Anxiety 101: 10 Surprising Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion that everyone feels from time to time. For some, they experience it at higher intensity than others, but overall, we have all felt it.



The definition of anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. It’s basically the feeling that comes when your body is deciding if you need to fight or flight. Think cave man days: You see a saber tooth tiger and your brain is deciding if you need to take off running or draw your weapon and fight it off. Only it’s 2019 and that saber tooth tiger is your boss asking you to report your findings at a meeting… in front of erribody. (Yes, erribody). Anxiety is your brain trying to decide if you should quit and move two states over or search for a template on Prezi so you can knock this out.


Often when clients come to me, they know they have anxiety to some degree, but usually are unaware of the many different ways it is manifesting in their life. They say things like “that’s just how I am” or “I thought everyone did that”. Part of my job, as a licensed clinician, is to help them understand what is personality versus pathology. I spend time giving psycho-education, or explaining what their symptoms are and how they are impacted.


Here are 10 of the most surprising symptoms of anxiety


1. Irritability: This is a sudden and unexplained mood shift. It almost feels like a storm cloud was blown in and now your personal sky is gray. You’re grumpy, don’t want to be bothered, or maybe someone asks a simple question and you clap back.

2. Procrastination: Putting things off in various areas with no particular method to the madness. You feel even small levels of anxiety about a task, so you put off the experience of discomfort. This could even be putting off a fun task and doing something you are more comfortable with. The irony is that putting it off means you end up carry the anxiety for longer periods of time.

3. Immobility, even in the safest situations: This is needing to use the bathroom, but not wanting to walk across a room full of people. Needing to ask a legitimate question, but not being able to raise your hand. Someone offering you food and you say “no”, knowing doggone well your stomach is touching your back. Being slightly frozen at times where you are essentially safe and should be able to have your needs met.

4. Muscle tenseness: You stop at the mall massage spot and you’re so tight that he asking if your skin is made of leather. You find yourself balling up and holding your fist for no reason. Finding your shoulders sitting up at your ears and having to consciously relax them. Back pain, chest tightness… yea man, alludat.


5. Clenched jaw: Holding your teeth together tightly and not even realizing it. Grinding your teeth counts too. This could be both at night and during the day.

6. Morbid or Scary thoughts: This one can be quite disturbing for people. This is when you have a random vision or thought of something dreadful happening to you or someone you love. These thoughts can also be perverted or violent. Sometimes they are quick thoughts and other times, it’s like someone turned on a whole movie in your head and you can’t make it stop.

7. The impossible task: This is a relatively simple task that you just can NOT bring yourself to do. Returning a text message to a certain person. Mailing a letter. Washing your hair. An assignment for work or school that you are fully qualified to complete. For some reason, it haunts and taunts you, but you just can’t seem to get it done.

8. GI issues: Gastrointestinal issues and anxiety go hand in hand. Frequent gas, diarrhea, and constipation can all be signs of anxiety. Irritable bowel syndrome is very common among people with higher levels of anxiety.

9. Shallow breathing: Highly anxious people tend to breathe in their upper lungs, which doesn’t give a full deep breath in the same way as breathing from your diaphragm. This can mimic the feeling of hyperventilating due to taking rapid, short breaths. It tricks the body into thinking there is a need to panic and can increase anxiety.

10. Difficulty concentrating: Highly anxious people have no less than 9,782 thoughts floating around their head (carry the 1, and round to the nearest tenth). This could be random thoughts or them ruminating about the same thought (having the same thoughts continually replaying, over and over). It makes sense that they would have trouble concentrating. It’s hard to focus when your body is constantly trying to figure out if it needs to take off running and at the same time, your mind is playing Whack-a-Mole with ideas.


The key to dealing with anxiety understanding how it impacts you. Once you are aware, you can work towards managing and decreasing the intensity of your symptoms. Don’t think twice about contacting a licensed clinician, like myself, for help and relief.


And of course, Therapy is a Lifestyle


Dr. Glenna

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