Anxiety symptoms manifest in literally hundreds of ways. They can range from an extreme nervousness to chest pains and shortness of breath. What’s worse: the symptoms of anxiety can be brought on by just about anything, at anytime.
First, what is anxiety? Anxiety is a state of fear, uneasiness and/or apprehension. These feelings can be about any real or made up situation, or can occur as the result of a specific event. Recognizing the signs of stress can help you better identify and cope with anxiety.
It is important to note the difference between occasional nervousness and worry, sometimes called functional anxiety, and an actual anxiety disorder that interferes with the way you go about your life. Functional anxiety often manifest in the below symptoms before progressing to an anxiety disorder if you are unable to put your fears to rest. The distinction isn’t always clear, but that doesn’t mean the worry is any less real.
1. Most Common among Anxiety Symptoms: Panic.
Walking around constantly afraid that the other shoe is going to drop is one of the most reported anxiety symptoms. Social anxiety, in particular, comes about when someone experiences constant fear is social situations. This can be a fear of your work environment or walking around in a group of people with the fear of being judged or embarrassed.
Anxiety disorders commonly manifest by feelings of fear surrounding something or someone. When the fear escalates or is left untreated, it can trigger a panic attack – sometimes with little to no warning.
A panic attack may feel like a sense of impending doom; you could have sweaty and shaky palms, chest pains, and even an irregular heartbeat. It might even feel like a heart attack. When in doubt, always seek emergency treatment.
2. Insomnia almost every night.
Also popular among anxiety symptoms, insomnia – trouble falling asleep or staying asleep – can be caused by a wide range of conditions, both mental and physical. Just as there is a difference between functional anxiety vs. an anxiety disorder, there is a distinction between occasional sleep problems and clinical insomnia.
If you find yourself overly tired, but still unable to sleep because your brain won’t shut off at night, you may have an anxiety disorder. Sleep problems can lead to chronic fatigue and mental impairment. At this point you need to seek treatment, since these problems will exacerbate an anxiety disorder.
Over time, insomnia may also cause or intensify other anxiety symptoms. Your body needs sleep to restore your mental and physical systems. You may find that you have an inability to focus, your stomach is easily upset and you feel nauseous, and/or your muscles start feeling sore or weak. Whether you seek treatment through traditional or modern medicinal means, insomnia needs to be addressed.
3. Shortness of breath in your daily activities.
A common manifestation of anxiety and panic attacks; breathing problems alone can be scary. Experiencing breathlessness on top of feelings of fear or panic is a symptom of severe anxiety, even when the person having trouble breathing is able to disguise it. If you are experiencing shortness of breath (for any reason) it is important to see your doctor to rule out a physical cause, as it may be indicative of a more serious condition.
Heavy and/or rapid breathing isn’t anything to be concerned about with physical exertion. However, if you find yourself hyperventilating as a result of your fears (rational or not), it can lead to lightheartedness, chest pains, muscle weakness, or even a full-blown panic attack. Learn tricks for how to get your breathing under control here.
4. Heart palpitations for small things.
First and foremost: should you find yourself experiencing heart palpitations or any irregular heartbeat, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out other heart conditions. Heart palpitations are one of the most common anxiety symptoms, but they can also be brought on by anything as simple as dehydration to something as serious as heart failure. Your doctor will be able to tell the difference and recommend treatment if necessary.
Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is beating abnormally hard or is racing without having done any physical activity to cause a change. Abnormal stress levels and anxiety cause your body to release the hormones that trigger your cardiac muscles to work harder and faster.
If you don’t know what triggers your palpitations, begin keeping a journal of each occurrence so you can narrow it down. Include everything from what you were doing to the amount of caffeine you’ve had that day. A simple change in routine could make a big difference.