physical symptoms of anxiety

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Dry mouth

Your mouth may feel uncomfortably dry, and you may feel that you cannot swallow properly. This can interfere with eating, so if you are feeling anxious in a restaurant, for example, then eating can become almost impossible. Difficulties in swallowing can also create the sensation of choking, and you may start to hyperventilate as a result.

The reason for the dry mouth is that the body diverts bodily fluid to your bloodstream to increase your blood volume. Increased blood volume is needed to send extra energy to the muscles and increase heart rate in preparation to flee from a situation or fight to defend yourself.


A palpitation is a rapid succession of quick heartbeats. Yu may feel your heart pounding or thumping, or feel every beat pulsating through your body. You may even feel like your heart is going to explode or that it may stop completely. It is nearly impossible to forget about or ignore as the hammering and pounding are always there, pulling it to the forfront of your mind.

Many people who suffer from anxiety experience palpitations both during the day and night. You may be dropping off to sleep only to be awoken by a series of palpitations, or you may awake in the middle of the night covered in sweat suffering from palpitations. These palpitations at night can be particularly unsettling as they seem to happen completely out of the blue, with no pattern nor trigger. It can also may make it very difficult for you to get back to sleep

Feelings of choking or suffocation

This is caused by over breathing (hyperventilation). To increase the level of oxygen in the blood, your body will increase your lung function and rate of breathing. Because your chest muscles become tense it can feel difficult to take a deep breath. This may cause you to panic even more, thinking that you will become unable to breath. You may “grasp” or “gulp” for air, bringing about feelings of choking and suffocation. This feeling can also be exacerbated by the dry mouth feling (discussed above).

Chest pain or tightening

This can be a particularly unnerving symptom as people often start to think that they may have something wrong with their heart. These stabbing pains and tight feelings though are caused by hyperventilating due to the quantity of carbon-dioxide leaving the body at such a fast rate.

Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or unsteady

This is caused by a number of actions within the anxious body. Hyperventilating is the main culprit, causing a light-headed feeling. When we are anxious our pupils also dilate, which can put everything slightly out of focus, which adds to this light-headed/dizzy feeling. The brain and body work overtime, constantly searching for danger and assessing potential escape routes, making concentrating or focusing on anything else a near impossibility.

“butterflys in the stomach”

This along with over digestional symptoms, such as nausea or a frequent need to use the toilet, are caused as the body redirects blood flow from the digestional tract to the muscles in preparation to fight or flee.


4 Responses to “physical symptoms of anxiety”

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