Anxiety may seem like something that only happens inside a person's brain, but the physical symptoms of anxiety are no joke. In fact, the gross things your body does when you're anxious will probably sound all too familiar to anyone who has dealt with these stressful feelings. For whatever reason, anxiety can appear to affect pretty much everything in a person's body as well.
For professionals who study anxiety, however, anxiety's connection between the brain and body is not news. "When the brain is anxious the body will often tag along for the ride," says Neelima Kunam M.D., adult psychiatrist. Unfortunately for people who deal with anxiety, these signs are rarely pleasant. In fact, the physical symptoms of anxiety might make someone feel as though they're battling a bad cold or stomach bug.
And if these physical signs of anxiety sound all too familiar, just remember that you're far from alone. Approximately 40 million adults are affected by anxiety disorders in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Plenty of other people also struggle with these gross, weird, and sometimes embarrassing signs of anxiety. Read on to see what physical ailments you're experiencing may be a result of these anxious feelings.
Anxiety leaves some people running for the nearest trash can. "It is common for those with severe anxiety to either feel nauseous or actually vomit," says Dr. Carly Claney, a psychologist in Seattle. "This may be the body's attempt to get rid of the negative feelings, ruminative thoughts, or persisting worries that are happening inside." It's a pretty rough way to process those feelings if you ask me.
2. Break Out In Hives
Sometimes anxiety can even make itself known on a person's skin. "Some people get very itchy when feeling anxious, at times breaking out in hives," says Dr. Claney. The appearance of itchy, round marks on the skin probably don't help the anxious person feel much better.
3. Extreme Digestive Issues
For many people, severe anxiety and stomach issues are basically one and the same. "There can be a sudden and extreme increase in bowel movements, which no surprise can lead to stomach aches, acid reflux and the dreaded diarrhea," says Dr. Kunam. "The brain manages anxiety with serotonin, and the gut has numerous serotonin receptors." Thanks to this brain-body connection, there's a close link between digestive troubles and feelings of anxiety. "Anxiety can beget stomach issues, and stomach issues can feel like or worsen anxiety," says Dr. Kunam. For these people, the idea of being so nervous that you're sick to your stomach is not an exaggeration.
4. Need To Urinate
Basically, feelings of anxiety can make people run for the bathroom for all sorts of reasons. "It's not uncommon for an increase in the desire to urinate as well when anxiety is heightened," as Dr. Kunam tells Romper. Even a person's urinary tract isn't safe from anxiety.
5. Sweat Excessively
For some people, anxiety means more than just the palms get sweaty. "There are many physiological reactions to anxiety due to our fight or flight responses to stress. Some of these responses may be embarrassing including excessive sweating under your arms, palms, back or crotch area," says Dr. Cindy Joseph, the executive director and licensed psychologist of Solèy Psychological & Consulting Services. The nervous sweats are a very real phenomenon.
Given the digestive tract's close relationship to anxiety symptoms, it's no wonder this is also a potential issue. When stressed, the body can produce excess gas in the G.I. tract, leading to flatulence, says Cali Estes, Ph.D., celebrity addiction specialist and founder of The Addictions Coach. Is anxiety trying to be as embarrassing as possible?
7. Excessive Mucus
Even the body's poor mucus membranes aren't immune from anxiety. "When feeling anxious, the body may produce an excess amount of mucus in your nose and or throat," as Dr. Estes tells Romper. "You may find yourself coughing and clearing your throat as if battling the flu." When you consider this as well as all the other physical symptoms of anxiety, it's clear that anxious feelings can wreck havoc on a person's body.