The Hidden Symptoms Of Anxiety

When you think about anxiety, what comes to mind? Most people think of dramatic panic attacks, extreme fearfulness, and uncontrolled breathing. These can all be symptoms of anxiety, but what other hidden symptoms are there? If your idea of anxiety is simply “being fearful or afraid”, keep reading because what you learn may surprise you. Anxiety symptoms can vary widely between individuals, but the outcome is the same.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common forms of mental illness, affecting about 40 million Americans 18 and older. So what are the signs? If it’s not just being scared, what is it? The answer is not quite something we fully understand, but what we do know is this: Genetics and environment may play a role in anxiety disorders and our brain chemistry. Your hippocampus may also play a role in developing an anxiety disorder, as this is the center of your brain responsible for storing memories or traumatic events. The hippocampus is significantly smaller in people who’ve experienced childhood abuse or combat.

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So what are these “hidden” signs? What are the symptoms we don’t talk about?

Irritability: Anxiety can trigger your fight or flight response, which can cause physical symptoms, such as heavy breathing or an increased heart rate, but a lesser discussed sign is irritability. When your body is constantly going in and out of fight or flight mode, it exhausts you physically and mentally, making your tolerance for things smaller. When you’re already physically and mentally exhausted, little things can seem monumental. You will often find yourself getting snappy or short for things you wouldn’t usually get irritated by, this is a big sign that your anxiety is peaking, and you should probably step away from the situation and clear your head.

Lashing Out: This is related to the first symptom. When you are experiencing anxiety, you may notice it’s a lot easier for you to lash out at people, even loved ones. This can be for a number of reasons, but the most common is because your body is so overwhelmed with worry, fear, guilt, shame, etc. When your body is constantly in a state of stress, you will notice that things you would normally brush off become impossible to ignore.

Fidgeting: This is a prevalent symptom of anxiety; it’s the inability to stay still. This happens because your body is flooded with cortisol, preparing your muscles for a sudden exertion. People experiencing anxiety will often bounce their legs, pace around, play with their jewellery or watch, etc.; this is your body’s way of releasing excess energy and stabilizing your cortisol levels.

Picking at the skin/ Biting your nails: Stress and anxiety can cause an urge to pick at your skin, pull at your clothing, bite your nails, pluck at your hair, etc. This can be an obsessive-compulsive response to stress or insecurity. The need to “pick away” imperfections can be a root cause, but most people report feeling relief after picking at their skin or biting their nails. It can act similarly to self-harm in that it releases feelings of pleasure or satisfaction afterwards, leading to it becoming an addicting habit.

Physical Pain or Discomfort: Many people with anxiety experience physical symptoms as well as mental symptoms. Some of those symptoms can include actual pain or discomfort in the body, due to the emotional response to anxiety, and due to the elevated levels of cortisol in your body. People often report an upset stomach, a weight on their chest, or even headaches and migraines. Anxiety is a LOT more than just a mental fear of something. It can be an excruciating experience to some.

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Getting Easily Distracted: Being easily distracted is a commonly reported symptom of anxiety. This is primarily due to the effect that elevated stress levels cause in your body. Your body is constantly apprehensive, overtly worried about something negative happening. When stress responses happen too frequently, your body has a hard time recovering, resulting in being hyper-aware of your surroundings and easily distracted.

Over-stimulation: Sensory overload is when your five senses ( Taste, Smell, Touch, Sight, Sound) take in more than your brain can process. This manifests itself in feeling like the lights are too bright when they are normal. It can look like being in a room full of people, and all of a sudden, all the sounds blend together, and everything is too loud. It can be a feeling of wanting to crawl out of your skin because you touched a particular fabric. Over-stimulation is a common symptom of anxiety when your brain is already overloaded with stress, it’s hard to take in anything else.

Feeling Frozen: Fight or Flight is constantly triggered when you have anxiety. What people don’t know is that your body has more than just fight or Flight. Your body experiences four reactions to real or perceived threats. Fight and Flight are the most commonly spoken about, but Freeze and Fawn are also reactions your body can produce. Freezing is a very common symptom of anxiety. Your body is overwhelmed; your body is feeling threatened. You freeze. You can’t move. You can’t breathe. Everything is too much. This is anxiety.

Some of you may be saying, “So what? I deal with those symptoms sometimes, and I don’t have anxiety.” The difference is that your symptoms do not affect your daily life negatively. And if they do, I hate to break it to you; you may have anxiety.

This information is not meant to diagnose anyone, and if you relate to any of these symptoms, please seek a licensed professional for an official diagnosis.

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