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10 Ways 'Anxiety Pain' Manifests

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Anxiety doesn’t just happen in our heads — it actually can live in our bodies

If you experience anxiety, you probably know this well. For some, though, it might come as a surprise just how physical anxiety can be. Because some people felt anxiety before knowing what it was, we can’t leave out physical symptoms when we’re educating people about what anxiety really looks like.

So, to find out the different ways anxiety manifests physically, we turned to our mental health community. For tips and tricks for dealing with “anxiety pain,” head here.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. Teeth Grinding

“Teeth grinding in my sleep. I don’t know that it’s happened until I wake up feeling my sore jaw and a massive headache from the pressure. Those who have heard/seen it happen have said that it sounds like nails on a chalkboard.” — Melissa N.

“I’ve been told that I grind my teeth when I’m sleeping, and I catch myself several times a day clenching my teeth. I’m sure that’s part of the reason I get toothaches and have lost pieces of tooth occasionally.” — Dawn C. 

“My stomach problems are a big one, but the worst is teeth grinding. It started when I was younger, and has gotten a little better since, but not by a lot. I’ve tried bite guards but they gag me unless I cut them way back, so they don’t really help much anyway.” — Emily L.

2. Chest Pain

“I sometimes have severe chest pains or hives. The chest pains can be so bad, I’ve said it’s like having a heart attack even though I’ve never experienced one. The hives often feel like ants slowly crawling on each nerve ending causing me to claw my skin.” — Kaylee B.

“Chest pains combined with pain running down my arms. Burning pain all over the skin covering my body. And a constant pained and upset stomach. Head ache. Pain in my lungs when breathing in the middle of an anxiety attack.” — Emelie L.

“I get chest pains and have a hard time getting a full breath in. I used to confuse the breathing with my asthma. The chest pains aren’t so bad I have to go in unless they won’t go away for a few days.” — Lala M.

3. Stomach Problems

“Massive stomach problems — I have IBS anyway and anxiety pushes it up to max level. At it’s worst, chronic nausea and vomiting too… it can be debilitating.” — Becki K.

“My stomach hurts almost constantly. My shoulders and jaw are sore from clenching my muscles, and from that the pain spreads to my head, my neck and my back. I’m always in pain because of anxiety.” — Jessica C.

“Growing up, my parents brought me to the doctor multiple times because of stomach pain and nausea. It got to the point where I had to skip classes because of the pain. It wasn’t until my doctor asked me to track the stomach pain when I realized it always happened along with stress headaches. As an adult, it still happens; I just know the cause now.” — Alex K.

“It can cause major pains in my chest, but the biggest pain for me is in my stomach. Whether it be from anxiety making me gassy or diarrheal, or just from the feeling of iron butterflies in my stomach, it hurts the most.” — Kaitlyn R.

“My stomach. My anxiety causes twists and knots it feels like. Sometimes I get nauseous and have bowel issues. Other times it’s just intense pain.” — Krystal T.

4. Clenched Jaw

“I clench my jaw almost constantly. I have full body tremors which causes me to ache all over. I also pull out my hair strand by strand, and don’t even realize I’m doing it.” — Keegan M.

“I clench my jaws constantly. It creates headaches daily if I don’t do self-care like exercises, stretches and heat. I have a mouth splint I wear nightly and I need to get massages often, but it’s pretty much just a temporary fix.” — Kimberlee B.

“Jaw clenching which results in significant pain. I was recently diagnosed with TMJ which makes a lot of sense and is most definitely caused by my anxiety.” — Nahrissa R.

5. Hives

“Full body chronic hives run my life when I’m struggling with my anxiety .
They aren’t just on my thighs, they make their way to my arms, legs, back, sides, shoulders, feet and hands. They’ll get so bad sometimes I’ll experience anaphylaxis
and will need to seek medical attention. Each time it’s nothing to do with allergens because I’ve done all of the testing — it’s simply stress and anxiety induced. It makes me feel like I’m a problem.” — Kaitlyn A.

“I get anxiety hives. Mostly on my arms, face, and scalp. I hate the incessant itching, I feel like people assume I have bad hygiene.” — Emily S.

6. Headaches and Migraines

“My anxiety can get so bad it causes massive migraines. I’ve blacked out from the pain before. I’ve also fainted from panic attacks, which cause me to have anxiety from being so embarrassed.” — Ray W.

“I get migraines from the stress or lack of hunger it’s bad enough to lose my appetite. Or an upset stomach because I mistake my anxiety as a ‘gut feeling.’” — Andie E.

7. Back Aches

“Back ache from not being able to release tension. Jaw ache from teeth grinding during the night. Swollen eyes from pulling out eyelashes (trichotillomania?). And stomach aches from a restless tummy and anxiety mood swings.” — Brittany L. 

“I’m constantly tense from loud noises, crowds, etc. that when I get home my back pain is crazy. Sometimes it hurts so bad I can’t move. One time my mom took me to the emergency room because it was going on for days with no letting up and I was stuck in my bed.” — Avery H.

8. Full-Body Pain

“It makes my whole body hurt, especially my legs, back and head. My entire body tenses up and it gives me headaches and makes my muscles super sore. This is something I have to deal with on a daily basis. I try to do body scans throughout the day to notice where the tension is and release it, which helps sometimes.” — Rachel B.

“When I’m having an anxiety attack, my whole body tenses up and freezes so violently that I physically can’t move for a while afterwards because my whole body hurts so much from the experience.” — Arianna J.

9. Muscle Spasms

“Muscle spasms in my back. I first started getting them in high school. They were so bad that I would cry from the pain in class. So I ended up leaving public school and was homeschooled.” — Brittany O.

“I thought I had hemorrhoids or a rectal tear so I saw a specialist a few times but he never saw anything wrong. Finally he said “Do you have anxiety?” He believes I am clenching the rectal muscles and causing spasms. Hot baths relieve it but just knowing what was causing it was relief.” — Donna S.

10. Pain From Picking and Scratching

“Sounds a little strange, but anxiety causes me to pick my skin, specifically the skin near my fingernails. I can’t control it, it’s not because I’m hungry or anything. Sometimes the anxiety gets so bad that the skin turns blood red from all the picking.” — Alex C.

“Whenever I get anxious I start scratching at my scalp so hard that it bleeds and scabs, then it becomes an endless cycle of me anxiously picking those scabs.” — Damien A.

What would you add?

Getty image via bee32

Originally published: July 25, 2018
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