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Some Commonly Experienced Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

In this page we will discuss 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. It is important to note, however, that anxiety is capable of creating hundreds of different anxiety disorder symptoms, so this is by no means an exclusive list.
  • Shortness of breath / Shallow Breath, and Smothering Sensations: This is one of the most common anxiety disorder symptoms - it may feel as though you aren’t getting enough air into your lungs or as though someone is pressing up against your chest cavity and restricting your air intake. This is just a harmless sensation! Don’t worry about it or be concerned that you aren’t breathing properly because you are! If you weren’t breathing properly you would be unconscious. As with all anxiety disorder symptoms, don’t give these sensations any credit, they will go away.

FAQ: 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, it is important to 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, it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional.
  • 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 true clinical depression, which is in fact a real illness caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. The overwhelming probability is that you are not truly clinically depressed and just feel depressed as a side effect of your anxiety disorder symptoms. Stop worrying, these feelings are not permanent.
  • Shoulder and Neck Aches and Numbness in the Head and Face: These anxiety disorder symptoms 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 anxiety disorder symptoms 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 panicked. It is advised not to lie in bed awake and focus on your anxious thoughts. Rather watch TV or distract your mind in some other way until you are tired enough to fall asleep again. 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. Once your anxiety begins to subside, your anxiety disorder symptoms will disappear and you will fall back into a normal sleeping pattern.
  • 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 subsequent to 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 so as 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 in order to adsorb nutrients from digesting food. When blood 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 disorder symptoms, which can be effectively relieved by regular relaxation and exercise.
  • Weird Dreams or Nightmares: It goes without saying that nightmares are totally 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 causes adrenaline to be secreted in the blood stream, causing the heart to beat fast and potentially give the sufferer the sensation that it is occasionally skipping a beat. These are called palpitations and they are quite normal and harmless as with all anxiety disorder symptoms. Don’t be concerned that you are having a heart attack or that you have a heart condition. You are just anxious.
  • Perspiration: When in an anxious state, the body’s preparation for fight or flight causes it to release sweat so as to cool pending physical activity. Of course, this perspiration is harmless and is just the body’s natural response to anxiety.
  • 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 very normal symptom of anxiety. Don’t let this feeling worry you or make you concerned that there is a more sinister cause of your headaches. Again, these feelings and sensations are just anxiety disorder symptoms and they are utterly harmless.
  • 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, the 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 anxiety disorder symptoms 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. It is very normal to experience these anxiety disorder symptoms. They will go away when your anxiety begins to subside.
  • Tingling Feelings in Hands and Feet and Weakness in Arms: Anxiety causes an intense reaction which 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. These anxiety disorder symptoms may feel quite bizarre but are quite normal and will go away.
  • 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. There are many health stores that supply natural products like emollient creams that are very helpful in alleviating itchiness, dryness and rashes.
  • Eye Soreness: Anxiety causes reduction in the lubrication in 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 these anxiety disorder symptoms.
  • Mouth Dryness: 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. This may feel like tingling or creeping sensations and can feel rather distressing but are harmless. As with all anxiety disorder symptoms, don’t pay them any attention.
  • Depersonalization and Derealisation: Some of the more distressing anxiety disorder symptoms - these symptoms affect the manner in which 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, as if one is viewing the world through a thin layer of fog or smoke. Although these anxiety disorder symptoms may feel extremely unpleasant, they are not signs of any sinister illness; so don’t give them any credit. They will pass when your anxiety begins to subside.
  • Brain Shocks or Electric Shock Feelings: Also referred to as head zaps, head shocks or brain shivers, brain shocks, while completely harmless are arguably the most unpleasant of the anxiety disorder symptoms. Triggered by the subconscious, brain shocks usually occur when the sufferer is trying to go to sleep. They are characterized by a brief electric shock feeling in the scalp. Some people describe the feeling as being as though a light bulb is being turned on in 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. When your anxiety subsides all these anxiety disorder symptoms will simply fade away.
  • Irritability and Aggression: Frustration and anger are perfectly natural responses to anxiety, which can make a person feel sad, scared and worn out. In fact sadness is the root cause of all angry responses. Whenever one looks back on any time they have really been angry, there will always be an underlying sadness which 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. These are perfectly normal anxiety disorder symptoms. Try not to give them any credit and to divert your mind towards more positive thoughts.
  • Agoraphobia: Often agoraphobia is described as a fear of wide open spaces, but this is not entirely accurate as this terms in fact 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 defined agoraphobia is to say that it is a fear of any area or place which 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 disorder symptoms, this condition is of course hugely inappropriate because there is no real danger to justify the symptoms. When the person’s anxiety disorder subsides, agoraphobic feelings will subside and ultimately disappear entirely.


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