Can A Person Actually Experience Physical Symptoms of Anxiety?
Anxiety can be caused by many factors such as work stress, financial stress, health problems, spiritual concerns, grief, dangerous situations, unmet needs, conflict, etc. and it’s ok to acknowledge that something doesn’t feel right and try to remedy it by seeking out help. Also, it is not God’s design to be immobilized by excessive worry and to live in constant fear.I’ve heard of many stories of clients that have come to see me because they have previously visited the ER due to physical symptoms caused by anxiety. At the time they believed they were having a heart attack or some other life-threatening condition. People can be surprised to learn that anxiety may manifest in physical ways and with significant symptoms at times.
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. – Proverbs 12:25
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms that people with anxiety can experience include:
- Heart palpitations
Heartbeat sensations that involve a regular, racing, or irregular pounding of the heart. It is a sensation of skipped or stopped beats and palpitations that can be felt in the chest, throat, or neck. Many people who first experience these symptoms believe they may be having a heart attack.
- Sweating and/or hot flashes
Anxiety can cause a person’s blood pressure to rise. Vasoconstriction occurs through the fight or flight process which leads to sweating and/or hot flashes.
The rush of adrenaline you feel with anxiety may cause a person to feel light headed and/or dizzy and feel a need to sit or lie down.
- Shortness of breath
The tightening of the chest muscles and the shallow breathing can lead to shortness of breath. A person may feel they “can’t breathe” and fear that they may pass out.
- Difficulty swallowing
Anxiety can cause the sensation of the throat tightening which may lead to a choking feeling or difficulty swallowing. With anxiety, your body focuses too much on things that are normally second nature and are an automatic reflex, causing them to become less automatic and result in swallowing issues.
- Frequent urination
The fight or flight response can overload the central nervous system and cause the body to want to empty the bladder excessively even without drinking large amounts of liquid or water.
- Upset stomach / Diarrhea
The fight or flight response that is activated when the body becomes anxious causes a rush of adrenaline which redistributes the water and blood flow in the body leading to a number of GI issues such as gas, nausea, bloating, heartburn, belching, “butterflies” in the stomach, the feeling of a knot in your stomach, excess acid build-up, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Muscle tension or twitches
Anxiety and the excessive worry that accompanies it will cause a person to tense their muscles and clench their jaw which results in muscle spasms, TMJ, and a stiff neck among other things.
Treatment for Anxiety
These physical symptoms can mimic symptoms you’d find in a medical illness and combined with the excessive worry factor associated with anxiety, people can mistake their symptoms for a serious medical problem.
Since anxiety symptoms can mimic medical issues it’s important to have a relationship with a primary care physician to rule out any medical illnesses. Although it is good to visit your doctor to rule out any medical conditions, most people find that their symptoms are related to being in a state of excessive worry.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6
It is possible to live a life free of physical symptoms of anxiety and it is not God’s plan for us to live with those symptoms. Seeking out the support from your pastor and church community is a good resource combined with the help of a professional counselor and primary care physician.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
It is possible with a good treatment plan that you can reduce or eliminate your physical symptoms of anxiety. Consulting with a therapist and your primary care physician can help you get on a path to wellness that may include cognitive behavioral therapy, self-care, breathing and relaxation exercises, and/or other treatment modalities. Along with talking to healthcare professionals, be sure to get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, get adequate exercise, pray, and have fun in your life.
“Headache,” courtesy of Leland Francisco, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Fall Photographers,” courtesy of Rula Sibai, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Cross at Sunset,” courtesy of Harold Litwiler, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License; “Misty day,” courtesy of Patrick Denker, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)