Anxiety is a mental health condition, so many people assume that it primarily involves mental or emotional symptoms. However, anxiety also often includes symptoms that are felt in the body. Some people may even experience more physical symptoms than emotional ones.

Like most people, you will often experience shaking or trembling, flushed skin, profuse sweating, nausea, and pounding heart when you are nervous.

But for people living with chronic anxiety issues like panic, phobias, general anxiety, or social anxiety, they may experience more persistent symptoms even when there’s no reason for them to feel nervous. These symptoms can feel like one of those severe health conditions, and some people may not realize the nature of their distress. Instead, they worry about having heart trouble, chronic migraines, or other health issues.


Anxiety can be the cause of several physical complaints, so people suffering from anxiety may notice the following physical signs, in addition to their mental health symptoms.

1. Dizziness

Dizziness is a common symptom of anxiety. It might cause you to feel lightheaded, off-balance when in crowded areas or open spaces, or as if you’re spinning or swaying from side to side.

The relationship between anxiety and dizziness can create a feedback loop. People who are worried about losing their balance in a public place may develop anxiety whenever they feel dizzy, and one symptom may worsen the other. These fears can lead many to avoid activities that can trigger one or both symptoms, but this can harm their quality of life over time.

2. Chest pain

Chest pain is one of the symptoms of anxiety that often causes alarm, especially when the pain is accompanied by a rapid increase in heart rate and shortness of breath. These symptoms can also suggest a heart attack; that’s why many people who experience chest pain worry their symptoms can be fatal. After seeking emergency medical care, they may feel frustrated and distressed when there’s no medical explanation for their chest pain.

One study showed that out of 151 patients reporting chest pain, 59% had symptoms of anxiety. This study is supported by a 2006 research which found that people who seek emergency care for chest pain often have anxiety rather than a cardiac condition. Panic attacks share many similarities with an oncoming heart attack.

However, someone having a heart attack will most likely feel a squeezing pain that may radiate toward the jaw or left arm or in the upper back or shoulders.

3. Digestive issues

Digestive issues
Persistent gastrointestinal distress is a common physical symptom of anxiety. According to medical research, this is due to the connection between the brain and the gut. The nerves shared by the gut and the brain interact with each other and harm normal bodily processes.

Most people experience nausea when nervous or worried about something. But people with chronic anxiety might notice more severe issues, like chronic stomach pain or cramping, diarrhea or vomiting, constipation, changes in appetite, ulcers, and worsened irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

4. Breathing difficulties

Breathing troubles can include hyperventilation, rapid breathing, sensations of choking, or difficulty drawing breath. These symptoms generally happen whenever a situation becomes tense or involves some fear or nervousness. Panic attacks often include choking sensations, and it’s not unusual to feel difficulty in breathing. These feelings can be very frightening and can worsen the emotional symptoms of anxiety.

5. Numbness

People with anxiety tend to experience a numbing or tingling sensation in the hands, arms, legs, or feet. Experts believe it happens as a result of bodily arousal. Anxiety symptoms develop when the body feels threatened, and in response to this perceived threat, the body redirects its resources, like blood, to the more essential organs, like the heart.

Hyperventilation can also lead to numbness and tingling. When you are hyperventilating, you end up having excess oxygen in your blood because the body doesn’t have enough carbon dioxide to maintain normal processes. As a result, blood vessels constrict, preventing blood from flowing to areas that the body considers less critical, such as the hands and feet. Headache, increased heart rate, and dizziness can also happen as a result of the lack of carbon dioxide.

6. Chronic pain

A 2013 study found that among 250 people living with chronic pain, 45% had symptoms of anxiety. The chronic pain patients who also had anxiety experienced worse pain and lower quality of life than those who did not experience anxiety symptoms.

People with both chronic pain and anxiety usually have lower pain tolerance and get trapped in a distressing cycle of symptoms. People who are in constant pain may feel distressed and worried about experiencing more pain. They become anxious about their ability to take care of responsibilities due to the pain. It’s also not uncommon for people living with anxiety and chronic pain to have symptoms of depression.


The symptoms of anxiety develop because the body feels threatened and is preparing for a “fight-or-flight” response. Once the body enters in this mode, hormones enter the bloodstream at unusually higher levels, triggering the anxiety symptoms mentioned above. So, while anxiety prepares the body to face threats in the environment, problems can develop when anxiety sends the body into fight-or-flight mode too often. The same thing happens when the body remains in fight-or-flight mode for an extended period, which can occur when it’s hard for you to cope with anxiety symptoms.

Evidence from medical research suggests links between long-term anxiety and health conditions such as heart attack and other cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other respiratory issues.


Therapy can help in addressing the emotional impact of anxiety as well as assisting people in managing physical symptoms. Addressing the causes and triggers of anxiety will generally lead to the improvement of all physical or mental symptoms.

People who experience physical symptoms of anxiety will benefit from working with a therapist who will help them identify and address the possible causes or triggers of anxiety. Therapists can help people learn how to treat anxiety and learn potential methods of reducing anxiety in their daily life.

Phyllis Tonkins is a compassionate and skilled therapist who can help you deal with the causes and symptoms of your anxiety and help you make the most of your life. Feel free to call us anytime at 713-668-6666, or 713-206-5156.

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