7 Ways Anxiety Physically Affects Me

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There truly is a mind-body connection when it comes to almost everything in life, including mental illnessAnxiety disorders affect the mind, but they also affect the physical body. When your anxiety sends your brain into overdrive, your body often responds similarly, leading to the common but often overlooked physical symptoms of anxiety. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I’ve often experienced more than one of the physical ailments listed below:


Anxiety Physical Symptom #1: Pounding heart.

This is an obvious symptom of anxiety, but I never considered how physically uncomfortable it was until I experienced it on a regular basis. Heart palpitations are common when you experience anxiety, but it is worse than simply a constricting feeling in your chest. It can get so bad to the point where you literally feel like your heart is going to explode out of your chest.

Anxiety Physical Symptom #2: Shortness of breath.

It can feel hard to breathe when my anxiety reaches a certain severity level. Subconsciously, I’m aware that I can breathe, as there’s nothing physically preventing me from taking in oxygen, but anxiety is often irrational. My intake of breaths becomes exaggerated as I mentally struggle with the feeling of near-suffocation.

Anxiety Physical Symptom #3: Nausea.

Stomach pain is among the common physical symptoms of anxiety. Experiencing severe anxiety can bring on a nauseous, sick feeling. It’s one of the ways I know I am especially anxious if I feel like I am going to throw up at any second. The saying “butterflies in your stomach” doesn’t even capture the sick feeling you get in your stomach when you’re having an anxiety attack.

Anxiety Physical Symptom #4: Trembling.

My hands shake very badly from the anxiety I experience, and it worsens when I am even more anxious than usual. I can’t hold my phone in one hand without my hand shaking, and photos I take are bound to end up blurry from the frantic movement if I’m not aware of the anxiety I’m feeling. It can get to the point where my whole body feels shaky.

Anxiety Physical Symptom #5: Insomnia.

In the earlier days of experiencing my anxiety disorder, I had so much trouble sleeping. I would often be up for hours on end, my mind keeping me awake with all the what-ifs and worries, until I fell asleep simply because my body was exhausted. Even after getting help, I have to make sure I relax my mind and body enough to actually get a good night’s sleep.

Anxiety Physical Symptom #6: Restlessness.

I often feel like I have restless or excessive energy whenever I am anxious. It’s not the kind of restlessness you feel from excitement, but more like you feel the energy so pent up physically that if you don’t let it out you feel like you’ll lose your mind. Exercise often helps, but, as recommended by health professionals, it’s something I have to do daily to combat the restless feeling anxiety often brings upon me.

Anxiety Physical Symptom #7: Fatigue.

Occasionally, I experience the opposite of insomnia from anxiety — I feel pure exhaustion instead. When you’re constantly anxious, it takes a toll on your energy. When I am feeling severe anxiety, oftentimes all I want to do is lie down or sleep and not have to be physically present in the moment. The anxiety has become so all-consuming and overwhelming to the point where my body cannot handle it anymore.

This is not an exhaustive list of physical symptoms of anxiety, and there are certainly woes I haven’t experienced that are commonplace for other people. But regardless of your symptoms, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting help for anxiety that is taking a toll on your physical and mental health. It’s hard to live life with chronic anxiety, but seeking professional help, getting support from loved ones, and practicing your own self-care routines often lifts the load that anxiety causes. Burdens shared are burdens lessened, and I have never found that truer than when I experience anxiety.

Which physical symptoms of anxiety do you experience?

Share your experience with our safe and supportive mental health community in the comments below.

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels

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Fairley Lloyd is a bisexual writer and editor passionate about mental health education and accessibility. She earned her BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work appears in The Mighty, Thought Catalog, Spoonie Magazine, and elsewhere. You can find her sporadically on Twitter (@fairleylloyd) and Instagram (@fairleywords).

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