Recognizing the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety Physical SymptomsWhen people think of anxiety, they often think of worried thoughts that spin around their mind at light speed.  Others think the self-doubt or the fear that, no matter the situation, the worst will certainly happen.  Another group will think about the daily stresses that compile in their mind to culminate in anxiety.  These are all cognitive or thought-based symptoms.  If you know anxiety, you know this is only the beginning of its symptoms.

Anxiety, more than other mental health disorders, is multi-dimensional.  It brings with it a long list of physical symptoms that are as problematic and frustrating as the mental symptoms.  This means that even if you have your cognitive symptoms under control, all of your anxiety could be expressed physically.  If your goal is to control your anxious symptoms, it does you no good to transfer your symptoms between physical and mental.

Many therapy techniques target the cognitive symptoms.  With interventions like thought-stopping, cognitive reframing and relaxations like autogenic training, worry, fear and self-doubt can be well controlled.  What about physical symptoms?  Unfortunately, the physical symptoms cannot be addressed with such a wide range of techniques, but one available and effective intervention aims squarely at anxiety physical symptoms: progressive muscle relaxation.

Before you can begin a new relaxation, you must first know what you are looking to change.  Physical symptoms of anxiety take many shapes and sizes as they change in frequency and intensity.  Consider these symptoms that are commonly reported by others:


  • Feeling numb, tingly or hot
  • Feeling dizzy, faint or lightheaded
  • Being shaky, unsteady or having trembling hands
  • Shallow breathing and breathing quickly
  • Having hot/ cold sweats, sweaty hands or underarms
  • Feeling flushed in your face
  • Heart pounding or quickened heart rate

If you are unsure of how your physical symptoms compare to normal functioning, complete the Beck’s Anxiety Inventory online. Beck is better known for his depression inventory, but the anxiety variation does well to call attention to the physical components of anxiety while putting your symptoms in categories of low, moderate and high anxiety.  As always, a test can only tell you limited information about your symptoms.  It is not a tool to diagnosis you with an anxiety disorder, but the Beck’s Anxiety Inventory is a great starting place.

Next page: reducing symptoms and coping skills.

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