12 Common Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

People with anxiety often experience sudden feelings of intense fear or terror that accelerate within minutes. They frequently have excessive, persistent and intense worry about everyday situations. They avoid situations or places that make them feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. The following are twelve common physical symptoms of anxiety.

1. Increased Heartbeat

An increased heartbeat is a common physical symptom of anxiety that people experience. Anxiety can interfere with the cardiovascular system. Having your heart beat faster means there is an increase in blood flow, which brings fresh nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. During an anxiety attack, the adrenal glands release adrenaline hormones and cortisol, which react by increasing the heartbeat; thus more blood is pumped to the muscles to flee or fight the perceived threat.

2. Hyperventilation

This is a change in the breathing and respiratory functions of the body. For a person experiencing anxiety, one of their physical symptoms may be that their breathing is rapid and shallow. This condition is known as hyperventilation, which allows the lungs to take in more oxygen and quickly transport it around the body, making the person feel like they are not getting enough oxygen and consequently gasp for breath. The advanced symptoms of hyperventilation include tingling, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, and feeling faint.

3. Excessive Sweating

Due to changes in the respiratory functions of the body, persons with anxiety may experience hot flushes. This physical symptom of anxiety caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels, referred to as vasoconstriction. In response, the body sweats to cool down, thus the person may experience excessive sweating.

Besides, during an anxiety attack, a person’s sympathetic nervous system gets activated and can trigger the sweat glands all over the body. The eccrine and apocrine sweat glands can cause anxiety induced perspiration, and the milky fluid from the apocrine gland, in particular, makes one smell.

4. Muscle Ache and Tension

The muscle tension experienced by persons with anxiety involves unrelenting aches and pains in active shoulders, back, neck, and jaw muscles. The tension can also include grinding of teeth or fidgeting legs. The muscle tension is a result of keeping parts of your body rigid for a prolonged period. The tension could sometimes be felt all the way to the head, leading to headaches.

5. Headache

Anxiety leads to feelings of worry and fear, a psychological experience that can cause a headache. When worry is disproportionate to the events that trigger it, and when it typically occurs in response to normal everyday situations, you will most likely end up with a headache.

6. Feeling Agitated

During an anxiety attack, a person’s nervous system goes into override. This affects your entire body, causing symptoms such as sweaty palms, shaky hands, and a dry mouth. The symptoms are activated by your body as it moves to respond to the perceived threat. Thus, the body shunts blood towards your muscle and away from your digestive system in case you need to flee or fight. If you demonstrate agitation, you may want to consult a licensed therapist for their professional opinion on your physical symptoms of anxiety.

7. Nausea from Abdominal Distress

A person suffering from anxiety may experience general stomach pain associated with nausea, constipation and diarrhea. The communication between the brain and the enteric nervous system (that which governs the digestion) is compromised. Cortisol hormone blocks those processes that your body deems as nonessential in the face of danger. One of these processes is digestion. Adrenaline reduces blood flow and relaxes the stomach muscles. One may also end up losing their appetite.

8. Insomnia

Anxiety makes getting adequate asleep very difficult. This is caused by elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol hormones that make it very hard for someone to fall asleep. At this time, your body is buzzing with energy and may not be able to relax long enough to induce rest.

9. Tiredness/ Fatigue

Constantly feeling exhausted is a result of accelerated stress hormones (the worrying), which keep one revved up and on high alert. This is extremely draining and can combine with insomnia to compound your anxiety.

10. Feeling Twitchy

A person with anxiety is constantly anticipating unknown threats and is therefore always on guard. As a result, they have enhanced startle response to any situation. This restlessness is in most cases more obvious to observers than the person suffering from it.

11. Urinary Response

One of the signs of someone suffering from anxiety is their increased need to urinate. The false sense of danger creates the need to urinate as it is easier to run or fight with an empty bladder. This reaction is common in persons with phobias, who react when confronted with a situation they are not at ease with.

12. Impaired Immune Function

A hormone released during anxiety, cortisol, prevents the release of substances that cause inflammation. It also turns off aspects of the immune system that fight infections, impairing the body’s natural immune response. Persons with anxiety tend to get sick more often. They are easy targets for the common cold and other types of infections.

  • Gretchen is a free-spirited blogger focused on ways to improve her spiritual and emotional health. She uses the MANDALA HEALS blog to dispense advice, tutorials & guides on various topics.

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