There are common symptoms of anxiety that people experience in terms of feelings, behaviors, thoughts, and physical sensations. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that anxiety is a highly subjective experience. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms, nor will each person experience the same intensity of a symptom. Still, it is helpful to provide some examples of the common physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms of anxiety.
Physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- A feeling of restlessness
- Shortness of breath, or a feeling of choking
- Sweaty palms
- A racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Muscle tension, trembling, feeling shaky
- Nausea and/or diarrhea
- “Butterflies” in the stomach
- Dizziness, or feeling faint
- Hot flashes
- Numbness, or tingling sensations
- An exaggerated startle response
- Sleep disturbance and fatigue
Behavioral symptoms of anxiety include:
- Avoidance behaviors such as avoiding anxiety-producing situations (e.g., avoiding social situations) or places (e.g., using the stairs instead of an elevator).
- Escaping from an anxiety-producing situation (like a crowded lecture hall).
- Engaging in unhealthy, risky, or self-destructive behaviors (such as excessive drinking or drug use to deal with the anxiety).
- Feeling compelled to limit the amount and scope of one’s daily activities to reduce the overall level of anxiety (e.g., remaining in the safety of one’s home).
- Becoming overly attached to a safety object or person (e.g., refusing to go out, away from home, to school, or to work in order to avoid separation).
Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:
- feeling overwhelmed
- fear or terror
- jumpiness or edginess
The psychological symptoms of anxiety may include:
- Problems with concentration, or difficulty with staying on task
- Memory difficulties
- Depressive symptoms such as hopelessness, lethargy, and poor appetite
Cognitive symptoms of anxiety
- Finally, there are the cognitive symptoms of anxiety. Whether we realize it or not, it is often quite common to have thoughts running through our mind when we feel anxious. Although the content of the thoughts may vary depending on the person and situation, common themes include:
- “What if ___ happens?”
- “I must have certainty.”
- “I can’t possibly tolerate not knowing ____.”
- “What do these physical symptoms mean?”
- “People will laugh at me.”
- “I won’t be able to escape.”
- “I am going crazy.”
- “Oh my God, what’s happening to me?”