24 Surprising Physical Symptoms of Mental Illness


Mental illnesses are often referred to as “invisible illnesses,” which is what can make them so challenging to understand and talk about. It’s easy for people to assume what you’re going through is “all in your head” when it seemingly only affects your mood and emotions.

But the truth is, mental illnesses can manifest physically, too. That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to tell us some surprising physical symptoms they experience because of mental illness. Because by talking about all aspects of mental illness, we can continue to break the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds mental health.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “Constant tension to the point where I don’t realize it and to me, it becomes natural. Only recently have I realized that my body automatically tenses up no matter what I’m doing, even if it’s just laying down. I really have to focus to relax my body. It amazes me because like I said, it’s just become natural to me.” — Mary Catherine K.

2. “Grinding my teeth to the point where my teeth hurt daily and I have had teeth out because of my anxiety.” — Susie S.

3. “A sore throat. I know I’m getting run down with stress and making myself ill when I keep getting sore throats or a sore throat I can’t get rid off. I usually pick up on it because I don’t actually have a cold or any other cold symptoms.” — Amy W.

4. “My anxiety causes my body to swell like a balloon. Whenever I have an anxiety attack, my eyes swell shut, my lips swell, as well as my hands and legs. Sometimes I swell so bad I get migraines from the pressure and I can’t walk.” — Emally B.

5. “Uncontrollable sweating, especially at night. I regularly wake up soaking.” — Charli B.

6. “Yawning. When anxiety gets bad and is bordering on panic, I yawn a lot.” — Kelly V.

7. “I get this terrible build up of energy throughout my entire body in moments of extreme uncomfortable irritability. It’s extremely uncomfortable and typically results in me compulsively clenching my fists or smacking myself until the moment is gone. It’s kind of like trying to sneeze, but you can’t. Except it’s your entire body. It’s awful.” — Elizabeth T.

8. “Fatigue. I never realized how fatigued my body could feel. It’s like walking around with weights all over my body on my rough days. Even when my mind is more clear or more awake, my body drags me back down.” — Sarah D.

9. “Stomach problems. I’ll feel nauseous, have irregular bowel movements, random stomach pains, I’ll be hungry almost immediately after I’ve eaten or not feel hungry at all.” — Matthew Z.

10. “My inability to react to stimulus on any level. Even if it is good news it would seem as if I didn’t care.” — Erik H.

11. “The tiredness. The constant lack of energy and nothing seems worthwhile anymore. It makes me start to wonder why I bother, like everything is just a waste of time and takes up so much energy. It completely changes the way I think about things.” — Katrina S.

12. “Horrible rashes on my neck, arms and legs that look like heat rash. It gets so bad it turns into open sores.” — Larissa M.

13. “Severe twitches. Especially in the hands, arms, head and neck.” — Angelique B.

14. “My eyes can’t focus ‘normally,’ they will look at lights or odd things like the wispy bits of hair above someone head and not on their eyes for example.” — Emily M.

15. “The sharp stomach pains mixed with cold sweats, headaches and very high fatigue to the point where it hurts to move. I also get negative thoughts and just get the urge to sleep and stay in my room either sleeping or listening to music while curled up petting my dog.” — Breeana Garza

16. “I have these permanent eye bags no matter how much or how little I sleep, an ache in my neck and tense shoulders, breakouts and most of the time when I blink, one of my eyes feels glued shut and I have a difficult time opening it.” — Sithary Y.

17. “Nonstop heart palpitation for a couple of hours, stomach problems, hyperventilation, inability to focus, fatigue, hands and legs cant stop shaking, the feeling of ‘you just needed to cry out loud with no apparent reason.’” — Priscilla S.

18. “I get really hot and start sweating when my anxiety is high. My friend and I joke that it’s like I’m having hot flashes. However, at the time it’s happening, it’s not too funny. I also have stomach cramping and often fell like throwing up when I’m having prolonged anxiety attacks.” — Lindsay P.

19. “My mind is full of things I need to do or should do, but physically, my body just can’t do it. Even sorting through my mind of what’s a priority or something simple, yet my body physically just can’t get moving to do anything.” — Michael T.

20. “It sounds weird, but my doctor has told me my anxiety and Aspergers apparently heighten my sensitivity a lot, which means I can’t even be brushed or lightly touched without being tickled. And I also can’t stand handling certain textures, like cotton balls.” — Keegan L.

21. “Long term dizzy spells that last for weeks up to a couple of months to the point where I get stuck homebound because I can’t drive or work.“ — Erica D.

22. “I have a type of eczema on my hands caused by anxiety. Every time I get anxious my hands flare up with little itchy water blisters that turn into open sores.” — Kalie C.

23. “I lose feeling in my feet and hands — they go extremely tingly and then numb — along with my stomach, it drops and then goes numb and my whole body tingles. I get migraines that last for days and diarrhea.” — Kaela W.

24. “After hospitalizations I experience phantom smells. I thought I had ruined my room because it smelled so bad. I would sit far away in public.” — Gary C.

Can you relate?

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

Vector romantic scene. Couple with umbrella walking along the avenue in the rain

6 Tips for Having Sound Mental Health in Your Marriage

I believe there’s no better shield against loneliness and isolation than marriage, and mentally healthy couples enjoy better marriages. Research shows married couples have fewer mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, and enjoy overall good health. But sometimes, we can encounter issues that challenge the state of our mental health: the loss of a loved one, a change in [...]

How J.K. Rowling Helped Me Become 'The Girl Who Lived'

Editor’s Note: The following piece contains spoilers for the “Harry Potter” series and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” I wrote recently about how fantasy and books saved my life, and they really truly did. The fantasy world gave me the one thing that I struggled to hold on to: hope. As a younger child, [...]
watercolor illustration of girl melting or running water

The Truth Behind My Decision to Admit Myself to the Psychiatric Hospital

In the past year, I’ve admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital three times. You read that right. Not once, not twice, but on three different occasions. Now when I tell people this, I usually get the same kind of response. People will look at me, amazed, as if they can’t believe what I’m saying. They will [...]
Tweet from Crissy Milazzo which reads "im making a public spreadsheet of affordable therapy options across the U.S. it's public and you can add your own."

This Crowdsourced List Was Designed to Help You Find Affordable Therapy in Your State

After three of her friends died by suicide over the course of a year, Crissy Milazzo knew she had to do something to help people access mental health care. A writer with more than 10,000 followers on Twitter, Milazzo decided to crowdsource a list of affordable therapy options across the U.S. — a list she’s since [...]