11 Uncommon Anxiety Symptoms Everyone Needs To Know About
When you think about anxiety, several classic symptoms might spring to mind like sweating, shaking, worrying, and avoiding certain situations. These are very real side effects that many people deal with on a daily basis. But less common symptoms of anxiety can happen, too, and knowing what they look like can come in handy.
After all, things like impulsivity, over-spending, sleep problems, and even an inability to pay attention may not scream "anxiety." But since these symptoms can stem from an anxiety disorder, recognizing them may end up being your first step in feeling better.
"Our bodies are our best, most efficient diagnostic tool," clinical psychotherapist Paul L. Hokemeyer, JD, PhD, tells Bustle. "How we feel, what we say, and how we interact with other people [speaks] volumes about our mental health." So if anything in your life feels difficult, out of the ordinary, or uncomfortable, you may want to consider anxiety as a possible cause.
"It’s important to be mindful of these uncommon symptoms of anxiety, as well as symptoms in general, because they may speak to a larger problem," Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer at American Addiction Centers, tells Bustle. "Seeking help from a physician or licensed therapist is usually the best route to take." If you're dealing with symptoms like the ones listed below, don't hesitate to ask questions, get more information, or reach out for help.
1. Jaw Pain
If you wake up with jaw pain or a toothache, and there's no other possible cause for it, consider anxiety. "Anxiety may cause you to clench and grind your teeth, both while you are awake or asleep," licensed psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA LMFT ATR, tells Bustle. And you might even be doing it without realizing.
"This clenching and grinding is called bruxism, and it often leads to morning headaches, toothaches, and a sore jaw," Scott-Hudson says. You can ask your dentist to check for signs of it, she says. And from there, reach out to your doctor for support.
2. Scattered Thinking
“If you feel scattered [or distracted], you may be consumed by your own anxious thoughts, which get in the way of being a present and engaged listener,” Scott-Hudson says. It can make it difficult to follow along with a conversation, or store new information.
So the next time you're feeling disengaged, check in with yourself. As Scott-Hudson says, "Are you so focused on your own worried thoughts that you are forgetting what has just been said to you? [If so,] you may be suffering from anxiety."
"When we are anxious our bodies and brains can enter 'fight or flight' mode, leaving us to feel on edge with a small frustration-tolerance window," Christina Furnival, LPCC, tells Bustle.
That's why you might notice that little things irk you, friends annoy you, and minor inconveniences make you upset. This type of unexplained irritability can sometimes be chalked up to anxiety, and can also be treated with things like therapy.
4. Intrusive Thoughts
"We all daydream, but someone struggling with anxiety might have vivid intrusive images of bad things happening to them or their loved ones," Furnival says. For example, you might catch yourself envisioning worst-case-scenarios, or getting caught up in nightmarish thoughts.
As Furnival says, this is also known as ruminating, and it can make it tough to focus on the present moment. It can also cause a lot of unnecessary stress, which is why therapy may be a big help.
5. Sleep Problems
"Sometimes, people have trouble making the connection between their late night tossing and turning and their anxiety," associate psychotherapist Kristin Anderson, LMSW, tells Bustle. But the two may go hand-in-hand.
"If you find yourself struggling to turn off your brain at night or waking up in the middle of the night," Anderson says, "take a second [...] to see if it may be anxiety affecting your shuteye."
Are you feeling tense? Do you have those intrusive thoughts? If so, it may be worth asking your doctor for more info about anxiety.
There are lots of reasons why you might end up spending more than you meant to while shopping. But did you know anxiety can be one of them?
"Having chronic anxiety wears away our brain's ability to make calm and calculated decisions," therapist Erin Carpenter, LCSW, tells Bustle, leaving room for impulsivity.
You might have a tough time, as a result, saying no to certain bargains or putting things back on the shelf. "Instead we just impulse-buy things we probably don't need and cause further stress," Carpenter says.
Of course, treating yourself doesn't mean you have anxiety. But if the excessive shopping is accompanied by other symptoms, and it stresses you out, it may be something to consider.
For some, anxiety can show up in the form of a "scarcity mentality," Carpenter says, where it causes you to worry that there will never be "enough" stuff in your life.
This can lead to hoarding behaviors, she says, which might include having a basement full of canned goods or a year's worth of paper towels stashed under your bed. You might also have a tough time throwing things away, or hold onto junk "just in case."
Not everyone with anxiety experiences hoarding. But many hoarders have anxiety.
In some instances, anxiety can lead to impulsivity, including the desire to overhaul your entire life without much forethought. As Carpenter says, "Example are deciding to quit your job, switch entire careers, move to a new apartment, switch your college major, or end healthy relationships."
While it's perfectly OK to get a new job or move to a new town, jumping into it without planning ahead can be a red flag, and may mean you're dealing with anxiety.
"Most people associate crying with signs of depression, and that's true for some people," Carpenter says. "But anxiety can also lead you to cry due to feeling overwhelmed, rather than sad." You might cry during your commute to work, or once you get home, or whenever something even slightly stressful happens.
If you find yourself feeling so anxious and overwhelmed to the point you cry easily, Carpenter says you should reach out for help. It's just not necessary to feel that bad, or to let anxiety take over to such a degree.
Anxiety can make a person indecisive, Carpenter says, which is why some folks with anxiety have a tough time making decisions.
"Making decisions is taxing on our cognitive energy, and if you have lots of anxiety, your brain is already taxed due to racing thoughts and worries," she says. "Therefore, it's more difficult to make decisions both large and small."
You might have a really hard time with things like figuring out where to go to lunch, to which job offer to accept, and everything in between.
Branching off from indecision is another lesser-known symptom of anxiety: disorganization. As Carpenter says, "When in a state of anxiety, our brains struggle with long-term planning and organization. It's hard for our brains to put tasks in order, or clump them into an order of operations.
And this can result in general disorganization, which can have a pretty big impact on your life. "If you're anxious, it may show up in missed meetings, running late, a messy home, forgetting to pay bills, and the like," Carpenter says.
While these symptoms might not jump to mind when you think about anxiety, they are certainly a sign of it. If anything sounds familiar, there are plenty of ways to begin to manage your symptoms, including talking to a therapist.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.