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7 Ways Anxiety Physically Affects My Body

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There truly is a mind-body connection when it comes to most everything in life, including mental illness. Anxiety disorders affect the mind, but they also affect the physical body. When your anxiety sends your brain into overdrive from anxiety, your body often responds similarly. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I’ve often been the recipient of more than one of the ailments listed below:

1. Pounding heart.

This is an obvious symptom of anxiety, but I never considered how physically uncomfortable it was until I experienced it on a regular basis. Heart palpitations are common when you experience anxiety, but it is often an uncomfortable, constricting feeling in your chest. It can get so bad to the point where you literally feel like your heart is going to explode out of your chest.

2. Shortness of breath.

It can feel hard to breathe when my anxiety reaches a certain severity level. Subconsciously, I’m aware that I can breathe, as there’s nothing physically preventing me from taking in oxygen, but anxiety is often irrational. My intake of breaths becomes exaggerated as I mentally struggle with the feeling of near-suffocation.

3. Nausea.

Experiencing severe anxiety can bring on a nauseous, sick feeling. So is stomach pain. It’s one of the ways I know I am especially anxious if I feel like I am going to throw up at any second. The saying “butterflies in your stomach” doesn’t even capture the sick feeling you get to your stomach when you’re having an anxiety attack.

4. Trembling.

My hands shake very badly from the anxiety I experience, and it worsens when I am even more anxious than usual. I can’t hold my phone in one hand without my hand shaking, and photos I take are bound to end up blurry from frantic movement if I’m not aware of the anxiety I’m feeling. It can get to the point where my whole body feels shaky.

5. Insomnia.

In the earlier days of experiencing my anxiety disorder, I had such trouble sleeping. I would often be up for hours on end, my mind keeping me awake with all the what-ifs and worries I had, until I fell asleep simply because my body was exhausted. Even after getting help, I have to make sure I relax my mind and body enough to actually get a good night’s sleep.

6. Restlessness.

I often feel like I have restless or excessive energy whenever I am anxious. It’s not the kind of restlessness you feel from excitement but more like you feel energy so pent up physically that if you don’t let it out you feel like you’ll lose your mind. Exercise often helps, but, as recommended by health professionals, it’s something I have to do daily to combat the restless feeling anxiety often brings upon me.

7. Fatigue.

Occasionally, I experience the opposite of insomnia from anxiety—I feel pure exhaustion instead. When you’re constantly anxious, it takes a toll on your energy. When I am feeling severe anxiety, oftentimes all I want to do is lie down or sleep and not have to be physically present in the moment. The anxiety has become so all-consuming and overwhelming to the point where my body cannot handle it anymore.

This is not an exhaustive list of woes that anxiety can cause, and there are certainly ones I haven’t experienced that are commonplace for other people. But regardless of your symptoms, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting help for anxiety that is taking a toll on your physical and mental health. It’s hard to live life with chronic anxiety, but seeking professional help, getting support from loved ones and practicing your own self-care routines often lifts the load that anxiety causes. Burdens shared are burdens lessoned, and I have never found that truer than when I experience anxiety.

Getty Images photo via fizkes

Originally published: February 3, 2021
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