The Symptoms of Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
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 and reactions 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.
The following list is an example of some of the symptoms associated with anxiety. They involve our body, mind and behaviour.
Palpitations (Rapid / strong / irregular heartbeat).
Fast and shallow breathing.
Trembling and shaking.
Legs feel like jelly.
Dry throat and difficulty swallowing.
Dizziness and feeling light-headed.
Tightness across the chest.
Needing the toilet.
Generally feeling 'on-edge'.
Other problems associated with these symptoms may include: constant headaches, insomnia, and various muscle pains due to increased and
Feelings of apprehension and dread.
Being 'mildly scared' for much of the time.
Starting to worry more.
Thoughts about illness.
Anxious behaviour depends on personal beliefs about what is stressful and vary from person to person. However there are some common ones which
Making excuses to avoid going out or doing things.
Hurrying out of places or situations where we feel anxious.
Only going to quiet places where there aren't many people.
Not saying anything in front of others.
Sitting near doors and exits or at the back.
Walking to avoid buses; crossing the street to avoid people.
Having a drink or taking a tablet before doing something stressful.
If unresolved, over time, increased anxiety can lead to a number of serious problems and disorders.
These range from physical illness through to debilitating behavioural problems and self-defeating psychological symptoms.
Symptoms Related to Various Anxiety Disorders
Again, just like anxiety symptoms that occur in the moment, symptoms and problems related to anxiety
disorders affect our mind, body and behaviour.
Physical Problems Due to Long-Term Anxiety.
These can include:-
Persistent colds and flu.
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).
Behavioural Problems Associated with Anxiety Disorders.
Some examples are:-
Extreme anxiety and panic around other people.
Having to do things in front of others can cause us to become panic-stricken.
(The main symptom seen in Social phobia / social anxiety disorder).
Persistant and uncontrollable worrying about people / events / situations.
(GAD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder).
Avoiding things and situations that make us feel afraid. (Phobias).
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. (OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Frequent attacks of panic that seem to come 'out of the blue'. (Panic Disorder).
Constantly visiting the doctor. Where every ache and pain becomes associated with being a serious illness.
Often involves feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and the belief that events are beyond our control and everything we try to do will fail.
Fears over losing control and being judged on performance can maintain these problems.
Others include:- Aggression, sleep disorders and eating
Psychological Symptoms Associated with Anxiety Disorders.
These can be seen across the whole range of anxiety disorders, and may include:-
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.
Constantly making comparisons
Always comparing ourselves with others and coming up short.
Constantly watching ourselves.
Child-like thoughts and behaviours
Desperately needing the love and approval of parents and others.
Common fantasies include: 'one day being rich and famous or great, loved by all'.
This represents attempts to bring form and order to our world, to gain a sense of being in control.
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.
Ending sentences with questions
We do this to shift the attention away from us to the other person.
Involves constant feelings of 'being picked on' and that 'others are treated better'.
Obsessed with body image
Believing our body, or parts of it, are 'not good enough'.
Standing shoulders down, feet inwards and arms in front of body, trying to be small, almost apologetic for being there.
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.
Anxiety symptoms can support and confirm each other and strengthen until they become part of the make up
of an individual. It's not surprising that when referring to anxiety symptoms and problems we tend to use such phrases as:
"It's just the way I am" and "It's just part of me".
However, such behaviours do make up JUST PART of a person.
Someone who is sad is also at times happy. One who is weak, is occasionally strong. The scared can be brave and unconfident people can sometimes feel
Persistent anxiety symptoms increase the feelings of 'not being good enough in some way' and diminish the good feelings we have about our self. But deep inner
feelings of goodness exist in all of us ...
Mild anxiety symptoms are often related to current life situations that are stressful (eg. relationships,
family, work) and may be eradicated by removing the cause of the stress, combined with relaxation (to calm down the nervous system) and exercise (to release
pent-up nervous energy).
Stronger, long-term anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorder symptoms often mean something more and can be very difficult to
deal with – but many people do become free of these problems. The next section gives some insight into what it
It Can Be Done
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder