When you think about anxiety, you might picture some of the more common symptoms like nervousness, sweatiness, or restlessness. And while those are definitely signs,
anxiety can take even more forms, including mental and physical side effects you might not immediately associate with the disorder.
It's good to be aware of these lesser-known symptoms not only as a way of recognizing signs of anxiety in yourself, but also as a way of
finally understanding why you've been feeling so "off" lately. "Anxiety can manifest in an infinite number of ways, some that are very specific to an individual," Dr. Crystal I. Lee, Los Angeles-based psychologist and owner of LA Concierge Psychologist, tells Bustle. "It's important to recognize these lesser-known symptoms of anxiety because, otherwise, people are needlessly suffering without getting the help they need."
And help does exist, in many forms, should you feel like your anxiety is impacting your quality of life. "There are research-backed interventions that have been shown to decrease anxiety symptoms," Dr. Lee says. Some of these include
cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as medications, and even lifestyle changes that can help you feel better.
By treating the underlying anxiety, you'll notice that these unusual anxiety symptoms — and all the ways they impact the body — will begin to subside. Read on for the
lesser-known anxiety symptoms and how they can make you feel, according to experts.
Whenever nausea strikes, you might be quick to blame it on something you ate. But if the issue is ongoing — and nothing helps it go away — it could be a side effect of anxiety.
"This is because your body can't be bothered with properly digesting food if it thinks you're under threat," Dr. Lee says. Anxiety can trigger the
fight-or-flight response in the body, which is basically your brain telling you to run away from danger.
Anxiety can cause this signal to misfire, leading to feelings of nausea, as well as general stomach aches, and even diarrhea. If you haven't been able to pinpoint an exact cause for your digestive troubles, ask a doctor to see if anxiety might be to blame.
Anxiety can cause your feet and hands to feel cold, even when there's no reason for them to be.
As Dr. Lee says, "This is because when you get anxious, your fight/flight/freeze system has been kicked on. Your body is directing blood away from your extremities to vital organs so you're ready to make a run for it."
That's why, if your hands are always icy — even when you're in a safe situation — it might be worth it to look into anxiety as a possible cause.
Lightheadedness can happen for
a variety of reasons. If you have a cold or haven't had enough water, for example, you might get a bit dizzy. But it can also happen if you have anxiety, due to the way it affects your breathing.
"People are not good at breathing when they're anxious," Dr. Lee says. "[Some people] literally hold their breath without even realizing it. If you're unknowingly holding your breath or taking shallow breaths, it can cause you to feel light-headed or dizzy."
One way to combat this symptom is by taking a
few deep breaths, which will help you feel more relaxed and centered.
While it's fine to organize your day, or have certain expectations for how your apartment should look, many people with anxiety feel like their lives have to be positively perfect.
"Being conscientious is
usually seen as a positive trait," Dr. Lee says. "However, if you are doing and redoing things or spending an undue amount of time on a project because it has to be just right, you might be struggling with anxiety."
So the next time you're being hard on yourself, think about where the urge might be coming from. "The driving force behind
your extreme work ethic can be things like worrying about not being good enough or fearing negative consequences if something isn't 'perfect,'" Dr. Lee says, all of which can be due to anxiety.
If you struggle to make decisions, or believe that even the
smallest of choices has the potential to dramatically impact your whole life, take note.
"For [some people], they may become frozen when making a decision and remain stuck or in denial as a result of the underlying anxiety,"
licensed psychotherapist Shrein Bahrami, MFT, tells Bustle. "This can impact very small decisions, such as what to eat for lunch as well as large, such as taking on a new [job]."
It is something you can overcome, however, by treating the root cause. When speaking
with a therapist, you may find that your anxiety lessens, and you feel more confident.
Brain fog is another symptom of anxiety nobody talks about, as well as one that can be quite frustrating to deal with.
"People who are anxious may have a hard time concentrating,"
Dr. Helen Odessky, licensed clinical psychologist and author of , tells Bustle. Stop Anxiety From Stopping You
And that can be due to all the activity whirring away inside the brain. "Anxious minds are often preoccupied with past events or anticipating the future," coach
Sumayya Essack, LCSW, tells Bustle. "This makes it difficult to be fully present and concentrate in the moment."
Learning how to exist in the present — perhaps with the
help of meditation — can slow these thoughts down, and make it easier to focus.
During strong bouts of anxiety, it's possible to feel like you're losing touch with reality, especially if you're about to
have a panic attack. As Dr. Odessky says, "Feeling like you are in a dreamlike state — also called depersonalization — is a little known sign of anxiety."
Anxiety can make you feel
tired all the time, even when you've had enough sleep. So if you can't keep your eyes open during the day, take it as a sign.
"We often think of anxious individuals as being highly alert or wired, but it's common for anxious folks to feel fatigued," Essack says. "All the mental energy spent worrying or anticipating negative outcomes is exhausting, although you may not realize it."
While nobody likes to deal with stress, if you have anxiety it can feel like even the smallest inconvenience is earth-shatteringly horrible.
"People with anxiety often have low distress tolerance and difficulty with situations that are not in their control," psychotherapist
Rev. Connie L. Habash, LMFT, tells Bustle. "They may be worried about running late and disappointing someone, so they show impatience with anyone they feel is slowing them down."
You may also feel that you get frustrated easily, have angry outbursts, or experience
bouts of tearfulness for seemingly no reason.
Anxiety can set you up to avoid certain situations, without it being immediately clear why you're doing so. And this can manifest in countless ways.
"If someone has a fear that their anxiety symptoms will cause their hands to tremble, they might avoid shaking someone’s hand when they meet or they may avoid eating in front of others,"
licensed psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee, tells Bustle. "Someone who tends to blush while anxious may avoid providing a presentation in school or at work." Over time, this can turn into a habit you do without even realizing it.
But by knowing what anxiety can look like — in all its unusual and lesser-known forms — you may be more likely to spot it in yourself, and seek the help you need. There are
plenty of treatments — including therapy — that can set you on the track to feeling better.