Anxiety is a mental, emotional, and physical condition. Anyone who has anxiety or knows someone who has struggled with it can identify it by some of its most common symptoms: nervousness, sweating, exaggerated or irrational fear, and rapid heartbeat among others.
But these are not the only symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety is occasionally called “the Great Imitator” due to its ability to mimic other health conditions.
For those who live with chronic anxiety, its range of symptoms, from the usual to the rare, is extensive.
Anxiety changes the way you think.
Anxiety alters your hormone levels.
Anxiety changes your perception and awareness so that you notice physical sensations that someone without anxiety would never notice.
Anxiety can even amplify physical sensations. For example, 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.
Anxiety can also create symptoms that are not there at all.
Anxiety Symptoms List: Learn More About Anxiety
The best way to stop anxiety is to understand it. The more you understand what causes your symptoms, what they mean, why you struggle with them, and what you can do to stop them, the more you’ll be able to start making real progress on your own anxiety symptoms.
We have broken each symptom down into categories for easy navigation. You can click on any of the links below to be taken to the section of your choice immediately, or you can scroll down to start reading more about the symptoms as a whole.
Note: Some people experience anxiety symptoms that are 100% mental with no physical symptoms. Others experience anxiety symptoms that are 100% physical: they are anxious physically even though they have no worries and their minds are clear. Most people experience some combination of the two. There is no right or wrong way to experience anxiety.
Keep in mind that categorizing some anxiety symptoms is difficult. For example, you may feel that what we consider to be a whole-body symptom is more of a chest symptom, and vice versa. So if you don’t find a symptom you struggle with in the section you expect, it may be in another section.
- Most Common Symptoms of Anxiety
- Mental Symptoms of Anxiety – Thoughts and More
- Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety
- Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Whole Body
- Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Organs
- Symptoms of Anxiety Affecting that Affect the Head
- Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Upper Body
- Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Lower Body
- Other Symptoms of Anxiety
Within each of these categories are sub-categories that will allow you to learn more about specific groupings of symptoms. If you find that a symptom you struggle with not on this list, and you’d like to discuss it in the future, please feel free to contact us at any time, and we’ll do our best to address it.
Note: Every Type of Anxiety Has Different Symptoms
Anxiety is not a single disorder.
Anxiety has hundreds of symptoms, but these symptoms may change depending on the type of anxiety you have. “Anxiety disorders” is an umbrella term for a group of anxiety conditions, each of which has unique signs and symptoms. These anxiety disorders include the following:
- Acute Stress Disorder
- Agoraphobia Without a History of Panic Disorder
- Anxiety Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition
- Anxiety Disorder not Otherwise Specified
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia
- Panic Disorder Without Agoraphobia
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Social Phobia
- Specific Phobia
- Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder
Keep in mind how different these anxiety disorders may be as you learn about the symptoms of anxiety. It’s also important to note that not everyone’s anxiety fits into a neat little bubble. Many people with one type of anxiety struggle with symptoms that are similar to those of another type.
Finally, as you explore the symptoms below, you should recognize that you are not alone. We asked those on our Facebook page if they had weird anxiety symptoms. They had 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.
The Most Common Symptoms of Anxiety
Although there are many strange and unusual anxiety symptoms, there are also those that are common. The most common anxiety symptoms are those directly caused by the fight-or-flight system — the system in your brain that is responsible for keeping you safe from harm. When it works improperly, it causes anxiety.
Typically, if you have anxiety, you will experience some combination of these symptoms. Much depends on the anxiety disorder, how long you’ve had it, what you’re paying attention to, and more. For example, some symptoms, like chest pains, are more common in panic attacks than in generalized anxiety disorder or OCD.
Don’t take this list to mean that you do or do not have anxiety. Anxiety is more complex than that. But if you do have an anxiety disorder, you will likely experience at least 50% of the following common anxiety symptoms (click on each symptom to learn more):
- Breathing Difficulties
- Chest Pain
- Chest Pressure / Chest Tightness
- Concentration Problems
- Depersonalization / Derealization
- Difficulty Speaking
- Digestion Issues
- Feeling Ill
- Feeling Overwhelmed
- Feeling Shaky
- “Heart Attack Symptoms”
- Heart Pounding / Heart Palpitations
- Insomnia / Drowsiness
- Lack of Air
- Low Energy
- Muscle Tension / Sore Muscles
- Shallow Breathing
These are some of the most common anxiety symptoms. If your symptoms do not appear on this list, that does not make them rare. There are still thousands of anxiety symptoms that millions of people all over the world experience.
For those who are interested in learning more about their anxiety symptoms, the following are all of the slightly less common, but no less important, symptoms of anxiety that they may experience, broken down by category.
Mental Symptoms of Anxiety: Thoughts and Cognitive Habits
Anxiety is a mental health condition, so the best way to start talking about anxiety symptoms is to look at the mental ones.
Anxiety alters your brain. It changes how you think, how you perceive, and how you process information. For example, someone without anxiety may see a random person looking at them and think nothing of it. Someone with anxiety may see the same person looking at them and worry that they’re being judged or that the person is dangerous.
The exact same situation is processed differently.
Similarly, anxiety can cause strange mental symptoms. It can cause anhedonia — which is a total loss of the ability to feel pleasure. It can cause obtrusive thoughts, like imagining yourself being violent to a child even though you have no violent tendencies. It can even cause you to forget who you are.
Anxiety changes the neurochemicals in your brain that tell you how to think and act.
But rest assured, curing anxiety can also change your brain back to its prior state. Like a disease, anxiety changes your brain, but none of those changes have to be permanent.
Thought Symptoms of Anxiety
The following are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety related to thoughts. Thought symptoms are especially common among those struggling with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder but play some role in nearly all forms of anxiety.
Anxiety thought symptoms include:
- Bad Thoughts
- Crazy Thoughts
- Disturbing Thoughts
- Intrusive Thoughts
- Irrational Thoughts
- Obsessive Thoughts
- Racing Thoughts
- Scary Thoughts
- Violent Thoughts
- Weird Thoughts
If you struggle with one of these types of thoughts, it’s important to remind yourself time and time again that they are caused by anxiety and that anxiety changes how you think, making these types of thoughts more frequent.
Cognitive Functioning Symptoms of Anxiety
In this case, cognitive functioning refers to how your brain acts, not necessarily how you think. An example might be memory loss. Memory loss, especially regarding smaller details, is common in those with anxiety.
The following are some anxiety symptoms that affect how your mind functions:
- Distorted Reality
- Memory Loss
- Memory Problems
It could be argued that emotional issues, like we discuss in the next section of the guide, are related to cognitive functioning as are some types of thoughts (such as racing thoughts), but this list of anxiety symptoms should give you a bit more of an idea of the different types of mental anxiety symptoms.
Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety has a strong effect on your emotions. In some ways, anxiety itself is an emotion.
As a result, it’s not uncommon for anxiety to affect your emotions. You can have almost any emotion as a result of anxiety. Some people actually experience anxiety euphoria. This means anxiety triggers extreme happiness in them (although usually this occurs only when they have some relief from anxiety).
Because anxiety alters the neurochemicals associated with mood, many emotional anxiety symptoms are common. We have broken them down into two sections, mood-based emotion anxiety symptoms and fear-based emotional symptoms.
Mood-Based Anxiety Symptoms
If you have anxiety, the changes it makes to your brain chemicals will affect your mood. But its impact will vary from one person to the next because the human mind translates neurotransmitters differently. You can experience some, all, or only one of the many mood anxiety symptoms, including:
- Aggression and Violence
- The Development of Apathy
- Impaired Communication
- Isolation and Loneliness
- Mood Swings
- Numb Feelings
- “Psychotic” Behaviors
- Severe Sadness
- A Suicidal Mindset
- The Emotional Brain
- Toying with Emotions
Many of them make perfect sense for the condition. For example, if you are struggling with stress because of anxiety, it makes sense that you may also be irritable. The different levels of neurotransmitters in the brain may directly cause other symptoms, like mood swings.
Fear-Based Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety itself is a form of fear. Indeed, fears often constitute a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias are significant fears of a specific stimulus and cause anxiety symptoms. The following, however, are a few types of fears that are also symptoms of anxiety:
- Being Easily Scared
- Fear of Death and Dying
- Fear of Going Crazy
In some ways, fear of flying may be an anxiety symptom as well as a fear of going outside. Fears may also cause anxiety. This shows how linked the causes and symptoms of anxiety can be.
Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Whole Body
We will now start to list physical anxiety symptoms. These sections are broken up to correspond to individual parts of the body — the head, the chest, and more. But there are also some symptoms that affect the entire body. These are symptoms of that kind.
Muscle-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety affects the muscles in many ways. The following are several of the symptoms of anxiety that may affect nearly any muscle in the body. Click on each link to explore what causes those specific symptoms to occur when you have anxiety.
- Muscle Aches
- Muscle Cramps
- Muscle Pain
- Muscle Spasms / Behavioral Spasms
- Muscle Stiffness
- Muscle Twitching
- Muscle Weakness
This list excludes muscle tension because we listed it in the “Common Anxiety Symptom” section.
In addition, several types of pain and discomfort in specific areas of the body may be caused by muscles, but because they are specific to a body part, you will find them in a different list.
Blood and Circulatory System-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety can also affect how your heart pumps blood, how your body communicates, and so much more. The following are some anxiety symptoms of the blood and circulatory system:
- Circulation Problems
- Hormonal Changes
- Low Blood Pressure
Anxiety can also make some issues that you already struggle with worse. Luckily, most of the time, these issues are only temporary, and do not cause any long-term damage or lead to any long-term risks.
Temperature Perception-Based Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety also affects the way you perceive ambient temperature, which in turn can make you feel hot, cold, or both. The following are some associated anxiety symptoms:
- Body Temperature Changes
- Cold Sweat
- Feeling Cold
- Hot and Cold Flashes
In most cases, they are largely harmless.
Other Whole-Body (Somatic) Anxiety Symptoms
The following are some symptoms of anxiety that affect the entire body but do not necessarily fit into any one category. Be sure to explore the links below to learn more about each symptom as well as what may cause it and what you can do about it.
- Aches and Pains
- Body Odor
- Joint Pain
- Pins and Needles
- Trouble Moving
- A Weakened Immune System
Anxiety symptoms can also migrate, making them feel like they affect your entire body.
Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Organs
Although slightly less common, anxiety can also affect the organs, especially the largest organ of your body — your skin. We discussed chest pains and a rapid heartbeat earlier as the adrenaline from anxiety frequently affects your heart. But you may also find that anxiety affects your organs or leads to similar organ symptoms. See the following:
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Burning Skin
- Heart Palpitations
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Kidney Problems
- Red Blotches
- Skin Color Changes
- Slow Heart Rate
- Spleen Issues
If you struggle with any of these issues, it makes sense to see a doctor for safety. But anxiety really does cause all of these conditions, and if you struggle with them, curing your anxiety may be the only way to eliminate them.
Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Eyes, Nose, Mouth
Since anxiety is a mental health condition, it does seem to make some sense that it would cause a wide range of physical symptoms involving the eyes, mouth, etc.
Eye-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety may affect the eyes and perception. This is partially a result of the fight-or-flight response. At the same time, since the eyes are dependent on a fully functioning brain, it’s not a surprise that anxiety causes a lot of eye symptoms, including:
- Blurred Vision
- Double Vision
- Eye Pain
- Eye Problems
- Pupil Changes
- Seeing Spots
- Sore Eyes
- Vision Problems
Often, if these issues are caused by anxiety, the symptoms seem to come and go at different times. This means glasses alone may not fix them.
Head Anxiety Symptoms
It’s not always clear why stress and anxiety seem to affect the head so much. Muscle tension is likely one of the most common culprits. But there are many symptoms that specifically affect the head, including:
- Hair Loss
- Hair Problems
- Head Pain
- Head Pressure
- Itchy Scalp
These don’t even include the symptoms that often affect the face, which are listed below.
Anxiety and stress can cause many different nose-related anxiety symptoms. They can also make allergies worse. The symptoms include:
- Nasal Tics
- Runny Nose
- Changes in Smell
This is another way in which oversensitivity may be a problem. Anxiety can make you more sensitive in your perception of these symptoms. So if you would normally be able to ignore a slightly runny nose, anxiety will make you more aware of it.
That same oversensitivity is often specifically linked to issues of the mouth. Indeed, while anxiety can literally cause a bad taste in your mouth, it can also make you hyper-aware of how your mouth “tastes” when you’d normally be able to enjoy it. Common mouth-related anxiety symptoms include:
- A Bad Taste in the Mouth
- A Constrained Voice
- A Dry Mouth
- Lip Biting
- A Metallic Taste
- Taste Changes
- Teeth Problems
Trouble swallowing and related issues are also common, but those are a bit more linked to the throat.
Hearing- and Ear-Related Symptoms
Some people describe strange hearing sensations with anxiety, like a loud “pop” noise that seems to come out of nowhere. You may experience any number of hearing- and ear-related anxiety symptoms, including:
- Hearing Problems
- Ringing Ears
- Sensitivity to Sound
These don’t include auditory hallucinations, which we listed above under the cognitive functioning section.
Because anxiety affects both your thoughts and your mouth, speech problems may be common. If you struggle to speak as a symptom of your anxiety, see if you have one of the anxiety-related speech symptoms below:
- Slurred Speech
- Speech — Concentration and Swallowing
- Speech Patterns
Of course, anxiety can also cause fear of speaking in public, and those with anxiety — especially social anxiety — may have symptoms that include overthinking before speaking or speaking too fast.
Other Head Symptoms (Including Those Related to the Face and Throat)
There are also some head symptoms that simply do not seem to fit into any of the above sections. The following are such symptoms of anxiety:
- Choking Sensations
- Face Issues
- Jaw Pain
- Lump in the Throat
- Neck Pain
- A Red Face
- Sore Throat
Some issues, like sore throat, may have very complex causes – such as anxiety triggering acid reflux, which in turn causes a sore throat. Don’t forget to explore the links to see if you can learn more about your own anxiety symptoms.
Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Upper Body — Including the Arms, Neck, Back, Chest
As we move down the body, we get to symptoms that relate to the upper body — including the arms, neck, back, and chest.
We’ve done our best to break down each of these symptoms into their appropriate categories, but some may be hard to categorize. So explore the text below to find symptoms you may be experiencing.
Arm- and Hand-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety doesn’t have a “strong” effect on the arms and the hands, but it does affect them. The main culprits are the nerves — which can misfire when you have anxiety — and blood flow. Some common arm- and hand-related anxiety symptoms include
- Arm Pain
- Armpit Problems and Sweating
- Cold Hands
- Finger Symptoms
- Hand Symptoms
- Nail Biting
- A Tingling Sensation in the Hands and Arms
Be careful about oversensitivity as well. Anxiety makes you so sensitive to normal sensations that they feel worse. This occasionally happens with tingling hands, for example, although anxiety can also cause the hands to tingle all on its own.
Chest, Digestive, and Breathing Anxiety Symptoms
Your chest is more than muscles. Inside your chest are your lungs, which affect breathing, and several parts of your digestive tract. These can lead to a variety of chest anxiety symptoms, including:
- Angina-like symptoms
- Esophagus Problems
- Heartburn and Acid Reflux
- Respiratory Problems
- Rib Pain
Some of the most common anxiety symptoms include chest pains, rapid heartbeat, and trouble breathing, so be sure to review that section as well for other anxiety symptoms of the chest.
Abdomen-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Right below the chest is your abdomen, which houses your stomach and has some of the most sensitive muscles in your entire body. Those who struggle with stress regularly have abdominal pain and other conditions. See some of them below:
- Abdominal Pain
- Stomach Cramps
- Stomach Pain
- Stomach Problems
- Upset Stomach
Stress has a strong effect on stomach acids and digestion.
Other Upper Body-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Of course, symptoms are not limited to those parts of the upper body. You may find that you have a variety of additional symptoms, including:
- Armpit Pain and Sweating
- Back Pain
- Neck Pain
You may also find yourself concerned about flank pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, and other, related symptoms. These may also be anxiety-related symptoms.
Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Lower Body – Including the Legs, Feet, Genitals
Anxiety may elicit a variety of symptoms in your genitals, buttocks, legs, feet, and more.
Sometimes, the symptoms aren’t easy to pin down. People who struggle with panic attacks, for example, often find that automatic movements become less automatic. Something as simple as walking suddenly becomes difficult because they are so aware of their bodies that they essentially override their muscle memory and have to figure out how to walk again.
Still, we have attempted to categorize the lower body symptoms into the following groups:
Pelvis-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Problems with sex can be both causes and symptoms of anxiety, and — due to stress, changes in blood flow, and how the brain works — anxiety can also create a lot of unique issues that affect urination, sexual desire, and more. The following are several pelvis-related symptoms of anxiety:
- Bowel Problems
- Fertility Problems
- Genital Symptoms
- Incontinence/Loss of Bladder Control
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Decreased Libido
- Urination Issues
- Vaginal Discomfort
- Yellow Stool
Leg and Feet Anxiety Symptoms
Your legs and feet can be surprisingly sensitive to anxiety. The relationship between adrenaline/blood flow and your legs and feet is well known, which is why anxiety can cause many leg and foot symptoms, including
- Cold Feet
- Foot Discomfort
- Leg Pain
- Tingling Feet
- Toe Problems
- Weak Legs
Walking can often help with anxiety leg symptoms, but only if anxiety hasn’t affected your ability to walk.
Other Symptoms of Anxiety
Even in the most comprehensive list of anxiety symptoms, it can be difficult to find a category for each symptom. The following are some miscellaneous anxiety symptoms that did not fit into any of the groups listed above.
Sleep-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety has a profound effect on sleep, which is why “insomnia” is up there with the most common anxiety symptoms. But many other sleep-related issues exist, including:
- Night Sweats
- Sleep Problems
- Sleep Apnea
Some people sleep more, others less. Some people sleep like a rock, others toss and turn. Stress is so complex that it can have a different impact on how each person sleeps, how often they sleep, and how they dream.
Behavior-Related Anxiety Symptoms
The simple act of avoiding a social situation because you have social fears or that of having your partner drive because you hate freeways — these are arguably behavioral anxiety symptoms. The following are a few of the many that currently exist:
- Behavioral Changes
- Social Withdrawal
- Weight Gain
Those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are especially prone to behavioral symptoms.
Illness-Related and Miscellaneous Anxiety Symptoms
Finally, some common issues do not fit into any of the above categories. For example, there are illness-related anxiety symptoms that seem to mimic real disorders, as well as strange and unusual symptoms, like itchiness, that are different for different people. The following are some of the anxiety symptoms that do not quite fit in the previous groups:
- Increased Risk of Infection
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Swollen Glands/Swollen Lymph Nodes
Anxiety: It Does it All
Anxiety really can seem to cause almost every symptom imaginable because it does. It mimics health conditions. It can make you so sensitive to how you feel that normal perceptions feel abnormal. It can create its own issues — such as acid reflux, which then causes hoarseness or chronic cough.
In nearly any mental health book, the list of anxiety symptoms is extremely short, and this leads to people developing even more anxiety as they worry that they may have something else, that something else may be wrong with them.
But if you talk to people who have anxiety, do research, and learn more about the condition, you will quickly find that there are hundreds of anxiety symptoms out there: all the more reason to find ways to cure it.
What is a high anxiety score? ›
The following guidelines are recommended for the interpretation of scores: 0–9, normal or no anxiety; 10–18, mild to moderate anxiety; 19–29, moderate to severe anxiety; and 30–63, severe anxiety.What does extremely severe anxiety look like? ›
You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations). These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations in which they've occurred.What are the most severe symptoms of anxiety? ›
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.
- Being easily fatigued.
- Having difficulty concentrating.
- Being irritable.
- Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Scores of 5, 10, and 15 are taken as the cut-off points for mild, moderate and severe anxiety, respectively. When used as a screening tool, further evaluation is recommended when the score is 10 or greater. Using the threshold score of 10, the GAD-7 has a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 82% for GAD.How do doctors measure anxiety level? ›
- Give you a psychological evaluation. This involves discussing your thoughts, feelings and behavior to help pinpoint a diagnosis and check for related complications. ...
- Compare your symptoms to the criteria in the DSM-5.