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A young man hugging his knees, feeling anxiety and health symptoms.

What are the physical symptoms of anxiety?

 

It is estimated that 31.1% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. In some cases, anxiety can cause physical symptoms throughout the body.  

If you have experienced a lot of stress lately and feel zapped of energy, you may be wondering if anxiety is to blame. And it very well might be.   

Symptoms Overview 

Anxiety can impact not just your mental health, but your physical health as well. Numerous symptoms of anxiety can impact you physically. 

For instance, some physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • heart palpitations
  • shallow breathing
  • increased blood pressure
  • muscle aches and pains.  

More symptoms of anxiety include: nervousness, sweating, trembling, feeling weak, trouble sleeping, and gastrointestinal problems. 

 

Some anxiety is normal. 

Everyone has faced anxiety at some point in their life. You may experience situational anxiety, such as when taking a test, at a doctor’s appointment, or when performing in front of an audience. Situational anxiety only occurs when you are in specific situations. Furthermore, situational anxiety is not recognized as a clinical mental condition.  

While some level of anxiety is normal, if you experience prolonged anxiety that is distressing in nature, you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  

 

What is Anxiety Disorder? 

Anxiety is a disorder in which the individuals have excessive worries and about everyday actions, to the point that it interferes with daily living. While some anxiety is considered normal, it becomes a disorder when the worries become too intense and when they last for a prolonged amount of time.  

If left untreated, prolonged anxiety can lead to major health symptoms, including both mental and physical symptoms. 

 

Mental Symptoms of Anxiety

A sense of doom: Anxiety can cause feelings that something extremely bad is about to happen. 

 

Trouble concentrating: Anxiety can interfere with your ability to focus on tasks and complete everyday activities.  

 

Panic attacks: A panic attack can cause physical symptoms, including heart palpitations, chest pain, and feeling lightheaded or warmer than usual.   

 

Depression: Chronic anxiety can put you at risk for depression. Depression symptoms include withdrawing from social activities, loss of energy to do even easy tasks, loss of interest in activities you previously loved, and feelings of guilt or hopelessness.  

 

Headaches: Excessive stress and worry from anxiety can cause headaches.  

 

Irritability: That constant worry from anxiety can cause you to feel irritable and moody.  

 

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Pounding heart: You may feel your heart quickens in pace or intensity. Heart palpitations sometimes occur with a panic attack. Other times, you may experience heart palpitations with anxiety more generally.  

 

Breathing problems: You may experience rapid shallow breathing. Your breathing problems will be more pronounced if they are occurring during a panic attack.  

 

Loss of libido: Anxiety can cause a loss of libido.  

 

Upset stomach: Anxiety can cause stomach pains that may be accompanied by nausea and diarrhea.   

 

Extreme fatigue: Anxiety can make it feel hard to get out of bed and you may sleep more than usual. Alternatively, anxiety can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Also, anxiety can cause you to feel tired at different points throughout the day. 

 

Increase in blood pressure: When your anxiety flares up, it may be associated with an increase in your blood pressure. 

 

Muscle aches and pains: Anxiety can cause unexplained aches and pains in your muscles.  

 

 

What are the different types of anxiety disorders? 

There are numerous anxiety disorders. They include: general anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, and panic disorder. 

 

General anxiety disorder (GAD):  

If you experience excessive, prolonged anxiety for no apparent reason, you might have general anxiety disorder (GAD). To be diagnosed with GAD, you will generally experience anxiety symptoms for 6 months or longer.   

Symptoms can be mild, where you can still complete daily activities. In more severe cases, you anxiety may make it difficult to complete day-to-day activities. An estimated 6.8 million Americans are impacted by GAD every year.  

 

Social anxiety disorder: 

Social anxiety disorder occurs when you experience extreme anxiety and fear of social situations. The specific social situations vary by individual, but may include going to at a party, sitting in a classroom, or one-on-one talking with a co-worker.  

If you experience social anxiety disorder, you might fear being humiliated or judged by others. Extreme social anxiety can cause an individual to feel ashamed and alone. 

Importantly, you should know that if you do have social anxiety disorder, you are not alone.  An estimated 15 million Americans live with social anxiety.  

The typical age of onset for social anxiety disorder is 13 years old. Though, over a third of individuals wait a decade or more for treatment.  

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):  

PTSD occurs after you witness or experience a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can occur immediately after the event, or only occur after years have passed. Generally, PTSD occurs in response to witnessing war, natural disasters, or a physical attack. PTSD episodes can occur sporadically and without warning. 

 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): 

People with OCD may feel a compulsive desire to engage in compulsions (such as rituals or repetitive behaviors) over and over again. Compulsions include excessive hand-washing, counting, performing actions a set number of times, or repeatedly checking something. 

Another symptom of OCD is obsessions (such as intrusive thoughts that are distressing and unwanted).  

 

Phobias:  

Phobias are a type of anxiety that involve extreme fear of specific objects or situations. For instance, phobias include claustrophobia (a fear of tight spaces), a fear of heights (acrophobia), and agoraphobia (a fear of places). 

 

Agoraphobia:  

An anxiety disorder in which a person tries to avoid places that make them feel panicked, trapped, embarrassed, or worried. Once you have agoraphobia, you fear an actual or anticipated situation.  For example, you might fear standing in line, being in a crowd, using public transportation or being in either an open or enclosed space. Generally, with agoraphobia, the fear extends to all public spaces. Occasionally, individuals with agoraphobia find it difficult to leave their own home.  

 

Panic Disorder:  

A panic disorder occurs when episodes of repeated intense anxiety cause heart palpitations, feeling of impending doom, and dizziness. 

 

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders 

It is important to realize that these disorders can cause both mental and physical harm to an individual, so treatment is important. There are many ways to treat anxiety, and each person may have a different approach that works for them. Since anxiety disorders impact both the mind and body, it is important to establish a treatment plan that addresses the underlying mental cause, as well as the physical symptoms. 

The two primary treatment paths for anxiety are psychotherapy and medications. 

 

Psychotherapy: 

Psychotherapy (also called “talk therapy”) involves discussing your thoughts and feelings with a therapist.   Importantly, this type of psychological counselling is highly effective at reducing anxiety symptoms. It works by addressing the thoughts at the root cause of your anxiety. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective form of psychotherapy. Generally, CBT is a short-term treatment. During CBT the psychotherapist will provide you with strategies and skills to help you overcome anxiety. Over time, you should be able to return to activities you may have been avoiding due to anxiety.  

The most common type of CBT used is exposure therapy. First, you are slowly exposed to a situation that normally cause anxiety, in a safe environment. Importantly, it is most effective when you are introduced to these situations gradually. During exposure therapy, you can use strategies to help you feel more comfortable. Next, once an you are desensitized to the situation, the duration or intensity of situation is increased. Over time, you may become less triggered by the situations, and your anxiety symptoms should improve.  

 

Medication 

Depending on your specific type of anxiety and its severity, medication might be a good treatment option. 

For example, your doctor might prescribe: 

  • Certain antidepressant medications 
  • Buspirone (an anti-anxiety medication) 
  • Rarely, your doctor might proscribe other medications (for short-term use) such as sedatives or beta-blockers. These types of medication are not intended for long-term use and should only be used when advised to do so by your doctor.

Note: you should always talk to your doctor before starting any new medication.

What causes Anxiety 

Anxiety can be caused by enduring stress and trauma, in childhood or adulthood. Particularly, a common trigger for anxiety is experiencing difficult situations.  

Overall, some experiences that can trigger anxiety include: 

  • Physical or emotional abuse 
  • Neglect 
  • Losing a parent 
  • Being socially excluded or bullied 
  • Experiencing racism 
  • Experiencing a childhood trauma 
  • Having parents that are frequently cold or distant 
  • Having an overprotective parent 

Traumatic experiences from childhood have a particularly big impact on individuals who experience an anxiety disorder. Feeling a lack of safety and happiness growing up can cause serious anxiety to develop in the future.  

Additionally, many stressors can spark anxiety. For instance, some common triggers are financial problems, childhood problems, long hours studying or working, a toxic workplace environment, losing someone close to you, and more. When multiple stressors are present at the same time, it can be very damaging and can eventually trigger an anxiety disorder. 

While anxiety can make you feel isolated or lonely, remember that you are not alone. There are doctors and therapists that you can reach out to for help 

 

The Solution: Tracking & Managing Stress 

With proper treatment, your anxiety can become more manageable over time. Many things can be done to help with this disorder, including both psychotherapy and medication.  Additionally, adopting certain lifestyle habits can help reduce your overall stress.  Try engaging in relaxing activities, including, meditation, yoga, and going for walks in nature. Also, frequent exercise, eating nutritious meals, and drinking plenty of water can also help to boost your energy levels.  

 

In conclusion, there are many scientifically proven ways to treat anxiety. Still, you should seek treatment for your anxiety before it becomes more serious. 

 

Monitor your stress with Health Gauge

Using the Health Gauge Phoenix wearable, you can monitor your stress throughout the week.  If you notice your stress is high, you can engage in a calming activity. For instance, you can try medication, or a deep breathing exercise, to help reduce your stress.  Being proactive, and monitoring your stress can help you to live more mindfully. Significantly, with proper treatment, you should experience less physical symptoms of anxiety over time. 

Finally, remember that when it comes to anxiety, it is a good idea to seek the help of your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that works best for you.  

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