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16 'Hidden' Signs of Anxiety We Don't Talk About


When you struggle with anxiety, it can sometimes feel necessary to go to great lengths to hide it. Or other times, an anxiety struggle that seems so apparent to you won’t register with the people around you at all.

We wanted to know what “hidden” signs of anxiety people live with, so we asked our community to share their experiences with us. You can read what they said below. No matter what “hidden” signs you live with, you deserve support. If you’re struggling, please reach out to a trusted loved one or professional — you don’t have to struggle in silence.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “Avoidance of things I like. Tightness in my shoulder muscles (happens every day). Stomach flipping. So much checking!” — Shana K.

2. “My jaw locks and pops and feels heavy, like a weight is attached to it.” — Shereen S.

3. “I count more, which you don’t necessarily see, but if I’m supposed to be listening to someone but it appears I’m off in another world, it’s because I’m counting something usually over and over again. You might be able to see it in my fingers going back and forth tapping and I’m counting in my head.” — Adah J.

4. “Inability to move. Sometimes I have to physically force myself to re-engage in order to check back in and start my tasks. It’s like I just freeze.” — Rachel P.

5. “Catastrophizing. Things easily become a much bigger deal than they really are. For example, my dog had diarrhea one day and my thought process went from over the counter meds to vet visits and money to ‘He’s going to die because I can’t afford a vet!’ Then the catastrophic thoughts are all I can think about until the threat has passed. My dog is fine, by the way, but it was a hairy two days.” — Tamasvi G.

Need a non-judgmental place to talk about anxiety? Download our app and connect with others using the hashtag #Anxiety.

6. “I used to pick really bad at the side of my thumb until it would bleed. But now I clench my jaw a lot. I would say those are fairly hidden signs that I’m anxious. But usually my face gives it away.” — Melissa F.

7. “Constant muscle tension. People don’t always ‘see’ my anxiety, but I’ve had friends touch me and feel it. I’m in pain most of the time from the stress my body is under.” — Phaedra M.

8. “Wetting myself. I literally can’t help it. I repeat in my head please don’t do this and it’s like an overwhelming rush, a wave of emotion grips my body. I get [frozen] and before I can do anything, I have wet myself and then am back to being calm.” — Meme M.

9. “Sensory overload. Too bright, too hot, too loud, too many smells. An ordinary situation will overwhelm my senses so much that I have to leave.” — Kara N.

10. “Dissociation. When my anxiety gets bad enough, I will start to dissociate. I sometimes don’t know where I am or what’s going on around me, and I am not very responsive to others.” — Rachel B.

11. “I’ve found I get blocked up sinuses, ears and a running nose when I’m feeling super anxious! The only common thing when this happens is my high anxiety, and even my doctor thinks it’s the cause.” — Molly B.

12. “Using tables, chairs, walls or whatever is available to balance yourself. When I’m severely anxious especially in public I feel off balance and like I’m going to fall. Sometimes I won’t walk across a room if there isn’t anything to hold onto.” — Dee M.

13. “Constantly feeling sick. I can’t always differentiate between my physical unwellness and mental illness. I am usually in some sort of discomfort.” — April S.

14. “A tight neck and migraines. I see a chiropractor regularly.” — Kel S.

15. “Numbness in hands and arms. I haven’t heard many people talk about that, but it happens every time my anxiety hits a certain point.” — Sadie C.

16. “I get hot flashes when I’m in an episode. It took me a while to even recognize this as anxiety.” — Janel C.

What are some “hidden signs” of your anxiety? Tell us in the comments.

Unsplash photo via Raj Eiamworakul