7 Physical Symptoms that Accompany Anxiety

Anyone who has experienced crippling anxiety will tell you that it brings with it a flood of psychological and physical symptoms. It’s in our wiring, really. When the brain anticipates potential threats, the body gears up to make a “fight or flight decision,” raising the heart rate, tensing muscles and causing the body to sweat. It’s rough stuff.

To meet the formal criteria for a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), anxiety must bring with it these physical symptoms. Here are a few of the big ones.

7 Physical Symptoms That Accompany Anxiety

1. Rapid heart rate

Anxiety is a totally normal reaction to danger, unless it’s not. In moderation, anxiety can be a great thing; it urges us on, spurs us to action. But when anxiety is overwhelming it can cross into iffy territory. Heart pounding, when not in immediate danger, is a very common symptom of anxiety and should be treated as such.

2. Shortness of breath

With increased heart rate comes elevated blood pressure and shortness of breath. To outsiders, this might look an awful lot like an anxiety attack as it can come on for seemingly no reason at all.

3. Dizziness and headache

Chronic worry is a key part of GAD. This is the kind of worry that occupies every waking moment, causing the brain to bounce from one issue or dire scenario to the next. As a result, many people with anxiety disorders get headaches. Throw increased heart rate into the mix and you have a recipe for dizziness.

4. Digestive issues

We all know what it’s like to feel as though your stomach is in knots. The gut expresses anxiety, often taking the form of a general upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation or even nausea. These symptoms are often extremely disruptive to daily life.

5. Muscle tension

Muscle tension in the back and neck is often described by people with GAD. It often manifests as unrelenting aches and pains and can often accelerate into restless fidgeting, tenseness or even teeth grinding. These aches will persist until specific relaxation techniques are employed.

6. Edginess

Edginess, while a seemingly vague indicator of GAD, is actually quite common. People with GAD may come across as especially irritable, or even become uneasy to the point of trembling or shaking. This restlessness may not be obvious to the anxious individual, but is often very clear to others.

7. Insomnia

Anxiety takes its toll. Chronic worry is exhausting! Often, anxious individuals find that their worry (or physical expressions of worry) keep them up at night or make it difficult to stay asleep when it finally arrives. This is why, for those experiencing sleep disruptions, anxiety treatment often involves changes to bedtime routines.

Coping with the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Learning how to cope with the psychological and physical symptoms of general anxiety disorder is a lifelong process that is best managed by a mental health professional. These symptoms are also only considered a manifestation of anxiety if they aren’t better explained by a different medical condition first.

If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis, talk to a medical professional. They will be able to help you determine the cause of your symptoms, teach you how to correctly interpret bodily sensations, and offer treatment options that are right for your personal situation.

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73 comments

Lesa D
Lesa D6 hours ago

for me nothing was more frightening than the first time i experienced a panic attack ~ it was terrifying & in public which made it even worse as i had no idea what was really happening to me ~ i could not explain to anyone what was wrong & we all felt helpless...

thank you Lauren...

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Frances G
Frances G12 hours ago

Thanks very much

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Leo C
Leo Cyesterday

Thank you for posting!

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Leo C
Leo C2 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Olivia M
Olivia M3 days ago

tyfs

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danii p
danii p3 days ago

Thanks.

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danii p
danii p3 days ago

Thanks.

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Leo C
Leo C3 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Beth T
Beth Talmage3 days ago

Thank you. It is important that people do not write off anxiety as the punch line to a joke about the neurosis du jour. Anxiety is real, manifests in multiple ways, and people suffering from anxiety deserve kindness and understanding.

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danii p
danii p4 days ago

thanks for sharing

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