10 Most Common Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety and panic disorders can produce a wide range of distressing physical symptoms. Many people are unaware that their symptoms are caused by anxiety, which can make the problem worse, as many people worry that their symptoms are caused by an underlying disease, leading to further anxiety. This vicious circle can be broken by learning about anxiety and being able to recognize the physical symptoms. Here are the 10 most common physical symptoms of anxiety.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with anxiety, panic disorder, chronic stress, depression and other mental health disorders. Chronic anxiety leaves the body and mind in a constant state of tension and high alertness. The mind is constantly scanning the external and internal environment for threats, leading to emotional distress and physical tension. This constant state of high alertness leads to mental and physical exhaustion, which will often persist even after a long sleep.
Increased Heart Rate
Anxiety is a natural response to danger and is needed for humans to survive. High levels of anxiety trigger changes in the body to help prepare for dealing with threats and danger, also known as the fight or flight response. However, if you're living with chronic anxiety, your body and mind are often unable to tell the difference between real and imagined dangers, which means that the fight or flight response may be continually active. One of the first changes to occur during the fight or flight response is an increase in heart rate.
Heart palpitations are often one of the most distressing symptoms associated with anxiety, as they can feel scary and many people worry that they are having a heart attack, particularly when palpitations are combined with chest pain. Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is pounding, fluttering, beating too fast or missing beats. Some people can even feel their heart beating in their throat, neck or head. While heart palpitations can be scary, they usually pass within a few seconds.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is another distressing symptom that leads many people to worry that they are having a heart attack, choking or experiencing problems with their lungs. Shortness of breath is usually caused by breathing too quickly (hyperventilation), as the body is inhaling too much oxygen and exhaling too much carbon dioxide. Hyperventilation will not harm you, but you may feel as if you are choking, have a lump in your throat or are unable to take in enough air.
Feeling dizzy, faint or unsteady is often the result of hyperventilation, although it may also be caused by other issues related to anxiety, such as muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. Many people feel lightheaded and worry that they might pass out during a panic attack, but some people with an anxiety disorder also experience chronic dizziness and problems with balance.
Muscle aches and joint pain can be caused by tension, as well as general poor health. Anxiety causes the muscles to tense up, which can lead to pain and stiffness in almost any area of the body. Constant stress and worry can also prevent the immune system from working properly, leading to decreased resistance to infection and disease. Infection increases inflammation in the body, which can cause a range of symptoms, including joint pain.
Another common symptom of chronic anxiety is weakness in the muscles, most commonly experienced in the legs and sometimes the arms. During the fight or flight response, the body is preparing to take action against danger. One of the ways in which the body prepares for this action is to redirect blood flow to the areas most needed, including the legs, which are needed to run away from danger. Increased blood flow to the legs can make them feel weak, tingly or like jelly.
Headaches and migraines are often caused by tension, particularly in the neck and shoulders. Teeth grinding, facial tension, poor posture and hyperventilation can also cause headaches and migraines. Sharp pain, a dull ache or a feeling of pressure around the head and eyes are common symptoms associated with anxiety. As anxiety can also upset the balance of hormones in the body, some women notice an increase in migraines, as they can be triggered by changes in hormones.
Excess gas, bloating, stomach cramps, acid indigestion, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea can all be caused by stress and anxiety. Several digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), have been linked to chronic stress and mental health problems. Anxiety can also increase the symptoms of food intolerance and sensitivities in some people.
Pins and needles, tingling and numbness are common symptoms that mostly affect the extremities, but can also be experienced anywhere in the body. Tingling of the lips, face and arms can be particularly distressing, as many people worry they are having a stroke. Odd sensations in the body, including tingling and numbness, are usually the result of hyperventilation, but can also be caused by physical tension.
Anxiety can cause a wide range of distressing physical symptoms, but recognizing and accepting that these symptoms are temporary and harmless helps to alleviate fears and prevent further anxiety. The most common physical symptoms of anxiety include fatigue, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle aches, muscle weakness, headaches, digestion, discomfort and tingling sensations.