Anxiety disorders are more common than you think and can affect people of all ages. While most people are familiar with the more typical anxiety symptoms, like social anxiety, there are other anxiety symptoms that aren't as well-known.
The following is a list of 10 less well-known symptoms of anxiety.
- Anxiety causes headaches or migraines
There's a link between headaches or migraines and anxiety, but it's not fully understood.
What's known is that the brain and nervous system play a role in all types of pain, including headaches, migraines and chronic pain. Anxiety may be one factor (among many) that contribute to these conditions.
A small study from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil looked at this connection. Researchers found that people who suffer from chronic tension headaches also frequently experience anxiety disorders, as well as depression and sleep disturbances. They found that people with migraine also commonly experienced anxiety disorders, especially panic attacks and social phobias.
Anxiety can worsen symptoms of headaches or migraines by causing stress-related muscle tension in the head and face. This can trigger or worsen head pain, such as tension headaches or migraines.
The following are some examples of how anxiety may contribute to headache pain:
Intense emotions like fear, panic, worry and dread can increase muscle tension throughout the body, including in the head and face.
Increased stress hormones can also cause muscle tension around the eyes, forehead and temples.
Anxiety can interfere with sleep patterns, which may make you more vulnerable to pain and discomfort.
- It causes stomach aches or diarrhea
The link between anxiety and stomach aches is pretty clear. It's not just about the gut-wrenching feeling that comes from nervousness. Anxiety can cause serious stomach problems, too.
In fact, research shows that the gut and brain are so connected that it's not always easy to tell whether a person's symptoms are coming from their body or their mind. Sometimes anxiety can even trigger chronic digestive problems, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
When you're anxious or stressed, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. In most cases, cortisol helps your body respond to threats. But if you feel anxious a lot of the time, you may have too much cortisol in your system. That can lead to a variety of health problems, including an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Anxiety affects people differently. Often symptoms happen in waves, with periods of relief in between flare-ups. Other times, they show up all at once and hit you hard, like a panic attack.
- It causes nausea
The term ‘anxiety' itself is an umbrella term. It's used to describe a range of mental health conditions where people experience feelings of unease, worry or fear, often in response to everyday situations.
This can sometimes include physical symptoms, such as nausea — a feeling that can be described as an upset stomach with the feeling that you might vomit.
Nausea and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, and people with digestive problems are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. This doesn't mean that if you feel nauseous when you're anxious, you have an anxiety disorder — it just means your body is responding normally to the stress of a situation.
If you're experiencing nausea and anxiety, there are many ways to reduce how strongly they affect you and how often they occur.
- It causes dry mouth
Dry mouth is a side effect of anxiety.
A study from 2011 found that up to 40 percent of people with anxiety and depression also experience dry mouth.
Part of the reason for this may be that the stress response system in the body, which is activated by anxiety, can also affect salivary glands. Stress hormones like adrenaline can actually reduce the amount of saliva produced.
- It causes trouble swallowing
Anxiety can manifest in many forms and interfere with everyday life. The condition can cause physical symptoms such as a racing heart and nausea. It can also affect how you swallow, potentially leading to difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).
While anxiety is known to cause dysphagia, understanding the connection may help you manage your symptoms.
What Is Dysphagia?
Dysphagia is when you have trouble swallowing, according to the Mayo Clinic. You may experience pain or a burning sensation when you swallow. However, you can also have dysphagia without having pain.
In some cases, it's hard to swallow food or liquids. In other cases, food or liquids simply don't go down the “wrong pipe,” so they come back up through the esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach).
- It causes fidgeting, pacing or shaking
When people are nervous or worried, they often start shaking, fidgeting, or pacing. Have you ever wondered why that happens?
Anxiety can manifest in a number of ways, and not all of them are always obvious. In fact, some of the most common symptoms can be easily overlooked, mistaken for something else, or even confused as normal behavior.
Fidgeting is one such example. “Fidgeting” is a blanket term that can include shaking legs, tapping fingers, pacing back and forth, and other such motions. Though these behaviors may seem harmless enough on their own, they could actually be caused by anxiety.
“Anxiety can cause fidgety behavior,” says Dr. Donna Pincus, the director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at Boston University's Child & Adolescent Behavior Health lab.”This can appear as leg shaking and foot tapping or pacing back and forth.” She adds that people with ADHD tend to have similar symptoms.
That's because of the sympathetic nervous system, which is a part of our autonomic system — the part that controls functions like heart rate, digestion and breathing.
The sympathetic nervous system speeds up when we're stressed, says Dr. Lesley Russell, a clinical psychologist and author of The Stress Response: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Free You from Wrong Thinking and Empower You to Reach Your Goals. This can cause dry mouth, dilated pupils and an increased heart rate. It also causes small muscles in your body to tense up. This tension can sometimes come out as fidgeting or shaking, Russell says.
- It causes fear of vomiting or choking in public
Maybe it's something you ate. Or maybe, it's something you feel.
For some people, anxiety can be the culprit of a stomach ache, and sometimes the pain can even lead to vomiting.
Here are 2 reasons why your anxiety could cause you to vomit:
Anxiety causes an increase in stomach acid, which leads to digestive issues like inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) or ulcers in your stomach lining.
Vomiting is a common symptom of panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of extreme fear and anxiety that usually come “out of the blue.” The thing about panic attacks is that they can make you feel like you're dying or going crazy — which might cause you to throw up because you think there's something seriously wrong with you.
- It causes avoidance behaviors
Isolation behavior is a cause of anxiety.
Isolation behavior can be defined as a cluster of things that you do when you're feeling anxious. They revolve around the tendency to avoid contact with others and to protect yourself from the outside world by retreating into your own head.
The most common examples of isolation behavior are:
Avoiding social situations, especially those in which you don't know anyone very well.
Thinking about things too much. This includes dwelling on past events, thinking about how something you did might have offended someone, and focusing on how anxious you are.
Avoiding any challenges or new experiences. This is because people who isolate themselves tend to avoid challenges in general because they feel inadequate or incapable of meeting them.
- It causes insomnia or nightmares
Sleep is a fundamental part of our daily lives, yet many adults do not get enough sleep during the week. The most common reason for this is stress and anxiety. Insomnia, or lack of sleep, causes us to be tired, which can cause us to feel anxious and stressed out. This creates a vicious cycle that can wreak havoc on our health and wellbeing.
In addition to insomnia and anxiety, there are numerous other health problems that can be caused by a lack of sleep. These include diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke, breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
The good news is that many adults suffering from insomnia can benefit from lifestyle changes and treatments such as meditation, exercise and therapy. By making simple adjustments to their daily routine, they can improve the quality of their sleep and reduce their risk of developing these serious health issues.
10.It causes feeling cold all the time
Some people experience anxiety as a symptom of feeling cold. The link is poorly understood, but there are a few theories as to why this is the case.
The first is that being cold can actually cause anxiety in some people. This theory is supported by research on the subject. A study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that participants had increased feelings of fear and panic while they were exposed to cold temperatures. This is because low temperatures can cause the body to produce more adrenaline. One way your body naturally responds to the cold is by producing more adrenaline, which gives you a burst of energy that can make you feel anxious.
Another theory for why feeling cold caused by anxiety has to do with discomfort and its effects on the brain's pathways. According to Dr. Amit Sood, chair of research for the Department of Integrative Medicine and Health at Mayo Clinic, being uncomfortable changes our brain's response to stress.
In short, when anxiety is interfering with your life, take steps to fix it. Take notice of symptoms that you might not have thought were related to anxiety, and find a support group or therapist that can help you work through these issues on a deeper level. With the right support and treatment, even more extreme cases of anxiety can be alleviated, and recovery is possible.