February 6, 2024

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal emotion which we all experience at times, to a lesser or larger degree. Anxiety is a general term for a set of symptoms, physical and psychological, which often is a natural way for our body to respond to threat - real or imagined. Anxiety is a normal and sometimes helpful experience and is often referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Lots of us worry about the future, perhaps envisioning and trying to prepare ourselves for things that might go wrong, or about the past - things we did or didn’t do, for instance. Mostly, we’re able to switch and think about something different after a while or we are able to share our worries with a confidant and feel better. We’re still able to function as we usually do despite these small bouts of anxiety. However for some, anxiety feels more constant. People find themselves feeling on edge, uneasy, and full of worry so much so that it starts to affect their daily lives.

It is worth noting that there are many different types of anxiety. For example, someone may worry about how they come across in social situations and so end up avoiding social situations or trying to prepare in advance for social events to ensure they come across well. This is known as social anxiety. Another type of commonly experienced anxiety is generalised anxiety disorder, signified by a persistent sense of unease, excessive worry and fear that is not necessarily about anything in particular.

Regardless of what type of anxiety one may experience, there are a few symptoms common to anxiety in general:

Feeling nervous, restless and on edge

Some people have a feeling that something bad is going to happen. There may also be a sensation of butterflies in the stomach. These can make you feel nauseous and/or make you lose your appetite.

Pounding heart

Your heart rate may increase as a result of anxiety.

Changes to your breathing (hyperventilation)

Some people start breathing more rapidly when feeling anxious.

More frequent visits to the toilet

Anxiety can affect your bowels and bladder, resulting in having to visit the toilet more often than usual.

Shaking and sweating

You can experience trembling hands or trembling all over - it is common to experience shaky legs in addition to increased sweating.

Difficulty concentrating

You may struggle to focus on the task at hand, finding yourself repeatedly distracted by worrying thoughts or physical sensations.Worrying about worryingYou may be concerned that if you stop worrying about things in the past, present or future, things will get worse. Or you may worry about the amount you’re worrying and the effect it is having on you and your life.

Seeking reassurance from others and avoidance

You may seek support from others around you to help manage your anxiety. Often people share their worries and seek reassurance. Others may avoid people or places that seem to cause anxiety. These strategies may help in the short run but can sometimes maintain and/or exacerbate anxiety in the longer term.


Being in a heightened state for periods of time can be tiring and some people report feeling weak. Sleep can also be disrupted as people find themselves finding it hard to fall asleep or waking frequently worrying about things.

Racing thoughts

It can feel like your thoughts are going a million miles per hour. These thoughts can sometimes be repetitive and focus on one specific topic, or represent many different areas at once.

Detachment from your environment

You can start feeling distant from the environment you find yourself in, or like it’s not real.

These are just some examples of anxiety symptoms - just like with everything else, each experience is unique. However, if you can start recognising a set of symptoms that you usually experience and that you associate with anxiety, it can be the first step towards learning how to cope with them in a helpful way.

If your anxiety does not improve and your worries persist or seem to getting worse, speak to your GP or you can talk to us here. Anxiety is treatable.

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