12 Anxiety Symptoms: Fear sharpens the senses while anxiety paralyzes them
Anxiety Symptoms. “I’m worried all day excessively about anything that happens to me”, “I feel agitated and nervous and at night I have a hard time falling asleep” Sometimes, I feel pressure in my chest and lack of air”… these are some of the symptoms or most frequent signs that people with anxiety refer to day to day.
Anxiety symptoms can be very useful, even when moderate, since they help us stay alert in different situations. Any emotion that is not too intense is useful because it enables us to react in dangerous situations. However, anxiety manifestations start becoming a problem when they are disabling and start taking control of our lives. Think you suffer from anxiety? Think you are capable of identifying the symptoms or signs? Continue reading!
“Fear sharpens the senses while anxiety paralyzes them (Kurt Goldstein)”
Anxiety is an evolutionary defense mechanism, a process of physiological activation and a negative emotion associated together and viewed as a possible threat. The most common response to this is the fight-flight. Problems with anxiety symptoms start to happen when we incorrectly interpret the anxiety response. We allow the signs and angst to take over, becoming a main source of discomfort and pain. If prolonged for a period of time, anxiety symptoms can be paralyzing, making us feel defenseless. When this is the case, the symptoms are a clear sign of a disorder which is usually common among women due to day to day stress.
“Anxiety is the mind going faster than life itself (Claudio Maria Domínguez)”
The United States National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) establishes that 18.1% of adults have suffered from anxiety disorder.
Anxiety symptoms can manifest in different ways from person to person. There are many distress symptoms that can each vary in intensity and frequency and just the presence of one symptom can generate great suffering and uneasiness. The more frequent the manifestations of angst, the more confusion and fear the person is exposed to and therefore higher levels of anxiety. Its important that the person does not focus on the symptoms themselves because it can increase their anxiety and even make them think they have a serious illness.
There are different types of anxiety symptoms:
Physical anxiety symptoms: Physiological changes produced in our bodies (arrhythmia, sweating, nauseousness…)
Cognitive anxiety symptoms: Changes in our way of thinking and reasoning (all or nothing thinkers, increase rumination, susceptibility, loss of concentration…)
Behavioral anxiety symptoms: Changes in our behavior that others become aware of, such as, impulsiveness and changes in our body expression…)
Social anxiety symptoms: Changes in the way we interact and relate with others (irritability, difficulty expressing opinions, excessive daydreaming…)
Psychological anxiety symptoms: Changes in our mind (angst, insecurity, fear of losing control…)
12 Common Anxiety Symptoms
There are many signs of anxiety however since its impossible to name all of them, we will discuss the most common and frequent manifestations.
1. Restlessness and uncertainty in anxiety
The person suffering signs of anxiety is in a constant state of nervousness without a concrete cause. Its the most common of symptoms.
2. Heart palpitations, arrhythmias and chest pain in anxiety
Another usual sign of anxiety is heart palpitations, our heart starts to race without a concrete reason. Its a very confusing symptom since it can be mistaken for a heart attack. It usually comes with a slight chest pain and the person starts to believe something more serious is happening, increasing anxiety.
The chest pain is produced due to excess air in the lungs, these become bigger and press against our ribs.
3. Shortness of breath and choking sensation in anxiety
Have you ever felt as if you can’t breathe properly or as if the air wasn’t enough? These symptoms are usually the most unpleasant and nerve-wrecking. They happen because the body is in charge of regulating the air that flows through in and out. However, when we are nervous we introduce more air than the body can handle or consume in a short amount of time. The oxygen is then accumulated in the body and we start loosing control of our breathing. This is usually accompanied by a choking sensation or dry mouth.
4. Light-headed and paleness in anxiety
During an episode of anxiety we might get light-headed and start feeling a bit dizzy. This is due to the excess oxygen in the body and the fear of passing out. This sensation is very difficult to control, however, we will not pass out since our blood pressure tends to rise when we are anxious, reducing our risk of passing out. We might also turn pale because our blood is focused on our muscles. Its important to act natural and try not to overthink the symptoms.
5. Apprehension in anxiety
Its common to start feeling an excessive concern for future misfortunes with a sense of little or no control over them. Overthinking the mishaps, can lead to feelings of despair, concentration problems and difficulty in relating to others. Its important not to think ahead but instead focus on the now.
6. Low self esteem and depression in anxiety
People with anxiety experience symptoms of constant irritability and fatigue. These two symptoms can lead to low self-esteem and depression. Depression and anxiety are closely related and people suffering from both can suffer from suicidal thoughts. Its important to seek help immediately and tell close ones how you are feeling.
7. Sleep problems in anxiety
A common sign of anxiety is insomnia and night terrors. People tend to ruminate about daily issues and these cause sleep deprivation. Its important not to frustrate ourselves when this happens but to look for strategies that can help us relax, listening to music, yoga or even relaxation exercises may help reduce rumination. For night terrors, its always important to remember they are innocuous.
8. Cold sweats in anxiety
Due to our fight-flight response, our body’s temperature starts to rise to compensate for the sweating that the body tension is producing. This can cause cold sweats and even shivers when the temperature starts to lower. Its important to not overthink the symptoms since they tend to disappear once the anxiety episode is over.
9. Body stiffness or tension in anxiety
Since the body is in tension throughout the episode, its common for headaches, backaches and angst to set in. Back and neck pains as well as face or head numbness can be due to this tension. The excess carbon dioxide in the body can also cause tingling in our hands or feet. These manifestations can be often confused for a stroke therefore it is imperative not to panic and ride the storm.
10. Stomach ache, skin rashes and hormone imbalances in anxiety
When going through anxiety, its common for people to suffer from diarrhea, indigestion, constipation, nausea and acid reflux. Since all of the oxygen in the body is concentrated in the muscles, preparing them for the fight-flight response, the digestive tract lacks the blood it needs to absorb the nutrients causing these ailments. Anxiety can also cause skin eczema, rashes and even unbalances in our endocrine system, producing changes in women’s menstrual cycle and men’s testosterone levels.
11. Obsessive thoughts and feelings of threat
People with anxiety can have recurring negative thoughts and feelings of loosing control over their world. Its common to have a negative perspective on the world and to be more pessimistic about life. Its usual for people to think they are living in a dream and they start to feel lost which can make all the other symptoms more intense.
12. “I think I´m going crazy” (derealization and depersonalization in anxiety)
After several episodes of anxiety, regardless of the symptoms, the brain starts to feel exhausted and people start to think they are going crazy. Don’t panic! You are not going insane, your thoughts are being modulated by your feelings and your lack of control over the situation. Its usual to start avoiding situations that aggravate the symptoms or signs of anxiety and to be confused. In more extreme and rare cases, derealization and depersonalization might happen. It is when you feel nothing that surrounds you is real.
“Even if anxiety is a part of life, don’t ever let it control your movements” Paulo Coelho.
Feel free to share if you have any other anxiety symptoms or questions comment below. 🙂
This article was originally written in Spanish by Mairena Vázquez, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.