How Anxiety Feels: Physical and Mental Symptoms – Healthgrades

Anxiety is more than everyday worry. It can affect how you feel physically and mentally. Anxiety and anxiety disorders come with both physical and mental health symptoms — it’s more than “just in your head.” In fact, panic attacks can cause symptoms so severe they make some people believe there’s something medically wrong.

Anxiety disorders are common and treatable. These conditions affect an estimated 30% of adults at some point.

This article explains how anxiety can make you feel. It also goes over the signs of a panic attack and tips for coping with anxiety and panic attacks.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

Female with her head under water against a black background
Anna Berkut/Stocksy United

Anxiety affects everyone differently, so your anxiety may look and feel differently from someone else’s. You may also not experience all the possible symptoms of anxiety or have different symptoms at different points in your life.

Anxiety can affect how you physically feel. This is due to hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, that your body releases when you’re stressed or anxious.

Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • increased heart rate or irregular heart rate
  • increased sweating or hot flashes
  • breathing faster
  • chest pains
  • feeling sick or nauseated
  • headaches or muscle aches
  • feeling faint
  • needing to use the toilet more frequently
  • decreased appetite
  • feeling like you have “butterflies” in your stomach
  • fatigue
  • sleep issues

Read more about the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Mental symptoms of anxiety

Unsurprisingly, anxiety can cause mental and emotional symptoms. Many people associate anxiety with worry. However, thoughts and feelings of worry are only one aspect you can experience.

Common mental symptoms of anxiety include:

  • feeling nervous, tense, or unable to relax
  • a sense of dread or fearing the worst
  • feeling as though you can’t stop worrying or that something bad will happen if you stop
  • having a low mood or depression
  • feeling disconnected from your body or mind
  • feeling disconnected from the world around you
  • ruminating or thinking about a situation over and over again
  • worrying that you are losing touch with reality

Read more about anxiety.

Signs of a panic attack

Anyone can experience panic attacks, though people with anxiety may experience them more often.

Panic attacks are sudden intense periods of anxiety that can include physical sensations of fear.

During a panic attack, you may experience:

  • anxious and irrational thinking
  • a strong feeling of foreboding, dread, or danger
  • fear of losing control or dying
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • tingling and chills
  • trembling or shaking
  • sweating or hot flashes
  • increased heart rate
  • feeling a constriction in your chest
  • difficulty breathing
  • abdominal pain or nausea
  • muscle tension

Read more about panic attacks.

How to cope with a panic attack

Panic attacks can feel overwhelming. However, there are ways you can help yourself cope with them.

Coping techniques include:

  • Avoid self-talk that focuses on the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Remind yourself that the feelings are not life threatening and that nothing bad will happen to you.
  • Focus your attention on something that is outside your body and outside yourself.
  • Don’t flee the situation. Allow yourself to sit and allow the feelings to pass.

How to prevent a panic attack

You may not always be able to prevent panic attacks. However, there are ways you can help prevent them and decrease the risk of a panic attack happening.

Prevention tips include:

  • breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and manage panic symptoms
  • regular physical activity
  • eating regular meals to keep your blood sugar balanced
  • avoiding or limiting alcohol, smoking, or caffeine, which can increase anxiety

Learn the difference between anxiety and panic attacks.

How to cope with anxiety

If you experience anxiety that does not seem to go away or begins to affect your daily life, speak with a mental health professional for treatment.

There are ways you can cope with anxiety and manage the symptoms. Tips for coping with anxiety include:

  • getting regular physical activity
  • practicing meditation and mindfulness
  • practicing breathing and relaxation exercises
  • spending time with a pet, if you have one
  • aromatherapy

Read more about natural remedies for anxiety.

Treatment for anxiety

If you often experience anxiety, especially if it starts affecting your day-to-day life, contact your doctor or a mental health professional. This also goes for it you begin having regular panic attacks.

Anxiety that does not go away may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Treatment for anxiety disorders may include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Speak with your doctor or mental health professional to develop the most effective treatment plan for you.

Anxiety can affect how you feel, both physically and mentally.

If you’re experiencing anxiety, you may have physical symptoms like increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or increased sweating. Mental symptoms of anxiety may include feelings of foreboding or worry, feeling tense or nervous, and feelings of disconnection.

Everyone experiences anxiety. But if your anxiety begins to affect your daily life or if it stops going away, contact your doctor or mental health professional. This might mean you have an anxiety disorder and need more support.