How Many Symptoms of Anxiety Do You Actually Recognize?

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When you try to picture someone who has anxiety, what do you see? Maybe you picture someone who constantly seems worried or perhaps even frantic. Maybe they’re unkempt or pulling at their own hair. Maybe they bite their nails obsessively.

Those things may all be true, but they’re not the only signs and symptoms of anxiety. In fact, anxiety affects people in many different ways, so it often goes undetected — even by the people who suffer from it and could use some help.

As you read through these signs of anxiety, keep in mind that someone you know may be struggling with anxiety and not even know it. A majority of people with anxiety actually remain untreated because they don’t even realize there’s a problem. Be on the lookout for these symptoms in your family members, friends, and even yourself.

Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if ever you need it.

Think you know what anxiety looks like?

You may be surprised. Let’s start with some of the more common traits of anxiety. Then, we’ll cover symptoms that are more likely to go unrecognized.

1. Shortness of Breath

If you’re having a hard time catching your breath, it may be because you just finished a huge workout, or it could be a sign of anxiety. It could also mean you’re in the midst of having a panic attack.

2. Trembling

Trembling and shaking are sensations commonly associated with a stress response and may be another sign of a panic attack. Again, this is one of those symptoms that you’d probably expect to see from someone who deals with anxiety.

3. Sweating

Yet again, another sign you probably already associate with anxiety. Sweating is another response the human body automatically has toward stressful situations. It can also be a manifestation of internal anxiety. If you break out in a sweat for seemingly no reason at all, it could definitely be tied to anxiety.

4. Dizziness

We’ve already covered the fact that anxiety can sometimes manifest with a shortness of breath. That can lead to dizziness, too.

5. Sudden Chills or Hot Flashes

A sudden drop or rise in body temperature is also sometimes indicative of anxiety and can definitely occur during panic attacks.

But that’s not all.

Not even close, in fact. Now that we’ve covered some of the more common symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, let’s take a look at some of the symptoms that tend to go unnoticed.

But first…

We want to be clear and let you know that this list is not in any means meant to be taken as medical advice or used to diagnose yourself. It’s only meant to be informative and helpful. If you feel like you may be dealing with anxiety, speak with your doctor or a therapist so they can work with you to find a treatment that works the best for your individual needs.

8. Inability to Focus

Anxiety can sometimes make you feel as though you’re running just to catch yourself. You may feel unable to focus on any one task for too long and be easily distracted.

You may feel as though you’ve been working all day but have nothing to show for it.

This, in turn, can make you super frustrated with yourself and your inability to remain focused on the task at hand. Luckily, if this turns out to be a symptom of anxiety for you, it can be helped with therapy, medication, and other treatments.

9. Being Easily Startled

It may sound strange, but if you’ve been exceptionally jumpy, that could absolutely be a sign of anxiety, too. You should absolutely be paying attention to those feelings, particularly if they are a new sensation.

There’s science to back it up.

According to a 2008 study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, people who have anxiety tend to have a heightened startle response as well, especially when their mind is stuck in a negative state.

10. Upset Stomach

An upset stomach — without another known cause such as food poisoning or IBS — is yet another potential way that anxiety can manifest in your body. Anxiety can worsen abdominal cramps and make you feel literally sick to your stomach.

So if your stomach starts hurting, don’t just ignore it!

Tell a doctor about your symptoms! You may also find it beneficial to keep a record of when your stomach starts hurting and how often the pain lasts.

11. Being Easily Annoyed

Do you ever have days where it seems like everyone — your significant other, coworkers, and even your best friends — are totally just driving you up the wall? Yep. That could be anxiety, too.

That’s because of the fight or flight response.

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “fight or flight” — it’s the idea that when confronted by something scary or stressful, we choose (usually subconsciously) to either face the threat directly (fight) or run away and avoid it (flight).

An anxiety sufferer’s brain might choose “fight.”

That makes them more likely to become angry at everyone around them, even if that anger is completely unearned or unprompted.

12. Feeling Foggy

If you start to feel as though everything around you is foggy, fuzzy, or warped, this can be a sign of something called derealization.

This “foggy” feeling could last for a few minutes or possibly a few months.

For some people, that foggy, fuzzy feeling lasts a few minutes (usually while they’re actively having a panic attack). Others may feel a sense of fogginess for much longer.

13. Distorted Perception

This could be a distorted perception of time, space, and/or the size of things around you and it’s yet another symptom of derealization.

14. Feeling Trapped in a Bubble

This is yet another sign of derealization. Anxiety might make you feel oddly separated from your friends and loved ones, even if you’re in the same room and involved in the same activity with them.

15. A Desire to Make Everything Perfect

Being a perfectionist doesn’t necessarily mean you have anxiety, but it’s possible that it’s one way your anxiety manifests. It may also be accompanied by feelings of shame or inferiority, and a constant self-criticism.

This desire to be perfect can be especially harmful.

Particularly if it keeps you from going places, trying new things, or meeting new people for fear of messing up your idea of “perfect.”

16. Indecision

Chocolate or vanilla? Paper or plastic? Debit or credit? If you find yourself unable to make decisions — even small, simple ones — that could be another sign of anxiety.

It can be especially tricky if you feel like every option has both pros and cons.

You may feel yourself shutting down at the thought of making a decision that hurts someone else (or even one that simply isn’t optimal for them). Of course, not being able to make a decision can often lead to even more stressful and anxiety-inducing situations. It can be a vicious cycle.

17. Other Sickness

Yep! As bizarre as it may sound, getting sick — with colds! — can absolutely be a symptom of anxiety.

If you have colds that last for weeks, this may be why.

In addition to having actual colds, you could also experience cold-like symptoms like unexplained aches and pains. Researchers have also found that people who have anxiety tend to take longer to heal from other sicknesses. This is probably due to the fact that people with anxiety have a hard time resting and taking a break, which is often necessary in order to heal.

18. Insomnia

A lot of things can contribute to an inability to fall asleep, and — surprise, surprise — anxiety is definitely one of them. There may be other contributing factors — looking at your phone or computer screen too close to bedtime, eating too late at night, consuming alcohol, or even a snoring partner. But it could also be anxiety.

Anxiety disorders can lead to sleeping problems.

And, in a perfect, awful mirror of that, sleep deprivation can also lead to developing anxiety disorders. Funny how that works out, huh? And by “funny” I actually mean “really annoying and awful.”

19. You Feel Like a Failure

If you’ve been feeling like you’re a bad partner, friend, employee, pet owner, or person, that can be a symptom that anxiety is once again rearing its ugly head. It can be so hard to remember this, but anxiety lies to you and convinces you of things that are nowhere near true. If you’ve been feeling like this (or you’ve experienced other symptoms on this list), it may be time to ask for some help. Remember to drink plenty of water, do some self-care rituals, and don’t be ashamed for reaching out to others.