Why We Need to Remember the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

For about six months of my life, I had a constant lump in my throat. When I woke up in the morning it was there and it remained with me until I fell asleep at night. It impacted my ability to talk, swallow, eat and drink. I went to several ENT doctors and they told me there was nothing wrong. It terrified and frustrated me. It was anxiety.

Throughout my battle with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder, I have experienced a vast number of physical symptoms. They are, in my mind, the most unsettling part of anxiety. I would personally take ruminating thoughts over physical symptoms any day. And when people tell me I just need to “worry less” or “think positively,” I forget we often do not talk about the very real physical side of anxiety.

Imagine living your life with regular periods of having a lump in your throat, blurred vision, shaking uncontrollably, feeling your heart race and experiencing your body temperature changing rapidly. Or perhaps feeling suddenly and unexpectedly dizzy, nauseous or like your legs are Jell-O. And imagine you have to live and function through these things because, despite numerous medical tests, everything looks normal and the answer you have been given is “you have anxiety.”

When my physical symptoms of anxiety were at their worst, they felt unbearable. I often wanted to scream, cry, hide and run away, all at the same time. I have now learned to cope with and manage these symptoms so they do not terrify me anymore. And the lesson I have learned from them has been one of the most important in my life — anxiety lives in our minds but also very much in our bodies. It sets off an alarm system within us that tells us we are in danger and need to fight, flee or freeze, and our body reacts accordingly. So please remember, when someone tells you they are feeling anxious, it’s not “all in their head” but that they feel it very much in their body too.

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