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The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Feelings of anxiety are a natural part of life. However, when anxiety begins to interfere with daily life an anxiety disorder could develop over time.

The most common mental health problem among children and adults in the United States are anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders include excessive panic in non-threatening situations. Those who suffer from anxiety disorders are often experience intense physical symptoms.

Common Physical Symptoms of Anxiety Include:

  • Racing heart
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Upset stomach
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle aches or soreness

Types of Anxiety Disorders:

Certain anxiety disorders tend to be more associated with physical symptoms than others. Anxiety disorder types include, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. Here is a break-down of what the types of anxiety disorders are, and what physical symptoms are associated to them.

Panic Disorder:

Panic disorder is characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks. During an attack, a person will experience a variety of physical symptoms including:

  • Heart Palpitations
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling

Though these symptoms will elicit intense fear, they do not generally represent a medical danger.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is defined as excessive worry about numerous activities and events, is associated with an increase in somatic symptoms like:

  • Muscle Tension
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is often accompanied with medical conditions including irritable bowel syndrome and headaches.

Social Anxiety Disorder:

Social Anxiety Disorder is known as people who have irrational fears within everyday or social encounters. This leads to extreme anxiety, terror, nervousness and humiliation. Some symptoms of social anxiety disorder, or also referred to as social phobia, are:

  • Sweating
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Social Isolation

How Does One Control Anxiety?

Oftentimes, people experiencing anxiety will first visit a physician because the physical symptoms can be confused with a variety of medical conditions. The physician should do a thorough evaluation to rule out any medical illnesses or medication side effects that may be causing these symptoms.

In addition, anxiety and stress can exacerbate existing medical conditions, which should be closely monitored.

If all medical conditions are ruled out, the physician may refer his or her patient to a mental health professional. Anxiety is usually treated with psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, or a combination of both.

Amanda Chusid, M.A.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, December 31). Anxiety: Overview [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/home/ovc-20168121

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Anxiety Disorders [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; May 2015). Anxiety Disorders [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

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