Common Symptoms and Signs of Anxiety Explained
In life, it's pretty normal to have feelings of anxiety from time to time. Maybe you’re about to get on a plane for the first time, or you’re about to complete a super important exam. You may even be about to get married! Whatever the reason, adults and children experience anxiety. But as quickly as these feelings come, they also go - lasting anywhere from a couple of minutes to even a few days leading up to the event which is causing you to feel anxious.
For some people, moments of anxiety are more than just brief encounters. More than just stress at work, and more than just a worrisome thought every now and then. For some, anxiety symptoms may not go away for many weeks, months, or even years.
These feelings can even worsen over time if they are not addressed, sometimes becoming so severe for the person affected that it interrupts and interferes with their daily life. When this happens, it is usually the case that the person affected is suffering from a form of anxiety disorder.
What is anxiety? Find out more about what anxiety entails.
What Symptoms Can Anxiety Cause? The Common Symptoms of Anxiety
While the symptoms of anxiety can, and will, vary from person to person, the human body acts in a very specific way to anxiety in general. When you feel anxious in life, your body reacts as if it is in danger - activating your fight or flight responses. Your body will be on high alert, keeping you in a heightened state while it attempts to detect any possible dangers in the area.
As a result, you’ll end up showing multiple anxiety symptoms that can either only be seen and felt by you, or some physical signs of anxiety that can be seen by others to tell if you’re feeling anxious so that they can help you. Some common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of nervousness
- Restlessness or being tense
- A rapid heart rate and anxiety chest pains
- Anxiety breathing symptoms, such as rapid breathing, also known as hyperventilation Increased or heavy sweating
- Trembling, or muscle twitching Feelings of weakness or lethargy
- Hair pulling
- Skin picking
- A clouded mind - difficulty focusing or thinking about anything other than what has triggered you
- Digestive or gastrointestinal problems: including wind, diarrhoea, and constipation
- A strong need to avoid things that trigger you
- Obsessions about certain ideas, linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Performing certain actions repeatedly
- Feeling anxious when thinking or talking about a certain live event that has occurred in the past - a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Panic Attacks and Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
A panic attack is the sudden onset of fear or distress that can peak as quickly as a few minutes but can last for longer. A panic attack can be characterised by experiencing at least four of the following symptoms:
- Anxiety heart symptoms, like heart palpitations or a high heartbeat
- Shaking or trembling
- Feeling shortness of breath
- Anxiety throat symptoms, such as the sensation of choking, a lump in the throat, or a tight throat feeling
- Anxiety headache symptoms
- Nausea Anxiety mouth symptoms, like a dry mouth or overactive salivary glands
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Anxiety symptoms in the chest, like chest pains or tightness
- Sensations of dizziness, light-headedness, or feeling faint
- Hot flashes or feeling cold and shivering
- Numbness or tingling sensations in extremities
- Feeling detached from yourself or reality - known as depersonalisation and derealisation
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
- Sense of dread
Some symptoms of anxiety can also be found within conditions other than anxiety disorders. This is a similar case with panic attacks, as some of the symptoms above can also be found as part of other disorders or conditions. These symptoms are of a similar nature to those associated with heart disease, thyroid problems, breathing disorders, and other such illnesses and conditions.
As a result, those who suffer from panic disorder may make frequent trips to their GPs or to A&E because it is believed, at the time, that they may be suffering from and experiencing other life-threatening health conditions that are not anxiety.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders that range from mild and severe, to high-functioning or debilitating. These include:
People who have agoraphobia are fearful of specific places or situations that have the potential to make them feel trapped, out of control, or embarrassed. These feelings can lead to sufferers displaying warning signs of anxiety and panic attacks.
In order to prevent the above from happening, people who suffer from agoraphobia may try to avoid these places and situations in order to prevent panic attacks and anxiety symptoms from occurring. Even going as far as to not leave their homes.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) have a constant feeling of anxiety and are frequently worried about activities, events, or even things that are ordinary or routine. The worry is typically greater than it should be, given the reality of these situations, however, this anxiety is uncontrollable.
These situations can cause so much worry, that physical signs and symptoms of anxiety can manifest. These include different types of headaches, an upset stomach, and insomnia.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The continual experience of unwanted or intrusive thoughts and worries that cause anxiety is what characterises obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which some people also refer to as high functioning anxiety. The person suffering from these thoughts, or signs of high functioning anxiety, may know that they are trivial, but they will try to relieve the anxiety by performing certain rituals or behaviours.
These behaviours may include things like hand washing, cleaning, counting, or checking on things that include whether or not they’ve locked their house, or brought the washing in.
Having a panic disorder can cause sudden and repeated bouts of severe anxiety, fear, or terror that can peak within a matter of minutes; this is also more commonly known as a panic attack. For those who suffer from panic attacks or panic disorder, they may experience:
- Feelings of impending danger
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat (heart palpitations)
Having a panic attack can also cause the person suffering to worry about them occurring again or try to avoid situations in which they’ve occurred previously. This can even cause a loop, where these fears are so great that they cause another panic attack.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, occurs in someone after they’ve experienced an event in their life that was particularly traumatic. These include, but are not limited to:
- Natural disasters
- And more
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) include trouble relaxing, disturbing dreams or nightmares, or flashbacks to the traumatic event or scenario. People who suffer from the condition may also avoid events or places related to the trauma that has caused their PTSD.
This is characterised by an ongoing inability for a child to speak in specific situations or places. For example, a child may refuse or be unable to talk at school, even though they are able to speak in other situations or places, like home. These anxiety symptoms can interfere with everyday life and activities, such as school and their social life.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
This is a condition that is developed in childhood. It is marked by anxiety when a child is separated from their parents or guardians. Although this form of anxiety is a normal part of childhood development, normally being outgrown at around 18 months old, some children experience versions of this disorder that can disrupt their daily activities.
Specific phobias are fears of a specific object, event, or situation that results in the appearance of severe anxiety symptoms when the person with the phobia is exposed to that specific thing.
This condition is accompanied by a powerful desire to avoid whatever causes the fear, and phobias like arachnophobia (the fear of spiders) or claustrophobia (a fear of small, confined spaces) may cause the person to experience panic attacks when exposed to their phobia.
Anxiety Triggers for All Anxiety Symptoms
If your anxiety has spiked because of a specific phobia, or because of a panic disorder, then you’ll normally know what the cause is.
For example, if you suffer from claustrophobia, a fear of small or confined spaces, then you know that being in a small or confined space will be the trigger for mental and physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.
In many cases, people who suffer from anxiety may not be sure what they’re feeling anxious about, as they are unaware of their triggers. If someone suffering from an anxiety disorder does not know what triggers their anxiety, this can cause the physical symptoms and mental symptoms of anxiety to intensify - causing them to worry that there is no solution.
How to Manage Anxiety Symptoms
In order to get a better hold over your anxiety symptoms, there are a few things you can do when you begin to show signs of stress and anxiety. Self-care is one of the best ways to manage the early signs of anxiety, and this involves how you take care of your diet, sleep routine, exercise, daily life, relationships with friends and family, and how you are feeling.
Below, we list a few ways that you can handle the first signs of stress and anxiety so that you can begin to get a better hold over the condition.
A Healthy Diet
Did you know that magnesium is one of the most common minerals in the human body? While magnesium plays a key role in the maintenance of over 300 bodily functions, the mineral also acts as a sleep aid, helps maintain healthy blood pressure, and even helps to minimise the symptoms of anxiety in the brain.
2012 research suggests that around 50% of the European population get less than the recommended daily amount of magnesium. This means that a large selection of the population suffers from magnesium deficiency. While you may have a very healthy diet, you may not be eating foods that are rich in magnesium.
In a 2010 review of natural treatments for anxiety, it is suggested that magnesium can be used as a natural treatment for those who suffer from social anxiety and generalised anxiety disorders. 2017 research proved this discovery, enlightening us to the fact that magnesium, in fact, does reduce anxiety.
At OHMG, we totally believe in the benefits that having a magnesium rich diet can have for your body and your brain. If you really want to meet your recommended daily allowance of magnesium, drinking a deliciously fruity can of OHMG magnesium water, which contains 56 mg of magnesium, as well as magnesium rich foods can help to further soothe your mind throughout the day.
Make OHMG a part of your magnesium journey today
Making small changes to your daily lifestyle can have great effects on your mental wellbeing, as well as help you take steps towards your recovery from the signs of severe anxiety disorder.
Having a set daily routine has helped many people get their anxiety and mental wellbeing on the route to getting better. It helps people who suffer from the signs of anxiety disorders to gain a structure to their day and even give them a sense of purpose.
These daily routines could be something as simple as trying to eat at the same time each day, going to bed at the same time each day, and making sure to go grocery shopping once per week.
If you frequently suffer from panic attacks or often feel anxious in certain situations, breathing exercises can help to calm the warning signs of anxiety attacks.
If you do breathing exercises regularly as part of a daily routine and know exactly what you’re doing, you will get the most benefit from them. For more information on breathing exercises, check out our section on breathing exercises.
Many people who suffer from anxiety also join a support group - where like-minded people come together to share information, experiences, and give each other support. Many people who join these groups even find lifelong friends as they’re surrounded by people going through similar things.
To find your local support group, simply search online. We know it can seem like a mammoth task, getting out of your comfort zone to talk to a group of strangers, but there are many charities with friendly staff who offer these services, so choose one that you like the look of and get in contact when you’re ready.
Do you know what a recovery college is? These are services that are available as part of the NHS, offering services and free courses about mental health that aim to help you manage your symptoms effectively. They can help you take back control of your life, and become an expert in your own wellbeing and recovery.
You can normally self-refer to recovery colleges, however, they may not be available in your area. To find one in your area, simply check Google for the best results.
When to Seek Help for Anxiety Symptoms
It can be extremely difficult to know when your anxiety is becoming a serious medical problem rather than simply having a bad day which causes you to feel upset or worried. Without treatment, your anxiety could stay with you for a long time; and may even worsen over time.
Treatment of anxiety and other mental health conditions is always easier earlier on, rather than after your symptoms worsen.
You should visit a medical professional if:
- You feel as though your worries are interfering with your daily life - preventing you from performing tasks relating to hygiene, school or work, and your social life.
- Your anxiety symptoms, fear, or worry, are distressing to you and are difficult for you to control.
- Your anxiety symptoms are causing you to feel depressed, you find yourself using alcohol or drugs to cope, or have other mental health concerns alongside anxiety.
- You feel like your anxiety symptoms are being caused by an underlying mental health condition.
- You are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are considering those behaviours (if this is the case, seek immediate assistance from 999)
What to Do Next
If you’ve decided that you need help with your anxiety symptoms, then the first step you should take is to see your primary GP. They can determine if your anxiety is related to an underlying physical health condition, and if there is one to be found, they can provide you with the appropriate treatment plan to help with the alleviation of your anxiety symptoms.
Your GP may ask you questions about:
- Any physiological signs of anxiety, and how long you’ve been suffering with them.
- Your worries, fears, and emotions.
- Your personal life.
We understand that it may be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions, and personal life, but it is vital that your GP understands your symptoms and circumstances fully so that they can correctly and accurately diagnose you.
To help with your diagnosis, and to find out whether or not there is an underlying physical problem, your GP may carry out examinations to find out what could be causing your anxiety symptoms, such as anaemia, or an overactive thyroid gland.
You’re most likely to receive a diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder if you have been suffering from anxiety symptoms for 6 or more months. It is also an indication to your GP that you’re suffering from the condition if you are having trouble managing your feelings of anxiety.
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