Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

When thinking of anxiety we often misunderstand the true meaning of it. Yes, it is a mental condition but there are a lot of physical symptoms as well.

If you have ever experienced anxiety, you might remember feeling nervous, afraid, or worried about ordinary situations. Now think about the physical symptoms you may have had in that moment - your palms may have been sweaty, you had a pit in your stomach, and you could have very well felt numb.

Other physical symptoms can be:

  • stomach pain

  • nausea, or digestive trouble

  • headache

  • insomnia or other sleep issues (waking up frequently, for example)

  • weakness or fatigue

  • rapid breathing or shortness of breath

  • increased heart rate

  • sweating

  • trembling or shaking

  • muscle tension or pain

  • entire body feeling numb

These physical symptoms can appear anytime one is having anxiety, sometimes they happen so often that people accept it as their normal every day life.

When my anxiety was at it's worst, anything and everything could trigger it. No matter how hard I tried to avoid it, it would always sneak in. Some of the above physical symptoms were so normal to me that I didn't know any different, the moment something would trigger it, I would instantly feel my stomach in knots, my hands would sweat, my head would feel cloudy and my entire body would go numb.

Anxiety attacks often have the same symptoms but more intense, “an anxiety attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear and anxiety. These anxiety attacks can sometimes occur unexpectedly for no apparent reason, but they can also be linked to specific triggers”

Physical Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack:

  • have trouble breathing or feel as if you’re choking

  • have numb or tingling sensations in parts of your body

  • have chest pain

  • feel lightheaded, dizzy, or as if you might pass out

  • feel overheated or have chills

  • hyperventilating

My personal experience with anxiety attacks has usually been from specific triggers, if I've had several events that have brought me anxiety in a short amount of time, it often all gets bottled up and forms into an attack.

One method that I have practiced while having an anxiety attack is the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technic.

Before starting this exercise, pay attention to your breathing. Slow, deep, long breaths can help you maintain a sense of calm or help you return to a calmer state. Once you find your breath, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet.

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.

1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?

Depending on the level of attack I am having, this will either work right away, or it will take a few times before I have come to my senses, but it does always work in the end. This is a great way to practice being in the moment especially while feeling so out of control of your own body.

Some other Self Care Tips for Anxiety:

  • Be physically active, if you’re able. Exercise can help reduce stress and improve physical health. If you can’t be active, try sitting outside every day. Research increasingly shows that nature can benefit mental health.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Any of these can make anxiety worse.

  • Try relaxation techniques. Guided imagery and deep breathing are two practices that can help your body relax. Meditation and yoga can also benefit you. These techniques are considered safe, but it is possible to experience increased anxiety as a result.

  • Prioritize sleep. Sleep issues often accompany anxiety. Try to get as much sleep as you can. Feeling rested can help you cope with anxiety symptoms. Getting more sleep could also reduce symptoms.

To read more about Physical Symptoms of Anxiety & self care, check out:

Just remember when you are feeling physical symptoms of anxiety, that you are not alone. Speaking out loud to someone about how you are feeling inside and out can often help along with the tips above. We are all in this together!

If you have any self care tips for anxiety feel free to share them below!