disorder symptoms. The person may experience eczema-like skin rashes around the neck, face, and scalp. Many health stores supply natural products like emollient creams that are very helpful in alleviating itchiness, dryness, and rashes.
  • Eye Soreness: Anxiety causes a reduction in the lubrication in the eyes as a result of body fluids being diverted to other parts of the body during the fight or flight reaction. This can cause the person to experience dryness and discomfort around the eyes. Eye drops can be bought at any pharmacy and are very effective at relieving this type of manifestation of anxiety.
  • Mouth Dryness: A dry mouth is also caused as a result of fluids being diverted elsewhere during the fight or flight response. Drink lots of water to relieve the dryness. Sucking on boiled sweets is also effective.
  • Pins and Needles or Creeping Sensations in the Skin: These anxiety disorder symptoms are caused by the central nervous system becoming oversensitive when in a state of high anxiety. There are millions of nerve endings on every square centimeter of the skin which become active with electrical impulses running through charged nerves. These may feel like tingling or creeping sensations and can feel rather distressing but are harmless.
  • Depersonalization and Derealisation: Some of the more distressing anxiety disorder symptoms - these symptoms affect how a person perceives his or her awareness. Depersonalization is the feeling or sensation that one is experiencing the world outside their own body. Derealization creates the feeling of being in a dream-like state and vision may appear foggy. Although these anxiety disorder symptoms may feel extremely unpleasant, they are not signs of any sinister illness. Read more here → Understanding Depersonalization and Derealization.
  • Brain Zaps (Electric Shock Sensations): These sensations, also known as head zaps, head shocks, or brain shivers, are brief electrical-like feelings in the head. While not dangerous, they can be one of the more disturbing anxiety symptoms. Brain zaps are often triggered when falling asleep and are characterized by a quick jolt or tingling on the scalp. Some people describe it as similar to a tiny electrical current or a light flicker within the brain.
  • Unsteadiness or Dizziness: As noted above, anxiety is like a badly wired piece of machinery. The human body functions through electric impulses which, when in an anxious state, become hyper-charged, abnormal, and confused, creating a variety of strange anxiety disorder symptoms. Neurons fly about the brain in a state of hyperactivity in an attempt to alert the sufferer that he or she is meant to be frightened and should prepare to run or defend (fight or flight). These confused neurons may cause a person to feel dizzy or unsteady, somewhat like a vertigo-type feeling.
  • Fear of Going Insane or Losing Control: When a person is anxious and has not had sufficient sleep, the senses can become distorted and abnormal. This may lead the person to start thinking bizarre and unusual thoughts.
  • Irritability and Aggression: Frustration and anger are perfectly natural responses to anxiety, which can make a person feel sad, scared, and worn out. Sadness is the root cause of all angry responses. Whenever one looks back on any time they have been angry, there will always be an underlying sadness that fueled the anger. Anger and aggression are also normal responses to fear. When a person is frightened, the fight or flight response prepares the body to take action, which means physical violence if need be.
  • Agoraphobia: Often agoraphobia is described as a fear of wide open spaces, but this is not entirely accurate as this term covers a much broader definition. While agoraphobia may affect people in wide spaces, it can have just as much of an effect on people in more confined areas. So a better way to define agoraphobia is to say that it is a fear of any area or place that is perceived or believed to be away from a place of safety. Agoraphobia can be extremely debilitating and can affect a person so significantly that it causes them to confine themselves to a single room for months on end. As with all anxiety manifestations, this condition is of course hugely inappropriate because there is no real danger to justify the symptoms.


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