Anxiety symptoms present differently for everyone; you can experience both physical and mental effects of anxiety. Occasional anxiety is normal, but you should seek advice for frequent symptoms. Read on to learn about the most common anxiety symptoms and the risk factors for anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an uneasy feeling that can cause mild or severe worry and fear. People with an anxiety disorder experience intense and excessive fear or worry about everyday situations frequently.
There may be a specific trigger to your anxiety, such as a phobia or anxiety disorder, or there may be no obvious cause.
Children and teenagers can experience anxiety disorders as well as adults, visit our pages on Child Anxiety, (Child) OCD and Teenage Stress and Anxiety to find out more.
Commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders include:
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Phobias, such as agoraphobia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
- Perinatal anxiety or perinatal OCD
- Separation anxiety disorder
Learning coping skills and relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, can help you manage your condition.
Seeking professional help when your symptoms first appear can prevent them from worsening.
Most common anxiety symptoms
If you have an anxiety disorder, you may experience one or two symptoms of anxiety or many. If your symptom/s are affecting your daily life or causing you to feel stressed, speak to your GP. They can offer advice and may recommend speaking to a therapist.
Worries, fears and nervousness
When you have anxiety, you often experience troubling thoughts that don’t go away, which can be quite stressful. When worries and fears don’t match your circumstances it can affect your ability to perform daily activities. This is a common symptom of anxiety.
You may also have feelings of doom and dread as if something bad is going to happen. Nervousness can cause physical symptoms as well, such as trembling and shaking. We cover the physical symptoms of anxiety in more detail below.
In children, this may cause excessive reassurance-seeking. They may also want to avoid certain people, places or activities to counter their concerns. Both adults and children may have difficulty concentrating due to their worries and fears.
You may have thoughts of “what might happen” in the future and think of worse-case scenarios for everyday situations. The memory of a past traumatic event can also cause these thoughts as you might worry about it happening again.
Your therapist can work with you to create plans to counter your worries and fears, as well as suggest other ways to control these thoughts.
Contact us to learn how we could help you cope with your worries and fears. You do not need an anxiety diagnosis to seek help. One of the treatments we offer is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which is a type of talk therapy to help you change the way you think and behave.
Restlessness and irritability
Feelings of restlessness may worsen due to your physical symptoms or even cause them. This can feel like you are unable to sit still, or it may feel better to keep moving. You might feel tense, which can also lead to headaches and stomach problems.
When you have a lot to think about, which is causing you stress, it can also make you easily irritated. You might find that you get annoyed quicker than usual, or certain things are more annoying than they were before. This can mean you are less patient with other people as well.
People with anxiety often experience brain fog. This can cause trouble concentrating as you might feel as if you are thinking slower than usual. You might find you need more time to do simple tasks or that you get distracted easily.
You may also feel confused or as if your thoughts are hazy and hard to grasp. The term ‘brain fog’ is quite apt in this situation, as it can feel as if you have a fog in your head. This can also affect your short term memory, and you may be more forgetful than before.
Physical symptoms of anxiety
Physical symptoms can occur as soon as your psychological symptoms appear, though they often happen as your symptoms worsen. For some people, their anxiety symptoms are more physical.
Physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- Appetite changes
- Muscle aches and tension
- Tiredness/ fatigue
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach ache and feeling sick
- A fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Problems falling or staying asleep – may also relate to insomnia
A GP can rule out other conditions that could be causing these symptoms with a physical examination and testing, such as blood tests.
Chest tightness/ Shortness of breath
You may experience shortness of breath and palpitations as a side-effect of anxiety. It can develop slowly over weeks or months or occur suddenly. An anxiety attack or a panic attack can cause sudden chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Anxiety and panic attacks
You may find that your symptoms come on suddenly and more severely than usual; we call this an anxiety attack or a panic attack. People with anxiety have a higher chance of experiencing panic attacks, though it does not mean you will experience one.
Some people used the terms panic attack and anxiety attack interchangeably, though there are some differences. For example, an anxiety attack usually has a trigger, whereas a panic attack doesn’t always. A panic attack is more sudden and tends to end faster than anxiety attacks, which are longer-lasting.
Focusing on your breathing or senses, stomping on the spot, and grounding techniques can help you manage a panic attack. If you experience panic attacks, it can be useful to have an action plan in place for when you have one.
Risk factors for anxiety
Anyone can experience anxiety for many reasons. However, there are some risk factors to be aware of that can make you more susceptible to experiencing anxiety.
People who already have a mental health condition diagnosis, such as depression, are more likely to experience anxiety. A family history of an anxiety disorder, such as GAD, can also increase the risk of developing one.
If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, such as abuse or losing a loved one, you may also be more likely to develop anxiety. Then again, it doesn’t mean you will.
Anxiety can be related to your current circumstances; as they change, you may find your anxiety lessens or that your symptoms stop altogether. For example, a stressful illness or health condition could cause anxiety symptoms. Though as your health improves or you learn to manage your condition, your anxiety symptoms may also stop.
Book an appointment
If you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety, with or without a diagnosis, talking to a therapist can help.
Contact us or book an appointment to start the process of dealing with your anxiety symptoms.
Prioritise your mental health today.