Pain, rapid heartbeat, dizziness…you’re not feeling well, and you don’t know why. You try and remain calm, but it’s difficult to relax when Dr. Google suggests the worst possible cause of your distress. Is your health in serious trouble, or could it just be anxiety? While you shouldn’t rule out a medical problem, be aware that anxiety has very real effects on your physical health. Here are some common symptoms during times of stress:
Heart palpitations are classic sign of anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). When you’re dealing with something stressful, your adrenal glands churn out hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and receptors in your heart react by speeding up your heartbeat. A racing heart could then make you feel more nervous, leading to a vicious cycle of even more symptoms.
Shortness of Breath
Anxiety is your body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response. Your body reacts in physical and mental ways to prepare you to either fight or run from the situation, and shortness of breath is one of those responses. When stressed, you may feel like you can’t catch your breath, tightness in your chest, or feel like you’re suffocating.
Anxiety can cause tightness or even make you feel like something is stuck in the throat. This is called globus sensation, and although the exact reason why this happens is unclear, it can definitely make anxiety even worse. Anxiety related throat problems may not be consistent. Tightness may occur frequently or every once in a while, and the severity may differ. If the feeling comes and goes, pay attention to the trigger.
Anxiety hits your GI system hard. Common symptoms include stomach pain, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. In addition, anxiety-induced lifestyle choices like eating foods that don’t agree with you or not exercising can affect your digestion as well.
Your muscles tense up as part of your stress response, and holding parts of your body rigidly for prolonged periods can lead to pain. Many people with anxiety report feeling tight in their neck, back, or shoulders. You might also clench your jaw or feel muscle tension all the way up into your head, which leads to headaches.
Headaches & Dizziness
Along with muscle tension, psychological distress involves chronic worry for most of a person’s waking hours. Racing thoughts and fear can result in an aching head and dizziness. The pain may feel dull or sharp and occur in different areas in the head.
Trouble Sleeping & Fatigue
Chronic worry is exhausting, so it’s typical for people with anxiety to be fatigued. Worry or other physical symptoms of anxiety make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. This can take a huge toll on your physical health during waking hours. If you’re struggling at bedtime, try a mindfulness or meditation technique to help your mind and body drift into sleep.
Reach Out for Help
If you’re struggling with one or more of the above symptoms, anxiety may be the culprit. Talk to your doctor about any medical concerns, and if you’re given a clean bill of health, consider treatment for anxiety.
A therapist can provide tools to ease your fears and help you cope. You’ll learn what triggers your anxiety and how to deal with future symptoms. Reach out to LifeStance Health via the link below for a confidential in-person or Telehealth appointment. Our counselors will get you on the road to feeling healthy both physically and mentally.