Recognizing the Common Symptoms of Anxiety

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Every memory, emotion, and thought you experience has a direct impact on your body. In the midst of a crisis, physical or emotional, your heart rate increases, your muscles tense, and your breathing changes to prepare your body to deal with the emergency at hand. As a result, you feel fearful or anxious. Your body stays in alarm mode until internal signals indicate the danger has passed.

Because everyone experiences occasional bouts of anxiety, many people don’t realize they are living with an anxiety disorder. If you are one of the many people living with this common mental health condition, you could experience episodes of heightened anxiety lasting several hours, several days, or even several weeks at a time. While there are specific types of anxiety including situational anxiety, social anxiety, and panic disorders, the symptoms are similar.

Heightened Anxiety Levels Are a Natural Response to Perceived Danger

The physical changes you experience in times of crisis have a purpose, serving as an alarm system to prepare your body to defend itself in battle or flee a hostile environment. Occasional anxiety is your body’s normal reaction to the perception of danger.

While stress is often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety, sometimes the circumstances triggering anxiety symptoms are not always clear. Anxiety disorders can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing, altering the way you live your life and interpret the world around you. Many people living with an anxiety disorder do not recognize their symptoms as being anxiety-related. Recognizing the symptoms of anxiety can help you learn to diffuse the alarm.

Anxiety Disorders Can Cause Excessive Worry or Intrusive Thoughts 

When you worry, you are experiencing a normal response to uncertainty. Worry can be beneficial, a means of anticipating possible events and taking steps to increase your odds of a favorable outcome. But worrying can become excessive. Those living with anxiety may feel fearful, worried, or anxious even when there is no apparent cause to be focusing on the issues that occupy their thoughts. With excessive worry, the extent of concern has little to do with the urgency of the situation.

If your worry is the result of an anxiety disorder, you may rationalize your obsessive thoughts or support the belief that worrying prevents negative situations from occurring. You might also find that you worry about multiple subjects throughout the day. As a symptom of anxiety, excessive worry can make it difficult to concentrate on anything other than the subject of your distress.

You may also find that each replay of possible outcomes draws your thoughts closer to the edge of the worst possible outcome. If you have been worried about unrelated events every day for at least six months, you could be living with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Living with Anxiety Can Cause Relentless Fatigue

While anxiety can interfere with your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, sleep deprivation is not the only reason anxiety causes fatigue. Because anxiety causes a state of hyper arousal because it affects your heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension, living with anxiety can cause extreme fatigue.

If you are living with anxiety, you may find that you frequently feel exhausted or have little energy. You might even sleep most of the day and still feel drained because of the strain that stress and anxiety exert on your body.

During periods of heightened alarm, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, stress hormones that tax your resources. The amount of time your body needs to recover from stress is nearly equal to the duration of your anxiety symptoms. If anxiety symptoms occur frequently, your body may not have enough time to recover between episodes.

Learning to manage the symptoms of anxiety could alleviate your fatigue and allow you to regain lost energy. Alleviating anxiety can also help you fall asleep easier and improve sleep quality.

Anxiety Disorders Can Cause Isolation and Loneliness

Intense anxiety symptoms can cause significant discomfort. The symptoms of anxiety can be so severe that many people living with anxiety eventually avoid situations that trigger symptoms. Avoidance is easier.

The reasons for avoidance can depend on the nature of the anxiety disorder. Consider social anxiety for example. A person living with social anxiety may feel as though they are continuously scrutinized or judged by others. When a person with social anxiety considers attending an event; symptoms heighten at the mere thought of attending, so plans are canceled.

Anxiety can alter the script of your internal dialogue, change the way you interact with the world around you, and dampen your spirit. When avoiding social situations, the avoided symptoms of anxiety are often replaced by feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression.

Anxiety Can Cause Difficulty Breathing or Shortness of Breath

Those living with an anxiety disorder commonly experience shortness of breath. If anxiety is affecting your breathing, you may feel like you are choking, smothering, or suffocating.

If you experience shortness of breath as a potential symptom of anxiety, it’s important to recognize that feeling like you are not getting enough oxygen is commonly caused by over breathing, breathing in excess of your body’s needs.  When anxiety triggers the alarm in your brain, a rapid sequence of hormonal changes causes your heart to beat faster as your airways open wider.

Many people compensate for the changes in their heart rate and respiration by breathing more deeply. This can result in taking in too much oxygen and expelling too much carbon dioxide, leading to hyperventilation. The resulting hyperventilation can cause tingling in your hands, lips, or feet, nausea, confusion, or dizziness. You may also find that your hands shake and your knees tremble.

One of the most effective methods of diffusing anxiety is to resist the urge to over breathe when you feel anxious. Breathing calmly and naturally through your nose will help you resist the urge to inhale deeply. Breathing calmly also sends the signal to your brain that the crisis has passed which will help alleviate your symptoms.


Some people experience occasional anxiety symptoms while others are prone to daily episodes. The effects of anxiety can range from minor to debilitating and change from day to day. Many people living with anxiety find their symptoms improve by maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and adopting various stress relieving activities, including yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises.