Top 10 Signs of Anxiety

Around 40 million people in the United States suffer from some form of anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world. It also comes in many different forms. Most forms of anxiety cause the same signs. If you are unsure whether you have anxiety, you should become familiar with the common signs of anxiety. But where should you start? Keep reading and learn more about the most common signs of anxiety below.

1. Feeling Tense or Restless

Living with anxiety can be a challenging experience that can manifest in different ways. One common sign of anxiety is feeling tense or restless, which can make it difficult to relax or concentrate on daily activities. 

This can be especially overwhelming for those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a condition characterized by persistent feelings of anxiety that can arise without any clear reason or trigger.

Individuals with anxiety may find that they experience a constant sense of tension, with their muscles feeling tight and sore throughout the day. Even when trying to unwind or rest, it can be difficult to fully relax and let go of the physical and mental strain. 

This can lead to a sensation of restlessness and a strong urge to move, often resulting in actions such as bouncing one’s leg, fidgeting with hands or clothes, or pacing. These physical manifestations of anxiety can also be accompanied by psychological symptoms such as racing thoughts, irritability, and difficulty focusing.

Coping with the tension and restlessness associated with anxiety can be a challenging process, but there are techniques that can help alleviate these feelings.

Here are some tips that may help someone cope with this sign of anxiety:

  1. Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.
  2. Get moving: Exercise can be a great way to release tension and reduce restlessness. A simple walk or jog can help clear the mind and release built-up energy.
  3. Use distraction: Engage in an activity that you enjoy, such as reading a book, listening to music, or practicing a hobby. This can help shift your focus away from the restlessness and help you feel more relaxed.
  4. Write it down: Journaling can help you process your thoughts and feelings, which can reduce tension and restlessness.
  5. Connect with others: Talking to a friend, family member, or therapist can help you feel supported and less alone. Sharing your feelings can also help you process and manage them.
  6. Try aromatherapy: Some essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile, have calming properties that can help reduce tension and promote relaxation.

It’s important to remember that everyone copes with anxiety differently, and what works for one person may not work for another. If feelings of tension or restlessness are interfering with daily life, it may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional for additional support and guidance. 

You can learn more about anxiety therapy here.

2. Feeling a Sense of Panic or Doom

Another sign of anxiety is the persistent feeling that something bad is looming on the horizon. 

This sensation can arise without any concrete reason or trigger, and can be particularly disorienting for those whose lives are otherwise stable and positive. 

The feeling of impending doom is a common way that individuals with anxiety describe this experience, which can cause them to feel helpless and out of control, exacerbating the already challenging signs of anxiety.

When the feeling of impending doom is particularly intense, it can cause you to panic, further escalating the anxiety and making it harder to manage. This can be especially distressing when the sense of impending doom is not grounded in any specific event or situation, leading to a pervasive and constant sense of unease.

It’s important to recognize that this feeling of impending doom is a common sign of anxiety, and seeking help can be an essential step in addressing it. There are a variety of techniques that can help manage the feelings of anxiety and reduce the sense of impending doom, including mindfulness, deep breathing, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, spending time in nature, or practicing relaxation techniques can also be helpful in managing these symptoms.

While the feeling of impending doom can be frightening and disorienting, it’s important to remember that it is a symptom of an underlying condition, rather than an accurate representation of reality. 

With the right care and support, it is possible to manage the signs of anxiety and find a greater sense of peace and stability in daily life.

3. Excessive Sweating

Excessive sweating is a common sign of anxiety that can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. 

Sweating is a natural bodily response to stress and anxiety. When you feel anxious, your body releases a surge of adrenaline, which triggers the sweat glands to produce more sweat than usual. This excess sweat can lead to damp patches on your clothing, a clammy feeling on your skin, and a strong odor.

Excessive sweating can be particularly troublesome in social situations or at work, where it can make you feel self-conscious and anxious about your appearance. 

You may find yourself avoiding certain activities or situations that could trigger excessive sweating, which can limit your quality of life and exacerbate feelings of anxiety.

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to manage excessive sweating caused by anxiety:

  1. Use antiperspirant: Applying antiperspirant to your underarms and other problem areas can help reduce sweat and control odor. Look for antiperspirants that contain aluminum chloride, which is effective at blocking sweat.
  2. Wear breathable clothing: Choose clothing made from natural fabrics like cotton or linen, which are more breathable and less likely to trap moisture. Dark colors and tight-fitting clothing can also make sweating more noticeable, so opt for lighter colors and looser fits.
  3. Practice relaxation techniques: Engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce feelings of anxiety and prevent excess sweating.
  4. Seek medical treatment: In some cases, excessive sweating may be a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis. If you are experiencing excessive sweating that is interfering with your daily life, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options.
  5. Seek mental health support: If excessive sweating is a sign of your anxiety, it may be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional. They can help you identify triggers for your anxiety and develop coping strategies to manage it more effectively.

Remember that excessive sweating caused by anxiety is a common and treatable symptom. With the right strategies, you can manage this symptom and improve your overall quality of life.

4. Excessive Worrying or Overthinking

Overthinking is a common behavior that many people with anxiety struggle with. 

It can be an unpleasant habit that leaves you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. It involves getting trapped in an endless cycle of worrying and analyzing a particular thought or situation. 

When anxiety causses you to start overthinking, you may focus on the same thought or situation repeatedly. You might worry about what you said during a conversation with a friend or replay a past mistake in your head, trying to find ways to fix it. The topic of their overthinking may be insignificant or irrelevant, yet they can’t seem to shake it off.

The cycle of overthinking is hard to break free from because it can provide a sense of control over the situation. 

Overthinking can make you feel like they are doing something productive by trying to solve a problem or anticipate a potential outcome. However, this habit can quickly turn into a never-ending spiral of negative thoughts and feelings.

If you find yourself overthinking, there are several strategies you can try to break the cycle:

  1. Identify the thought patterns: Become aware of when you start overthinking and the situations that trigger it. Try to identify patterns or common themes in your thoughts.
  2. Challenge the thoughts: Once you recognize your thought patterns, challenge them by asking yourself if your thoughts are realistic or if they are based on assumptions or past experiences. Try to find evidence to support or contradict your thoughts.
  3. Distract yourself: Engage in activities that distract you from overthinking, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with friends.
  4. Seek support: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional about your overthinking. They can provide support and offer new perspectives on the situation.

Remember that overthinking is a common sign of anxiety and can be managed with the right strategies. By identifying your thought patterns and challenging them, you can break free from the cycle of overthinking and improve your overall well-being.

5. Difficulty Sleeping or Relaxing

Having trouble sleeping can be a real struggle for people with anxiety. It’s not uncommon to lie awake in bed for hours, feeling frustrated and exhausted. 

Your mind might be racing, replaying events from the day or dwelling on memories from the past. All this overthinking can lead to tension in your body, making it hard to relax and drift off to sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate the signs of anxiety and make them even harder to manage. 

When you’re sleep-deprived, you might feel even more on edge, irritable, or overwhelmed by stress. It’s not uncommon for people with anxiety to find that their symptoms are particularly intense in the morning, as they wake up feeling tired and worn out.

But there are things you can do to help yourself get a good night’s sleep, even if you’re struggling with anxiety:

  1. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. 
  2. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or gentle yoga stretches, before you climb into bed
  3. If you find yourself lying in bed for more than 20-30 minutes without falling asleep, it can be helpful to get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy again

6. Difficulty Concentrating

Living with anxiety can make it challenging to stay focused on daily tasks. It’s not uncommon for people with anxiety to experience racing thoughts or feelings of worry that can interfere with their ability to concentrate. 

This can be especially difficult for students or professionals who need to stay focused on their work.

When you’re trying to concentrate, your mind may suddenly drift to something that triggers your anxiety. The more you try to push these thoughts away, the more they seem to take over. It can feel like a constant battle in your mind.

Taking a break from your work may be necessary to help calm your mind and ease your anxiety. However, returning to your task can be difficult, as your mind may still be preoccupied with worries and concerns.

Finding strategies to manage your anxiety, such as mindfulness or anxiety therapy, can help improve your ability to focus and concentrate on your work.

7. Increased Irritability and Emotional Outbursts

One of the common signs of anxiety is increased irritability and emotional outbursts. When anxiety takes hold, it can make you more sensitive and reactive to even minor stressors, leading to heightened irritability.

This irritability may make it difficult to communicate effectively with others, leading to conflicts and misunderstandings. Additionally, anxiety can cause you to experience sudden outbursts of intense emotions, such as sadness or anger. 

These emotional outbursts may be unpredictable and overwhelming, leaving the person feeling confused and drained.

It’s important to understand that these emotional symptoms are a normal part of anxiety and that seeking help can make a significant difference in managing them. 

8. Chest Pain and Heart Palpitations

Chest pain and heart palpitations are common physical signs of anxiety. 

When you experience anxiety, the body’s natural “fight or flight” response is activated, which can cause a range of physical symptoms, including chest pain and heart palpitations.

It may feel like your heart is racing out of control. This can make it difficult to focus. It may make you worry more than usual. 

Chest pain can feel like a tightness or pressure in the chest, and it can be accompanied by a rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations. While chest pain can be a sign of a more serious medical condition, when it is caused by anxiety, it is often harmless.

Here are some ways to cope with chest pain and heart palpitations caused by anxiety:

  1. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
  2. Engage in physical exercise, such as walking, running, or yoga, to release tension and reduce stress.
  3. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, as these can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
  4. Try to identify triggers that may be causing your anxiety and work on addressing them.
  5. Consider speaking with a mental health professional who can provide additional coping strategies and support.
  6. If chest pain or heart palpitations persist or worsen, it is important to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

9. Shortness of Breath

Another physical sign of anxiety is shortness of breath, which can be distressing and alarming. 

It is common for individuals with anxiety to experience difficulty breathing, even when at rest or not physically exerting themselves. 

Shortness of breath may feel like the air is not filling the lungs properly, and this can cause a feeling of suffocation or tightness in the chest.

The sensation of shortness of breath can trigger more anxiety, leading to a vicious cycle that exacerbates the problem. In some cases, anxiety-related shortness of breath can escalate into hyperventilation, which is characterized by rapid and shallow breathing that causes dizziness, lightheadedness, and even tingling in the hands and feet.

It is important to note that shortness of breath can also be a symptom of other health conditions, so it is essential to seek medical attention to rule out any underlying medical causes.

10. Frequent Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be a terrifying and overwhelming experience for those who suffer from anxiety. 

They are characterized by sudden and intense symptoms, including hyperventilation, heart palpitations, excessive sweating, and an overwhelming sense of impending doom. These symptoms can be so severe that the person may feel like they are having a heart attack or suffocating.

In addition to the physical symptoms, panic attacks can also cause emotional distress, such as intense fear or a feeling of losing control. The fear of having another panic attack can create a cycle of anxiety that can lead to avoiding situations that may trigger an attack.

Panic attacks can happen at any time and often have triggers, but they can also happen unexpectedly without an obvious cause. 

Some common triggers for panic attacks include:

  • Stressful life events
  • Certain phobias or fears
  • Social anxiety
  • Trauma or a history of abuse
  • Substance abuse or withdrawal
  • Hormonal imbalances

If you experience panic attacks, it’s important to seek professional help. Therapy can help manage and reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. 

The Most Common Signs of Anxiety

There are many common signs of anxiety and it is important to recognize them. If you have several of these symptoms, you likely have anxiety. Generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and PTSD are all common forms of this condition. 

It is important to consider anxiety treatment so you can live a more fulfilling life. To learn more about anxiety treatment, check out our services

About Michael Hilgers, M.MFT

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor working remotely with clients around the world. I believe that everyone has the potential to change; to create new paths, to go in new directions. Life is hard. Counseling can help.

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