Anxiety symptoms presented here are not meant as definitive. They are more of a "user manual" of possible symptoms an anxious or depressed person can experience.
Symptoms are typical for any kind of anxiety disorder. Maybe you suffered from many of them; on the other hand some of those you experienced might not be listed here. Nature of anxiety is that its symptoms can change and manifest in variety of ways. Symptoms you experience can be different, more or less intense than with other people. That doesn't mean anything - we are all different in a way.
If you suffer from anxiety, it is very likely that your physical symptoms are caused by it.
Bare in mind that you don't need to understand human physiology, what is important is that every symptom you have can be explained. Don't dwell upon what you feel. Do something more creative and useful, do something constructive, practice, learn new skills and stop dealing with your physical symptoms.
You will feel better. All you need is some time and effort.
Agoraphobia is a normal response to anxiety and self-defense. When we feel threatened, we want to withdraw somewhere safe, like a turtle in its shell.
It is very important to establish control over this reaction. Avoiding situations is not an effective way to fight agoraphobia!
Agoraphobia can be very draining and is considered as one of the toughest symptoms of anxiety. Don't stop coming out; if you do that, you will soon notice that every time you must confront with outside world, you get a panic attack.
Panic can hit you even when you are at home thinking about going out, that's why you shouldn't behave like that. By using tactics for changing your mental focus that I recommend here, you will learn how to return to the outside world and enjoy it.
This takes practice and time, but it can be done.
Read more about agoraphobia here.
It is natural to feel angry when you are tired, sick, when you had enough of everything and when your condition isn't improving.
Think for a while about a certain situation that made you angry. If you study it well, you will realize that true reason for your anger is in your sorrow.
Aggression is a normal reaction to fear, "fight of flight" mechanism makes us ready to do just that: run or fight, and sometimes "fighting" looks like the best option. In situations like this, physically remove yourself out of the situation into another room if possible, take a deep breath, wait for a few minutes and think again.
Since blood retreats into muscles during anxiety attack, blood vessels, which give healthy pink color to the skin, receive less blood and skin loses its color. This isn't dangerous and color will return to normal as soon as blood normalizes after an attack. Some people with general anxiety disorder can constantly look a bit pale, but that's common and will return to normal.
Because of muscle tension, chest pain can really scare you. First reaction of all people who suffer from anxiety and feel chest pain is that they will die of a heart attack. That is not the case. Pain during a real heart attack is very different and usually doesn't even begin in the chest. Deep breathing and exercises for relaxation are very successful in reducing these symptoms. If someone can massage your upper body area (back, shoulders, chest) it will reduce tension in your tired muscles.
Pain in your face or jaw (similar to toothache)
Most of these symptoms are caused by tension. Not only by tension that has accumulated in your face, neck or shoulders and has than manifested in your yaw, but by the tension in the yaw itself.
Anxious people can often grind or clench their teeth when they are asleep or even when they are awake. This kind of tension can induce strong pain in yaw, face or teeth.
Best way to solve the problem is to reduce the tension, but if you can't stand the pain some pain pills will help.
Neck and shoulder pain, stiffness of the head and face
Blood vessels and nerves that supply your face and head have origins in neck and shoulders. Most of this nerves and blood vessels run through face and head.
When body is under stress, these parts are first to be affected by tension. Face stiffness can be very unpleasant but in most cases you have nothing to worry about because this pain is caused only by tension.
You can ask someone to massage your neck and shoulders. Professional masseurs are expensive but there are plenty of cheaper ones in beauty salons, fitness clubs and there is also a possibility of a mobile service.
Muscles, which move your head when you nod, are situated at the back of the neck and usually tension is generated there. Buy using your fingers, try to find a spot on the back of your head where skull ends and soft muscles of your neck begin - area where your neck muscles meet the base of your skull. Massage this area strongly using your thumbs, you may feel light reduction in tension and if you practice this regularly you can reduce the pain.
It is not at all known that headache or migraine have origins in neck tension and can be reduced using this kind of massage.
Rapid gastric emptying
This can be a very unpleasant side effect of anxiety and some medications like tranquilizers. You feel like you are full very quick, and sometimes like you are unable to breath. Soon after a meal you can feel your digestive system emptying really fast.
Avoiding spicy food and any kind of liquid before, during and immediately after a meal can improve your digestion. Avoid sour food and drinks, as well as aerated drinks and try to eat fresh food as much as you can, especially vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower that can be cooked in water or steam.
Derealization and depersonalization
These symptoms refer to the way you experience yourself. Derealization is a sensation of you and everything around you being unreal, dreamlike, as you would be looking through a fog or some sort of filter. These symptoms can be very disturbing.
Depersonalization is a sensation of being out of your body and looking at it from a different angle. It is known that people can experience depersonalization and derealization during panic attacks. Some people experience depersonalization first and when panic reaction occurs, derealization follows.
Shivers (visible and inner)
We shiver and shake when we feel cold or nervous. This is a normal reaction to fear and/or drop of body temperature. It occurs when muscles spasmodically contract creating friction between muscles and other tissue. Friction creates heat, which increases body temperature. During anxiety attacks, shiver is a normal response. It will pass.
Headache and sensation of a tight "belt" around the head
As I mentioned before, tension in your neck and shoulders can provoke great discomfort, migraine and stiffness. Sensation of a tight belt around your head is caused by tension of the muscles that cover the skull.
Contracted blood vessels and nerves in this tissue can induce very painful symptoms such as ache in the eyes, face, and teeth. Check the excerpt about neck and shoulders to learn how to solve these problems.
People who go through abstinence crisis can experience very frightening hallucinations, especially if a person doesn't know what they are and where they come from. Hallucinations are another in the series of transient symptoms. If you are in abstinence crisis - it will pass, but if you are not, consult with your doctor or other specialist, in this case hallucinations can be side effect of some medications you are using.
Hyperactivity is a word, which describes a series of symptoms which make you feel like you have to speak and do things faster. It can make you feel raving mad or irrational and you can find yourself doing things you normally don't do. This is a usual property of anxiety and abstinence crisis and it passes in time.
Anxiety can affect various systems in your body including endocrine system, which is responsible for balance in glands that release hormones. But glands can't control level of hormones in your body - brain does.
Confused messages in the brain and nervous system can lead to a slight disturbance in hormone release. When anxiety level turns to normal, level of hormones does too. In some cases hormones can induce serious problems, but your doctor can help you solve this problem.
Women can notice disturbances in menstrual cycle and on the other hand men can experience mood swings related to inconstancy of testosterone.
Lump in the throat and trouble swallowing
"Globus hystericus" is the correct term for this symptom. It occurs because of muscle contraction in the throat caused by stress and tension. Sometimes it seems you can't swallow anything, and even if you try it only gets worse. This symptom will also disappear if you ignore it. It is absolutely harmless and you won't stop breathing, eating, drinking, it's just very unpleasant.
Bad digestion, constipation and diarrhea
When panic attack occurs, blood from various parts of the body is directed to muscle tissue in order to supply it with enough oxygen needed for the "fight or flight" response. Area around digestive tract is especially well supplied with blood. Here, nutritional substances pass into bloodstream. During anxiety, blood is directed away from stomach, digestion slows down and muscles around stomach can cramp. This leads to bad digestion, constipation and diarrhea.
It's recommended to avoid anticides and other medications if possible. A glass of cold milk is the best natural antacid, and you can find a lot of natural remedies for constipation in various health shops. Exercises and various relaxation techniques are very effective in relieving some of these unpleasant symptoms.
POUNDING HEART, SLOW HEARTBEAT, PALPITATIONS
Anxiety releases adrenaline into bloodstream which speeds up the heart rate, therefore you feel like your heart is palpitating or skipping beats. This is absolutely normal and cannot hurt you in any possible way.
Slow heartbeat is also one of the usual signs of anxiety. And again, this doesn't mean that your heart will stop beating. It may seem weird or confusing but don't pay attention to it and chances are it will disappear by itself.
One of the most difficult consequences of anxiety is sleeplessness - inability to fall asleep. First thing you must remember about this is that the more you worry about it the worse it gets. Numerous worrying thoughts are disturbing enough even during the day, at night they become unbearable.
Here is a sleeping plan for you. It takes practice so don't give up:
1. Drink a cup of chamomile tea about 20 minutes before the usual sleeping time. Chamomile tea contains natural tranquillizer and you can buy it in a supermarket. You have to get used to its taste, maybe you won't like it but try to hold on. To reduce anxiety you can drink chamomile tea also during the day (try to limit yourself to 4 cups a day, otherwise you can get too sleepy).
2. If you are nervous about not being able to fall asleep, you will stay awake. Before you go to sleep do something you enjoy, watch TV, listen to music, dance - whatever... JUST DO IT UNTIL YOU FEEL TIRED. Don't go to bed until you are really tired and on a verge of sleeping in a chair. If you do fall asleep in a chair, ask your partner not to wake you up.
3. If you are already in bed, get up, drink something and watch TV. When you get tired, try to fall asleep again. If you don't succeed, repeat the procedure. If you stay awake till early morning, don't worry. Two or three hours of sleep are better than nothing. The more you practice your goodnight sleep, the more you will get it.
4. Recordings for relaxation are good, so is TV in your bedroom. If TV is disturbing for your partner, use the headphones. If you wake up during the night, wait for about 5 minutes to see if you will fall asleep again, otherwise turn on the TV. If you have a TV timer setting, set it up and watch TV until you fall asleep.
5. Lower your caffeine intake. Most people think that caffeine can be found only in coffee. This is not the case. We find it in aerated drinks, hot chocolate and tea. Don't stop drinking coffee at once as you may provoke an abstinence crisis.
6. Take a bath or a shower before sleeping. Have you noticed how quickly children fall asleep once you bathe them?
7. If you want to sleep properly do not drink alcohol. It releases a hormone called noradrenaline, which is a natural stimulant.
8. Bringing your work home will keep you awake while you are at it and will keep your mind busy even later.
9. Spend as much time as you can in the sunlight (walking or sitting in the park). It is proved that the more you are active during the day, the better you will sleep at night. THIS REALLY WORKS!
10. Exercise as much as you can, but don't overreact. DON NOT EXERCISE three hours before bedtime, it will keep you awake.
11. Unplug all electric devices from sockets in your bedroom.
12. Don't eat too much in the evening. Lying is not good for digestion.
Dreams and nightmares can mimic reality. When we are well rested and content, our dreams are pleasant and we usually don't remember them. If we are confused and upset, our dreams will probably reflect that.
Nightmares are harmless but they are also unpleasant. Practice your goodnight sleep, do exercises for breathing and relaxation. Your dreams will be more pleasant.
FEELING OF SHORT WIND AND CHOKING
This is one of the most difficult anxiety symptoms. You sometimes feel your chest can't expand enough to take air, other times it can feel like someone is pushing a pillow on your face.
What you need to remember is that this is only a feeling caused by exaggerated nerve impulses. These symptoms cannot and will not hurt you; you will not stop breathing, you will not faint away and will not suffocate.
As with all anxiety problems, the more you concentrate on them the more credibility they will have and the more you will feel them. I discovered that changing the focus is the most effective weapon against all anxiety symptoms - do something that will occupy you completely.
During an anxiety attack you can experience what is called hyperventilation. It's when breathing becomes too quick and too shallow. This causes blood to take too much oxygen and provokes many unpleasant panic symptoms and prolongs them.
ANGER AND STINGING OF THE SKIN
Nerve ends are alive and electrically charged. This can manifest as goose bumps, stinging of the skin or tickling. This is a result of confused nerve impulses and cannot harm you. Ignore it and they will pass in time.
Rash, spots or dry skin are often symptoms of anxiety and stress. Dermatitis most commonly affects the area around nose, face or forehead. You don't have to worry about it. It usually disappears as soon as you start feeling better. In health shops you can buy various natural cremes and lotions that heal dry skin, itching and rash.
During an anxiety attack, body fluids are diverted elsewhere which reduces moisture in the eyes and causes burning, dry and sensitive eyes. You can buy eye drops in a drugstore. It will help you keep your eyes hydrated.
INCREASED DEPRESSION AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS
Depression is a word that is usually misused for describing various conditions. People say every day: "I'm so depressed, I feel awful, I've had it!". That in most cases is not depression. Depression is a series of chemical unbalances, which are very closely related to anxiety disturbance.
Anxiety has many signs of depression and can mimic it very well. When you visit a doctor, complaining about bad mood and a low spirit, the simplest thing to prescribe is an antidepressant.
I wonder how many people, that should just rethink and reorganize their lives, are on antidepressants. Although, there are people who really find their only relief in antidepressant therapy, but in many cases people who get medicine prescribed don't really need it.
In Russia where medicines are to expensive to be given away as candy, doctors prescribe special exercises for anxiety and depression. Success of this kind of healing is very high.
Western world became too lazy in finding solutions for various simple illnesses. It's easier to stop by at a drug store during a lunch break and get a monthly supply of medicine.
Taking a walk, jogging or going to fitness center is too much hard work. If you are fed up and crying for every little thing, that's fine, anxiety is a terrible condition; but if you overcome your anxiety you will discover a reason to live with your lungs full.
I assure you, you will come out of this experience much stronger than when you got into it. Thinking about killing you is not only cowardly but also very selfish. You will become a stronger person if you keep fighting and get yourself out of this condition. Your life may seem hard, but it is as difficult as it is for anybody else.
If you love life fight for it! Endure and you will obtain a more enlightened view of life, you will experience the dark side and come out on the bright side of life. Buddhist monks walk this path for years to gain enlightenment; you will get yours when you are healed.
Going through your illness you become much stronger, compassionate and intelligent person. You will know what it means to love and be loved, live life and love every moment and every thing that represents it.
INCREASED SENSITIVITY TO LIGHT, SOUND, TOUCH AND SMELL
All these sensations are preparing you to see, hear, smell and perceive better and stronger when you get ready to "fight or flight". They can be very unpleasant but they are not dangerous. They are temporary and will come back to normal when level of anxiety lowers. Relaxation and breathing techniques will help you lower these symptoms.
This symptom is called tinnitus and is usually experienced as ringing or creaking in one or both ears. Tinnitus can be caused by many factors and can also be a side effect of tranquilizers or antidepressants; it can appear due to a slight increase of blood pressure, during anxiety attack or can simply be a result of confused nerve signals.
None of these symptoms can harm you and you should ignore all of them, they will pass in time. Listening to the music with headphones is the best way to handle tinnitus. Music overpowers ringing in the ears and makes it much more bearable.
VISION PROBLEMS (DISTORTED IMAGES)
When body is preparing for an upcoming danger it releases adrenaline, which causes many physical changes. During an anxiety attack, body prepares your eyes to perceive every tiny movement. Your pupils widen to receive as much light as possible.
This is why anxious people are so sensitive to strong light and must often wear sunglasses to avoid eye straining. Strong sensitivity to light is one of the vision problems.
Sometimes it seems to you as though inanimate objects are moving, flat surfaces ripple as sea waves, things become unreal, dreamlike and sometimes it seems as though you are looking through smoke or fog even when you are outside.
All this is in relation with distorted and confused signals that brain receives from sense organs during an anxious attack. You don't have to worry about them as they disappear with time.
During flu antibodies are released into bloodstream, which attack viruses. Combination of antibodies and infection makes you feel weak, sick and sweaty.
Anxiety has similar symptoms: weakness in the muscles, perspiration and pain. Believe it or not, the more you are physically active, the better you will feel.
Don't force yourself. Light exercise will help you burn the excess amount of adrenaline in your bloodstream and it will also help you breath properly.
Warm yourself up, drink a lot of liquids, eat modestly and often to regulate sugar level in your blood.
WEAKNESS AND SHUDDER IN HANDS AND FEET
"Fight or flight" reaction is very intense and mobilizes many systems of the body. Circulation, oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration in blood changes, muscles are tense and ready for action.
All these changes have deep impact on body sensations and weakness of the limbs (arms, hands, legs, feet) is one of these sensations. Shudder is caused by accumulated carbon dioxide in blood and limbs. If you shake your limbs, you can improve circulation in this area. These symptoms are not dangerous and will disappear in time. Light exercises can also improve this condition. THESE SYMPTOMS DO NOT INDICATE THAT YOU ARE HAVING A HEART ATTACK OR ANY OTHER NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEM.
FEAR OF GOING CRAZY AND LOSING CONTROL
We all have fear of going crazy and losing control but I assure you, you have nothing to fear. Craziness is not a willful act. People who suffer from serious mental illnesses are not aware of their condition. You won't go crazy.
Confused nerve messages in your brain, tired nerves and body do not point to craziness. Thoughts are unconscious product of brain activity. Anxiety, sadness, anger and stress affect your thoughts, mood and chemistry of your body.
Oxygen level in blood can affect your brain activity and central nervous system as well as other body chemicals such as adrenaline, hormones and even vitamins. Unpleasant thoughts, feelings and irrational fears cannot hurt you or hurt others.
Thought about hurting yourself or others is just a thought. As your body relaxes and becomes less and less anxious, your thinking process becomes normal again.
ELECTRIC SHOKS IN YOUR BODY
Nervous system is a very complex network with electric charge that can be found in every inch of your body, around every organ and throughout your whole skin - your largest body organ.
Abnormal nerve impulses caused by anxiety can summon up a whole array of weird sensations. Even though they are rather harmless, they can be also very unpleasant. You may feel like you are connected to electricity, with electric shocks in your arms, legs, feet, hands and chest.
Reducing general anxiety and correct practice of breathing exercises can help you overcome this problem. These symptoms disappear as level of anxiety lowers. Don't take much notice of these symptoms, focus on something else, disarm them and they will DISAPPEAR.
Since body liquids are pulled to other body parts during an anxiety attack, your mouth is left dry. In extreme cases doctor can prescribe you a medication regarding this problem, but it is very expensive. Dryness cannot hurt you and will disappear when anxiety lowers.
Perspiration is a normal body reaction, which aims to reducing body temperature. As body builds heat, sweat glands release sweat. Evaporating, sweat deflects heat and keeps your body cool. During anxiety attack, body is prepared to run of fight and therefore releases sweat to cool itself from upcoming fatigue. As tension lowers, sweat concentration turns to normal.