When people think of anxiety, they tend to think of a racing heart, incessant negative thoughts, and fatigue or low energy. But there can be more to anxiety than just the usual symptoms most of us are aware of, and there are a number of surprising physical effects of anxiety. Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but there are some less obvious symptoms that can occur as a result.
"Different symptoms have a lot to do with each person’s genetic makeup and the way they hold stress," John Hamilton, chief clinical outreach officer for Mountainside Treatment Center, tells Bustle. "With ongoing stress like anxiety, it’s usually the most vulnerable part of the body that manifests these symptoms. Generally, people who hold stress in their heads may continually second guess themselves, overthink situations, make self-critical statements and physically, have headaches and migraines. For those that hold stress in their back, they can experience back and muscle pain in their neck, chest and back areas."
Overall, anxiety manifests in many different symptoms, but knowing what is going on in your body can help you combat any issues you may have. Here are nine surprising side effects of anxiety according to experts that you may not have realized can happen.
1. Jaw Pain Or Toothaches
That pain in your mouth could be a result of your anxiety. "People struggling with ongoing anxiety can experience jaw pain or toothaches," Hamilton says. "Anxiety causes many individuals to clench their teeth, both while they’re asleep and awake — even if they aren’t aware. This can lead to headaches or significant dental issues."
2. Anger Or Rage
A very common, but little-known side effect of anxiety is anger or rage. "When a person feels powerless over a situation and that their life is out-of-control, expressing anger can be a common active release of feeling as though they have some control," says Hamilton. "Typically, a person will externalize the conflict instead of recognizing that the real conflict and opportunity lies with their ability to deal with the conflict within themselves." If you find that your anxiety may be taking the form of anger or rage, try talking with a loved one or a therapist about new coping mechanisms that may help you deal with what is making you feel powerless.
3. A Tendency To Get Sick
Unfortunately, anxious people tend to get sick more frequently. "Research has shown that people who are anxious are more prone to colds and minor illnesses, because they have a weakened immune system," says Hamilton. "Anxiety can trigger a release of stress hormones, which cause a variety of changes in the way immune systems respond to threats."
4. Excessive Sweating
Anxiety is not just in your head — it can manifest itself as physical symptoms as well. "Anxiety can also result in symptoms of excessive sweating and shaking in public, which often can develop into social phobias and self-consciousness," says Hamilton.
5. Forgetfulness/Inability To Pay Attention
"One thing I think doesn't get enough attention is the fact that people with anxiety are 'in their head' a lot," mental health counselor Marissa Geraci, LMHC tells Bustle. "A side effect of this is that they can appear distracted, not present, or often forgetful. If you are close to someone with anxiety, it may seem like they are not listening or that they just don't care, which can cause a major breakdown in communication and relationships." If your anxiety is making it difficult for you to concentrate on things other than the fears it creates, seeking help from someone you trust or a professional may help you with redirecting your focus.
6. Achy Muscles
Have some unexplained body pains? It could be a result of your anxiety. "People usually don't associate aching muscles with anxiety, but it's actually quite common," psychologist Crystal I. Lee, Psy.D. tells Bustle. "Those with anxiety are prone to tensing their muscles (usually without even realizing it), which can lead to achy muscles or knots in muscles."
7. Stomach Issues
Your stomachaches and digestive issues could be a side effect of your mental state. "Gastrointestinal issues, like diarrhea, stomach aches, nausea, and burping, are also fairly common symptoms of anxiety," says Lee. "Oddly enough, anxiety affects your digestive system, which can lead to unpleasant issues."
8. Cold Hands And Feet
Feeling chilled often? Your anxiety may be to blame. "When you're anxious, the fight or flight response is triggered," says Lee. "This results in your blood flow being redirected away from your extremities and towards your torso and vital organs. That, in turn, causes very cold hands and feet."
Anxiety can manifest itself on your skin, leading to rashes when you're stressed or anxious. "Some say it's because the extra cortisol pumping in your system (as a result of the stress) causes the rashes," says Lee.
Though anxiety expresses itself in different forms for everyone, knowing how your body reacts to your feelings of anxiety can help you identify how the worry is impacting your daily experience. From there, you may be better equipped to develop strategies to combat anxiety, and feel less stressed overall.