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25 Surprising Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

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Anxiety and depression can present themselves in many different ways. Although they are called “mental illnesses,” our minds and bodies are interconnected, making physical symptoms a common experience for people struggling with anxiety and depression.

But when you’re already dealing with multiple mental illnesses, it can be hard to tell how each individual experience is affecting you. That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to tell us a surprising physical symptom of their anxiety and depression. 

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Not being able to relax my gut. Instead, my torso and muscles remain tense and it’s hard to take a full deep breath and exhale, which causes shortness of breath. A suffocating sensation.” — Anna G.

2. “Jaw clenching and teeth grinding. My face literally hurts all day every day and unfortunately it’s not from laughing. It’s from trying to hold it together and keep things in. It’s from feeling like I’m going to implode before I explode on others.” — Morgan A.

3. “Uncontrollable itch. The feeling that something bit or crawled on your skin so you have to scratch as fast and as hard as you can.” — John B.

4. “Weight gain. I get depressed and lose motivation. My house gets messy which gives me anxiety looking around at what needs to be done and I get overwhelmed, so I lay down. I fight within my own head constantly, beating myself up, which makes me more depressed. I feel I can never get ahead.” — Lauren D.

5. “I have ‘psychological allergies.’ I have all my life. In stressful situations, and also in cramped locations with unnerving lighting (like every dressing room ever), I start having allergy attacks of coughing and sneezing and lightheadedness. I used to think it was just another symptom of my normal allergies. Then in college I realized it was completely psychosomatic. I always had to have cough drops and water for exams. And that stressed me out when I’d be blamed for distracting fellow test takers. And of course, I only had coughing attacks when I was nervous about exams, so it was just a snowball effect.” — Emily B.

6. “Muscle and joint pain. I never realized how hyper-vigilance, constant anxiety and just using so much emotional and mental energy manifested itself throughout my body in physical ways. I have back or leg pains almost daily along with some other symptoms. But it wasn’t something I connected until a few years ago with a counselor. There’s such a connection between everything in the body but it’s often overlooked, especially with mental health.” — Brooke B.

7. “It amazes me just how exhausted I am all the time. It’s like no matter what I do, how much sleep I get or what lifestyle choices I make, I am always tired. Not just regular tired. But a complete elimination of energy throughout my entire body and mind that makes it feel nearly impossible to get out of bed or do anything that requires energy.” — McKendra A.

8. “A feeling like I’m floating when I walk. I don’t feel grounded. I also sometimes see floaters in my vision when my anxiety is really intense.” — Heather M.

9. “Nausea. I deal with it constantly. My parents thought I was pregnant for the longest time even though I wasn’t sexually active. I found that ginger root supplements really helped me.” — Emily L.

10. “I always bite off the top layer of skin on my lips. I’ve started doing this for awhile now, not knowing it’s linked to my anxiety.” — Tyler H.

11. “A choking feeling. My throat muscles are so tight all the time, it feels like there’s a hand around my neck all the time. It never goes away and it’s very scary. But of course, it’s ‘all in my head’ according to the doctor.” — Amanda E.

12. “Shaking. Even if I’m not having a full-blown panic attack, my whole body vibrates. I only recently put the dots together that my shaking was directly related to my anxiety. As for depression, the most surprising physical symptoms is how achy my body is.” — Beckie M.

13. “Air hunger from anxiety. Just one of many symptoms. I think the air hunger and chest pains are the worst though. It’s all day, every day. It sends me into panic mode which then makes my muscles tense and sore. It’s just a never-ending cycle” — Candace S.

14. “Headaches. I’ve had a headache for over seven years. Every day. The muscles have seized so bad in my body, my head is being pulled one way. Even my lymph nodes swell. And after tons of testing, they determined anxiety was killing me. No help past that except being told I need to relax.” — Melissa H.

15. “Sweaty palms are nearly always the first signs of a panic attack for me. In general, sore joints and stomach pains/nausea. Right now a new one for me is agitation. I get annoyed and angry as quick as a flash, which just isn’t me.” — Victoria W.

16. “With anxiety, the lower part of my ribs and and lungs have almost like a burning sensation.  All my nails thin and break during times when my depression peaks.” — Lacey V.

17. “Becoming unable to speak properly. I forget words, stutter, say the wrong word, mix up grammar, speak too fast or too slow, mispronounce words and have a very strained voice. This only makes the anxiety worse! With depression, the inability to sleep and then sleeping too much is probably the most frustrating. Sometimes I can’t sleep. Sometimes I sleep all day. It isn’t easy.” — Jacqui K.

18. “Chronic chest pains. Doctors have told me my heart can hurt from the anxiety, but ‘hurt’ doesn’t begin to describe how painful they get. I have had so many ECG’s out of fear that they’re worse.” — Charlotte P.

19. “I tend to move slower. I always feel awkward, like my body doesn’t work right anymore. My depression makes me see the world differently, so I have a hard time interacting with it.” — Violet Y.

20. “My tinnitus gets louder, to the point where I can’t hear anything else, as I get more anxious. Other times I can hear my eyes move and ‘focus’ and my eyelids open and close. It’s very disconcerting. There are other things I do that are impacted by worsening depression and anxiety, but tinnitus and eye sounds are the least visible and the most atypical, at least to me.” — Richard P.

21. “When I have a panic attack my skin feels really cold to the touch and I feel like I’m made of ice.” — Jayla F.

22. “I get vertigo. Like full on drunk or seasick type vertigo. Also if I breathe in through my nose too hard to try and calm myself, I start to feel like I have water up my nose and I’m drowning.” — Victoria L.

23. “Becoming lightheaded. My blood pressure goes up when I am having an anxiety attack and it ends up making me feel lightheaded and like I’m about to pass out. Then I get a massive headache afterwards. Never fails.” — Abby M.

24. “The hurting. After or during an anxiety attack, my body hurts. Whether it’s because of my headache from overthinking, or because of my breathing during my attack. My whole body ends up hurting.” — Kristen C.

25. “I constantly rub my tongue on my teeth when I’m not clenching my teeth together. It’s like some body part has to be moving all the time.” — Stacy S.

What would you add?

Thinkstock photo via tommaso79

Originally published: November 11, 2017
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