4 Symptoms You May Not Realize Can Be Caused By Anxiety


Anxiety has nothing to do with courage or character. Nothing at all.

It is a common misconception that anxiety is an obvious thing that anyone could see or tell they are feeling. Many times, someone may not realize they, their family member or their child is experiencing anxiety when it is showing up as a physical symptom or an emotion that isn’t outward, obvious panic. The good news is, no matter how anxiety is showing up for you — whether it’s thoughts, emotions, physical symptoms or all of the above, it can be treated, you can gain skills to cope with it and you can take control over your symptoms. While it may take time, patience and a dose of self-compassion and commitment, the journey can teach you more about yourself and in turn can help you be healthier and more in tune with your mind and body. If you or one of your family members is experiencing the following, do get checked by a physician, and reach out to a counselor who can help you learn where your anxiety comes from and what you can do to ease or eliminate your symptoms.

Here are some symptoms that may indicate you are struggling with anxiety:

1. Digestive issues

While stomach upset can be due to many things, such as food allergies and medical conditions, it can sometimes be due to anxiety. The stomach and intestines, or “the gut,” as they are referred to in medicine, hold serotonin, the same chemical we have in our brains. When the level of serotonin is disrupted, this can cause stomach upset in the form of stomach cramps, heartburn, bowel changes and nausea.

2. Sleep disturbances

Many people throughout their lifetime will find they are experiencing difficulty sleeping, and this can be expected, especially when there are life changes or the anticipation of something nerve-wracking, such as an interview, a presentation or moving homes. However, if you have had trouble sleeping for a length of time due to repetitive thoughts, decisions you have to make are causing panic and resulting in you having difficulty falling or staying asleep, or you are waking in the middle of the night with thoughts of worry, this may be a result of anxiety.

3. Muscle tension and aches and pains

While it is normal to get aches and pains in our body from time to time — from pulling a muscle working out or sleeping in an uncomfortable position, muscle tension, such as neck or back pain, can sometimes be due to anxiety. When we feel anxious, without realizing it, we tense our muscles, straining them and causing tension which can cause us to feel sore. When you are anxious, for example, in traffic, you may strain your neck or your upper back by the way you are clenching the steering wheel, or you might feel tension in your lower back or neck due to the way you are sitting at your computer, when you are typing away to try to meet a deadline. Check in with yourself and your body. Try to zone in on where you feel tension, and relax this part of your body by light stretching, using a foam roller, taking a walk or taking an Epsom salt bath (check with your doctor first!). If this continues, it might mean that your aches and pain are your body’s way of expressing anxiety.

4. Irritability

You may notice you, your child or someone you love acting or feeling irritable, and it is common to brush this off as a bad mood or frustration. Of course, most of the time, someone displaying irritability likely is due to common factors — frustration, lack of sleep, low blood sugar, dehydration or increased stress. However, these very things, such of lack of sleep and increased stress, that result in irritability, can sometimes be due to anxiety. Sometimes when we notice someone is in a “bad mood” or is “snappy,” we automatically think it is a bad mood that will pass, when really, it’s a sign of anxiety. When someone is anxious and is having difficulty coping, they may feel overwhelmed, and may feel sensory overload, which may be expressed by displaying irritability rather than fear, panic, worry or tears. The next time you or someone you love is feeling anxious, check in and ask, “Could this be worry or stress? How long has this been going on for?” If you are finding irritability is frequent, and has increased in duration, anxiety may be the reason.

Anxiety can show itself in so many forms and can vary from person to person. Some people may become overly social when they are anxious, talking frequently and quickly, to try to mask their anxiety, while others may become very quiet, for fear people might notice they are feeling anxious.  Some people may have difficulty sleeping, and some people may be so exhausted from their anxiety they have difficulty getting out of bed. All are very real, and difficult and frustrating. Please know, though these symptoms can be overwhelming, knowing (by getting this confirmed by a doctor or therapist) it is anxiety you are experiencing brings about a freedom, because this gives you a direction to go in to feel better. For the symptoms above and more, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and mindfulness strategies can help you take back control, tap into your feelings and body cues, ease symptoms and build confidence. Don’t let yourself struggle with difficult and intrusive symptoms for too long. Reach out to a professional, ask questions and share your story.

You are worthy of feeling better and of being able to live the life you desire. There is hope and there is help.

Unsplash photo via Tiko Giorgadze


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