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Anxiety Symptoms and Body, Mind, Behaviour

The Symptoms of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Symptoms

We all experience anxiety. It is there to protect us from getting hurt and it does this through a series of mind and body reflexes, reactions and responses known as the fight-or-flight response. Changes in our heartbeat, breathing and nervous system associated with this response are responsible for a multitude of anxiety symptoms.


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Anxiety Symptoms

The following list is an example of some of the symptoms associated with anxiety. They involve our body, mind and behaviour.

Physical Symptoms

point  Palpitations (Rapid / strong / irregular heartbeat).
point  Fast and shallow breathing.
point  Trembling and shaking.
point  Legs feel like jelly.
point  Excessive sweating.
point  Blushing.
point  Dry throat and difficulty swallowing.
point  Dizziness and feeling light-headed.
point  Tightness across the chest.
point  Nausea.
point  Needing the toilet.
point  Generally feeling 'on-edge'


Physical anxiety symptoms result from the body re-directing resources to the major muscle groups (legs / arms / chest) to provide them with an energy boost to prepare us for action (ultimately to fight or flee).

* Our breathing becomes more rapid to get more oxygen for these muscles into the blood.
* Our heartbeat speeds up to get the blood to the muscles quicker.
* Blood is diverted from the brain (making us light-headed and dizzy) and the stomach (causing 'butterflies').
* Energy cannot be wasted processing any half-digested food in our system so we need to get rid of it quickly - either through the mouth (feelings of nausea) or the other end (wanting to go to the toilet).
* Other 'energy-wasting ' systems (unnecessary in time of danger) are shut down eg. saliva production, giving us a dry mouth and difficulty swallowing.
* We sweat more to cool down all this energy production.
* The energy boost to the muscles makes them 'jumpy'/ 'jittery'/ 'jelly-like'/ on-edge ready for action.

Other problems associated with physical anxiety symptoms may include: constant headaches, insomnia, and various muscle pains due to increased and prolonged tension.

Mental Symptoms

point  Feelings of apprehension and dread.
point  Being 'mildly scared' for much of the time.
point  Trouble concentrating.
point  Starting to worry more.
point  Irritability.
point  Anger.
point  Increased self-consciousness.
point  Thoughts about illness.
point  Restlessness.

Anxiety-Driven Behaviours
Anxious behaviour depends on personal beliefs about what is stressful and vary from person to person. However there are some common ones which include:-

point  Making excuses to avoid going out or doing things.
point  Hurrying out of places or situations where we feel anxious.
point  Only going to quiet places where there aren't many people.
point  Not saying anything in front of others.
point  Sitting near doors and exits or at the back.
point  Walking to avoid buses; crossing the street to avoid people.
point  Having a drink or taking a tablet before doing something stressful.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Over time, increased anxiety can lead to a number of serious problems and disorders if it isn't resolved – problems that give rise to a whole range of different but related symptoms.

These can involve physical illness, debilitating behavioural problems and self-defeating psychological issues.

1. Physical Problems Due to Long-Term Anxiety

These can include:-

point  Headaches.
point  Digestion problems.
point  Bowel problems.
point  Allergic reactions.
point  Constant fatigue.
point  Persistent colds and flu.
point  Skin problems.

Many of the above may be due, in part, to the suppression of the body's immune system by chemicals released into the bloodstream when anxious.
(Please note that any recurring physical symptoms such as pains or function problems (eg. digestion, bowel) need to be checked out by a medical doctor as they could be the signs of underlying physical disease).

2. Behavioural Problems Associated with Anxiety Disorders

Many of these define the disorder* and include:-

point Extreme anxiety and panic around other people *
Having to do things in front of others can cause us to become panic-stricken.
(Social Phobia / social Anxiety Disorder)

point Excessive Worrying *
Persistant and uncontrollable worrying about people / events / situations.
(Generalized Anxiety Disorder – GAD)

point Avoidance behaviour *
Avoiding things and situations that make us feel afraid.

point Obsessions and compulsions *
Here, uncontrollable, often horrible thoughts (obsessions) lead to behaviours we feel compelled to do (compulsions) to try and relieve the anxiety over the thoughts.
(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD)

point Panicking *
Frequent attacks of panic that seem to come 'out of the blue'.
(Panic Disorder)

point Hypochondria
Constantly visiting the doctor. Where every ache and pain becomes associated with being a serious illness.

point Depression
Often involves feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and the belief that events are beyond our control and everything we try to do will fail.

point Sexual problems
Fears over losing control and being judged on performance can maintain these problems.

Other problems can include:- Aggression, sleep disorders and eating disorders.

3. Psychological Symptoms Associated with Anxiety Disorders

Many of these symptoms can be present whichever disorder exists – something that hints at the relationship between various disorders and their cause. They involve such things as:-

point Perfectionism
Needing to be the strongest, the most beautiful, the cleverest, the most handsome, have the best body, to do the best, to be the best etc.

point Constantly making comparisons
Always comparing ourselves with others and coming up short.

point Excessive self-consciousness
Constantly watching ourselves.

point Child-like thoughts and behaviours
Desperately needing the love and approval of parents and others.

point Fantasising
Common fantasies include: 'one day being rich and famous or great, loved by all'.

point Excessive Tidiness
This represents attempts to bring form and order to our world, to gain a sense of being in control.

point Symmetry
Here, what is done by (happens to) one side of the body must be done by (happen to) the other side. This is also related to order and control.

point Ending sentences with questions
We do this to shift the attention away from us to the other person.

point Mild paranoia
Involves constant feelings of 'being picked on' and that 'others are treated better'.

point Obsessed with body image
Believing our body, or parts of it, are 'not good enough'.

point Poor posture
Standing shoulders down, feet inwards and arms in front of body, trying to be small, almost apologetic for being there.

point Others include:-
Persistent negative thoughts and images, constantly looking back for reasons and answers, and feelings of having no control over our mind or body.

A diagnosis of an anxiety disorder often refers to the main set of symptoms. Yet many people experience a whole range of symptoms associated with various anxiety disorders, adding weight to the belief that these problems are all related.


The symptoms of anxiety problems and disorders can feel too powerful to deal with. But when we know what is really happening with these problems it is possible to overcome them completely.

The next section gives some insight into what it takes.

›› The Answer








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