The Physical Manifestations of Anxiety: 5 Telltale Symptoms

Anxiety disorders often present themselves both psychologically and physically. As a person’s brain anticipates a possible threat, it signals the body to go into fight-or-flight mode. The perceived threat causes the body to tense up and becomes restless, increasing the person’s heart rate, muscle tension, and sweating.

In conjunction with excessive worrying, these physical symptoms play a significant role in diagnosing different anxiety disorders, most notably generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The presence of multiple physical symptoms (or even just one in children) could be indicative of GAD and requires professional help. With this, it may be helpful to look at the symptoms commonly associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Symptom #1: The presence of muscle tension

Because anxiety activates the body’s fight-or-flight response, muscles tend to tense up in anticipation of a threat. In normal anxiety, muscles tend to relax when a person feels that the threat is no longer there. In GAD, however, the muscles tend to tense up even when a threat passes.

The jaw, neck, shoulder, and back muscles are particularly susceptible to these persistent pains and soreness. The tension typically only subsides when the person uses mindfulness and relaxation skills or certain medications.

Symptom #2: Sudden headaches and dizziness

A person with GAD tends to feel worried and distressed for most of the day, in more days than not. This can lead to a racing train of thought or relentless fear about a specific topic. The person may experience headaches and dizziness due to this.

Symptom #3: The feeling of being on edge

Feeling on edge can present itself as irritability, being easily startled, or through twitching, shaking, fidgeting, and trembling. These may not be apparent to the individual experiencing GAD but can be seen by observers. Shortness of breath may also be seen but is typically more apparent in panic disorders.

Symptom #4: Sleep disturbances and fatigue

People with GAD continuously worry about circumstances going on in their lives, which leads to exhaustion and fatigue. Always worrying also makes it difficult for them to fall or stay asleep, further exacerbating their fatigue.

Symptom #5: Unexplainable digestive problems

The body’s fight-or-flight response affects the digestive system, and persons with anxiety may often experience unexplained digestive problems in the absence of a medical illness. They may often have nausea, an upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation, which can greatly affect a person’s daily functioning.

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While anxiety is mostly regarded as a mental condition, physical symptoms surrounding it are very much real. As a common disorder, anxiety often goes undiagnosed and untreated. If you are experiencing symptoms, especially those manifesting physically, it is best to talk to a professional.

Understand that anxiety can worsen over time, which can impede your daily functions and overall mental well-being. Early intervention is critical, so once you identify physical symptoms and feel discomfort, seek therapy, and treatment right away.

For affordable therapy in NYC, Therapy24x7 is the place to call. We offer psychotherapy and life-coaching services, which are offered both in-office and online. As a team committed to upholding the utmost care for patients, we provide enhanced coping strategies and results-based therapy for various mental conditions, including anxiety, depression, and stress management, among others. For more information, reach out to us today.


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