5 Signs of Anxiety You Might Have Missed

Although it is a mental health issue, anxiety can often have surprising physical symptoms. These symptoms can appear even when you are not feeling overly anxious.

Anxiety changes the way you think, your hormones and your perceptions, says Micah Abraham, editor of Calm Clinic. It changes the neurochemicals in your brain that tell you how to think and act. It can both cause physical sensations and make you hyperaware of them, which can lead to a huge variety of symptoms.

When Calm Clinic asked its Facebook followers if they had any unusual anxiety symptoms, they received hundreds of responses, ranging from “forgetting how to swallow” to a “loud pop, like a firecracker, in their ear.”

“An individual suffering from an anxiety disorder perceives a wide range of feelings and sensations, which are unique, complex, and often difficult to explain,” says Abraham.

In fact, it’s possible to experience anxiety only as physical symptoms – your mind may feel completely relaxed and clear.

Here are five common anxiety symptoms which you might not realise are anxiety:

1. Pain

A sudden pain in your hip. A stomach ache. Chest pain with accompanying sweating so severe you think it must surely be a heart attack. Anxiety can create sensations of pain that have no physical cause.

Chest pain is one of the most common types of pain created by anxiety. Research in 2018 published in BMC Medicine found that Emergency Department providers believe approximately 30 per cent of patients seeking emergency care for chest pain are actually experiencing anxiety.

This kind of chest pain is caused by a stress response. Your heart starts to beat faster to prepare for fight or flight, which causes rapid breathing. This can lead to hypoventilation, which can cause shortness of breath as well as a contraction of blood vessels, which may result in chest pain.

Other times, you might notice random pain anywhere in your body that can stay for weeks, and then disappear. Similarly, you might experience muscle aches, spasms, and twitching.

These pains could be caused by rapid breathing, or by holding your muscles tensely for long period of time, or by hypervigilance.

Abraham explains: “Someone without anxiety may have a knee pain so mild that they don’t even notice it, but a person with anxiety feels that knee pain severely because their mind has been altered, making it hypersensitive to the way the body feels.”

2. Numbness and tingling

You notice pins and needles in your feet or hands. You Google it, and become convinced you have a neurological disease. Or it’s a sign of a heart attack. But could it be… anxiety?

Anxiety Centre says numbness and tingling are common signs of anxiety. It can also feel like part of your skin or body has lost all feeling, or you might even feel a crawly sensation. You might notice it in your arms, hands, fingers, toes, legs, feet, head, face, or it might shift around all over your body.

It can even strike when you are not noticing any other mental anxiety symptoms, for example when you are relaxing watching TV.

The numbness and tingling are caused by your fight or flight response: your body moves blood away from your extremities such as hands, feet and skin, and redirects it to your heart and muscles.

3. Yawning

Frequent and excessive yawning doesn’t necessarily mean you need more sleep. It could mean you are experiencing anxiety.

The need to yawn often – even in important meetings – can sometimes be accompanied by a feeling that you can’t breathe deeply enough, or becoming very aware of your breathing.

It’s caused by shortness of breath, which in turn is caused by a change in heart rate.

4. Digestive issues

Indigestion, the need to burp all the time, or just a plain old stomach-ache are common physical symptoms of anxiety. In fact, around one third of anxious people experience anxiety-related diarrhoea.

It’s caused by the fight or flight response, which changes your hormones and digestive enzymes. It can be exacerbated by lack of sleep – another common anxiety symptom.

Plus, emerging research is revealing the powerful link between the brain and the gut, where gastrointestinal issues are triggered or exacerbated by anxiety and stress, and on the flip side, your gut health can impact your mental health.

5. Hair loss

You brush your hair and a lot comes out. Are you ageing rapidly, or could it be anxiety?

Hair loss is a common symptom of anxiety in both men and women.

You might notice it just in one part of your head, or all over.

Anxiety Centre says its due to a body-wide hormonal response. For example, stress activates neuroendocrine-immune circuits, which pause hair growth.