What Does Anxiety Do to Your Body? Symptoms Explained

Anxiety doesn’t just affect your mind; it can have a significant impact on your whole body. This can explain a lot of symptoms that might feel alarming if you’re not sure what’s going on. Often, physical symptoms are short-term, such as a pounding heart. It’s common for them to ease as you learn to understand the triggers, make positive changes, and implement new coping strategies.

However, some can last long-term. In this blog, we’re going to give you a quick overview of the main physical symptoms that can be linked to anxiety (including the body sensations you might be wondering about) as well as some tips that will help optimize your health for the years to come.

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Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?

Let’s start with the heart, because it’s essential to just about everything else. Anxiety is a response to stress that essentially prepares your body to deal with a threat. This is commonly called the “fight or flight” response, because you need to decide whether you’re going to stay and battle your way through the challenge or run away and climb into your bed with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Anxiety can cause tachycardia (a fancy word for a rapid heart rate), which floods your body with the oxygen it needs to supply your muscles if you’re going to make a break for it. This really helpful in the short-term – for example, if you need to get out of a burning building. If you’ve maxed out on stress and you’re noting regular palpitations or chest pain, it could indicate there is a problem.

Chronic anxiety can have a big impact on your heart. Over time, it can cause high blood pressure or weaken the muscle and lead to conditions such as coronary disease and even heart failure. If this sounds familiar, there are two things you should do. First, go and see your primary care provider to ensure your heart is healthy. Second, schedule an appointment with a professional counselor to start identifying and managing the issues that are causing you to experience such intense stress.

We only get one life, after all, so it’s important that you’re able to live it fully.

Does this resonate with you? Schedule an appointment today.

Can Anxiety Cause an Upset Stomach?

Directly related to your heart is your gastrointestinal tract. If your body is preparing the fight or flight response, it will divert blood away from your stomach towards the big muscles you need to either strike the threat or run away. This means anxiety can upset your stomach in a big way. Nausea is a really common side effect of this, alongside the feeling of having butterflies in your stomach and feeling like you need to release the contents of your bladder (we tried not to make that gross).

Once the immediate fight or flight period has passed, anxiety can continue to affect your stomach. You might find that your appetite has spiked and your body is demanding food with 11/10 urgency, or that it’s completely disappeared and you can’t think of anything worse. 

You might feel like there are knots in your stomach. If this feeling continues, you might find that you develop issues such as constipation, diarrhea, or bloating. The link between gut health and mental health is strong and more research is coming out on this all the time. That’s why it’s professional counselors often ask about lifestyle. Nothing in the human body happens in a vacuum, and diet and exercise have huge benefits for both your body and your mind that you will notice quickly.

Life is too short to constantly feel uncomfortable, so we’ll help you return to normal.

Ready to make changes? We can help you prioritize.

Can Anxiety Cause Insomnia?

There are few things better in this life than a great night’s sleep. Sinking under the covers, getting cozy, drifting off to have an amazing dream, and waking up slowly with no rush to get up is magical.

But what if dreamland is guarded by an anxious doorman determined not to let you pass? No matter how physically exhausted you are, or how mentally fatigued, you simply can’t fall asleep. You’re tossing and turning, getting up and pacing around, getting back into bed, getting up and using the bathroom, getting back into bed, tossing and turning some more, before getting up again. 

Insomnia is frustrating in the short-term and debilitating in the long-term. If your mind is racing at night and you find yourself analyzing every single bad decision you’ve ever made in your whole life or replaying awkward conversations with all the one-liners you wish you’d thought of in time, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to sleep. This can have big impacts on both physical and mental health.

So what are you going to do about it? Dial up your efforts in the gym? Work later? Try drinking warm milk? Or figure out the root cause of the problem and remove the barrier preventing quality rest?

Sleep if vital to living a great life, so we can help you rein in those thoughts.

Exhausted beyond belief? Let’s find out why.

Can Anxiety Cause Abnormal Symptoms?

Want the short answer? Totally. Anxiety can cause all kinds of concerning and seemingly unrelated symptoms – on top of the heart issues and gut issues we’ve discussed, it can cause headaches, sleep issues, weakness, sweating, trembling, numbness, and a whole lot of other issues. 

Many of these are the kinds of things you might put down to being a bit tired, or under the weather. However, it’s entirely possible that anxiety is the common thread linking them all. Often, it ties back to the fight/flight response as blood rushes out of non-vital areas and floods your body’s action stations. You might find that your vision sharpens, that you feel a little light-headed, that your mouth is suddenly drier than the Mojave Desert, and that your palms become sweaty.

If you’re experiencing a lot of these things at once, without knowing why, it’s normal to feel super confused and worried. You’re facing a threat, after all, and the last thing you need is for all your normal bodily functions to go AWOL. Sometimes, it can be really helpful to put a name on things. As you understand what’s happening and why, it can make the symptoms seem much less scary.

That’s another big advantage of professional counseling. If you’re feeling like your body is spinning out of control, or that things are happening faster than you can process them, we can help. Our team can help you develop coping strategies that ensure you’ll be okay if it happens again.

Let’s get to the bottom of it so we can put you back in the driver’s seat.

Ready to identify your triggers? Our counselors are just an email away.

Can Anxiety Cause Chills?

Yes, absolutely. Anxiety can severely mess with your internal thermostat and cause chills and hot flushes in equal measure. You might notice that your hands get cold as blood rushes out of them, while your legs and chest get really hot and you break out in a sweat. Or you might develop goose pimples and feel a little shaky. These are also a really common symptoms of anxiety

So what can you do if you’re experiencing these kinds of issues all the time? Like we mentioned right at the start, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Once that’s done, we can start looking for other factors that are making you feel stressed out, panicky, and overwhelmed. That’s where professional counseling comes in.

Want to feel like yourself again? We’re looking forward to meeting you.

Do I Actually Need Counseling?

This is a decision for each individual to make on their own. Let’s phrase it another way. Do you want to keep living with the abnormal physical symptoms of anxiety? No matter what’s going on in your life, we can help you gain clarity about what’s important and what’s not.

We take a practical approach. Once we figure out where you are and where you want to go, we’ll put an actionable plan in place that will help you achieve your mental health goals. We’re here to help you find the freedom you need to become the best version of yourself.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to contact us.