10 Of The Most Common Symptoms Of Anxiety

Having some anxiety can actually be good for us, because it helps us be alert when we’re in different or stressful situations, but it can be a problem when these symptoms start interfering with your life or make you feel like you have no control over it. Do you think you might have anxiety? Do you know what the symptoms of anxiety are?

The term anxiety refers to a biological defense system that activates a (usually unpleasant) physiological or emotional effect when we perceive a situation to be potentially dangerous. This response is also known as “fight or flight”. Our bodies release certain types of neurotransmitters that cause us to have heightened senses, which would be useful in the case of an attack or dangerous situation.

However, this life-saving system can cause some problems if our body uses it improperly, which may happen if we perceive a situation to be unsafe when it is safe, which causes the body to produce more hormones than necessarily, often causing unpleasant side-effects. When we are in these situations for a prolonged period of time, our anxiety starts to control us, rather than the other way around, which can make us feel defenseless and uncomfortable. More women suffer from anxiety than men,[1]and it’s usually caused by everyday stress, like dealing with new situations, being in a high-stress environment, or being around people if you’re living with social anxiety.

There are different types of anxiety depending on the intensity and frequency of the symptoms, and there are different types of symptoms, which are the following: physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, behavioral symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and social symptoms. It’s almost impossible to talk about all of the symptoms that you may suffer from if you have anxiety, so we’ll highlight the 10 most common symptoms and how to help keep them under control.

1. Constant restlessness

Anxiety usually causes people to be constantly nervous and restless, without any real reason. This feeling of restlessness and discomfort is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety.

How to help: One of the best things you can do to deal with restlessness is to get moving. Start with a daily 45 minute walk. Engage regularly in physical activities that you enjoy so that you can stick to a weekly schedule.

2. Heart palpitations and chest pain

Some people may feel their heart rate rise and notice a pain in their chest, which is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack. As many sufferers are already in a heightened state of alertness, they may start to worry about these symptoms, which can make them worse, making the person even more nervous and uncomfortable.

Keep in mind, however, that there is a reason for this seemingly inexplicable chest pain. This pain is caused by an excess amount of air in our lungs, which cause them to expand and hit the rib cage, making us feel some pressure and muscle tension. With this tension, our muscles weaken and we feel sharp pains in the chest. If you start to experience this, massage your back, chest, and shoulders to relax the muscles and keep the sensation from worsening.

How to help: Consult with a physician to ensure that you have no underlying health issues. Just by reassuring yourself that there is nothing wrong can help you relax more. Yoga and meditation can help you to breathe more effectively, which will in turn help to alleviate chest pain.[2]

3. Difficulty breathing

Have you ever felt like you can’t get a full breath or like you can’t breathe? It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and one of the common symptoms of anxiety, but luckily we know why it happens. Our bodies regulate how much air to let in and out at a time, but when we’re nervous, we tend to breathe faster and take in more oxygen than we need. When this happens, we need to rebalance our oxygen levels, which we can do by holding our breath or slowing our breathing.

How to help: Make use of breathing exercises to stop hyperventilation and reduce the extent of your anxiety.[3]Breathe slowly in through your nose for 5 or 6 seconds, holding for 3 to 5 seconds, then breathe slowly out through your mouth for 7 seconds. Yoga also teaches breathing techniques that can help you calm yourself down during an anxiety attack.

4. Dizziness and paleness

You may feel dizzy and disoriented, which may cause you to feel like you’re going to faint. This is caused by hyperventilation in reaction to a stressor.

If you’re worried about passing out or fainting when faced with these scary situations, remember that it’s almost impossible! You pass out when blood pressure is weak, leaving the heart lacking oxygen and blood. However, in anxiety-producing situations, your blood pressure will likely rise, which is why it’s improbable that you faint during an anxiety attack.

Another symptom of anxiety is paleness, which usually happens in moments of extreme paleness because the blood is sent to our muscles to prepare to a fight or flight situation. In these cases, try to remember that it’s a normal, biological process, and there isn’t anything to worry about.

How to help: Rule out any underlying health issues.

5. Apprehension

Apprehension causes us to think and worry about possible unpleasant future scenarios. If you are constantly thinking and worrying about all of the bad things that could happen in the future, it’ll make it harder to have relationships and get the most out of every day.[4]

How to help: Learn to think positively. Anxiety can cause a lot of unhelpful negative thinking. Try and identify any unhelpful thoughts and reframe them in a positive way. Ask yourself questions about the thoughts such as “is this thought realistic?” or “what is the worst that can happen?”

6. Low self-esteem and depression

It’s quite common for someone with anxiety to also have low self-esteem and depression, which can cause irritability and fatigue. Low self-esteem leads to depression, which is why anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand.

Depression can also make anxiety worse and can even lead to suicidal thoughts and tendencies (although it only happens to a very small percentage of people).

7. Sleep problems

Many people with anxiety also suffer from sleep disorders, like insomnia and nightmares.[5]When we spend a lot of time worrying about something, it gets stuck in our head and it literally keeps us awake at night. It’s important to try to relax your mind and keep yourself from thinking about how much you need to sleep. If you’re worried about falling asleep, it’ll make it even harder to do so.

How to help: Improve your quality of sleep with exercise. Most of us need about 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Turn off your TV and all other electronic devices an hour before you get into bed and relax by mediating or listening to some music.

8. Sweating

When you have anxiety, your body is preparing to either fight or escape, which causes your body temperature to rise. When our body temperature rises, we sweat to try to cool it down, which is what causes us to sweat when we feel anxious.

How to help: We can’t prevent the body’s ability to cool down, so there is no way to stop the sweating itself. In order to prevent excess sweating find ways such as breathing techniques to remain calm.

9. Stiffness

If you’re stuff and tense all day long, your body can get to a point where it’s actually unable to relax on its own, which can cause muscle stiffness, back pain, headaches, etc.

People with anxiety often complain of pain in their shoulders, neck, head, and even the face…but why is it these areas? When we’re stressed or anxious, these are the first areas that hold this muscle tension. You may actually feel yourself tensing your shoulders and pulling them up to your ears. If you notice this, take some deep breaths and try to relax them.

How to help: Get into a routine of doing shoulder and neck stretches once or twice a day. Yoga can also be very effective in reducing shoulder and neck stiffness.[6]Roll a tennis ball between your back and a wall to help relieve stiffness.

10. Obsessive thoughts

People with anxiety often have recurring negative thoughts, which can make them feel like they have no control over their life and their perception of reality is altered. People with anxiety may start to feel like they are in danger or being threatened, which can make them start to feel like their “going crazy”. Try to be realistic and remind yourself that what you’re feeling probably isn’t real.

How to help: Understand and accept these thoughts as a symptom of your anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective tool for dealing with obsessive thinking.[7]

Image Source: Joe Lertola

About The Author

Marina Vázquez is a psychologist and writer at CogniFit, the leader in cognitive assessments. She is currently studying health psychology and clinical neuropsychology, and is an active member of various humanitarian and emergency aide organizations.