12 Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

From chest tightness to shortness of breath, recognize anxiety's physical symptoms to calm your mind

Anxiety includes physical symptoms like chest tightness and shortness of breath

There's more to anxiety than  nervous or stressful thoughts...

There is a long list of physical symptoms of anxiety as well.

When you're feeling worried or anxious, your whole body is gearing up for a "fight or flight" response to help you defend yourself against a threat.

You might notice things like chest tightness, shortness of breath, or shakiness before you even notice anxious thoughts running through your mind at all.

This is why it's important to get to know anxiety's physical symptoms.

When you're more self-aware of what's going on with your body, you can identify anxiety more quickly, and take steps to calm yourself down.

We're here to help you identify and understand physical symptoms of anxiety you may be experiencing, and learn how to deal with them when they arise.

12 Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

1. Insomnia

Can't sleep at night? Chances are, anxiety is playing a role. Racing, anxious thoughts make it impossible for your brain to shut off long enough for you to relax and doze off.

When you can't sleep, remind yourself: My worries are valid, but I'm going to let them go and set them aside right now. When I'm more well-rested, I can sort things out.
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2. Shortness of breath

When you're feeling anxious, you may feel like you can't breathe or get enough air. Nervousness can cause us to take quick, shallower breaths that are less efficient at delivering oxygen to the body.

Instead, try some deep breathing exercises to steady yourself and return to a feeling of calmness.

When feeling shortness of breath, remind yourself: I can manage my anxiety if I take some deep breaths. I've done this before.
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3. Heart racing

Notice your heart beating fast during a moment of anxiety? This is because your body is working hard to pump blood to your muscles in case you need to run, or engage in conflict.

When your heart is racing, remind yourself: I'm not in danger. I'm just responding to a thought, but I can change my thoughts.
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4. Tension in your body

Feel a lot of tension in your neck, back, or shoulders? Anxiety might be the culprit. As a part of the fear response, our muscles tense up — in case we need to make a run for it.

Gentle forms of exercise like yoga, or even a good set of stretches can help release muscle tension.

When you're feeling tense, remind yourself: I am safe and in control of my mind and body.
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5. Chest tightness

One of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety is tightness in your chest. It can feel like a dull ache, or a sharper pain.

The fight or flight response causes your heart to beat faster, which can tire out your heart muscles. This feeling is compounded by increased tension and pressure in your chest.

When feeling chest tightness, remind yourself: I'm safe right where I am.

6. Exhaustion

If you notice yourself feeling super tired and drained after a bout of anxiety, this is totally normal. Your body has been putting all its energy toward preparing for major conflict!

Be sure to get a good night's sleep, and refill your body's energy supply with satisfying, nutritious foods.

When you're feeling exhausted, remind yourself: It's okay that I need extra rest right now. I'm recovering from a taxing experience.

7. Stomach problems

Don't be alarmed if anxiety has you feeling a little more than butterflies in your stomach. Nausea and digestive issues are common symptoms of anxiety.

Peppermint or ginger tea can soothe your stomach while you calm yourself down.

When your stomach is upset, remind yourself: I know what I'm feeling is anxiety. It's uncomfortable, but it will pass.

8. Sweating

We've all noticed ourselves sweating more than usual before an interview or first date. This is because the fear response associated with anxiety activates sweat glands all over your body.

When you're sweating, remind yourself: I have gotten through this before, and this time will be no different.

9. Shakiness

It's not uncommon to find yourself shaking or trembling when experiencing strong feelings of anxiety. This is because your muscles are on edge, ready to react to danger.

When you're shaky, remind yourself: I can take things at my own pace, one step at a time, until this feeling passes.

10. Dizziness

Some people with anxiety also experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or vertigo. This can occur as a result of rapid breathing not delivering enough oxygen to the brain, or changes in blood pressure.

When you're dizzy, remind yourself: I have everything I need to calm myself down and feel more present where I am.

11. Headache

Migraines and headaches are common in those with anxiety. Remember that bodily tension we talked about? Seizing up in your neck and shoulders for long periods of time from anxiety can lead to tension headaches.

This is why it's important to notice and release tension from your body when dealing with anxiety.

When you have a headache, remind yourself: There is nothing dangerous to worry about, so I can give myself permission to relax my body.

12. Feeling jumpy

If you've noticed that you're easily startled and your body overreacts to being unexpectedly spoken to or touched, this may also be a result of anxiety.

Anxiety keeps you on high alert, looking for that threat your body is ready to fight.

When you're feeling jumpy, remind yourself: I know that I am safe. I can set boundaries with others when I feel uncomfortable.


We hope this article helped you become more mindful about how anxiety manifests in your body physically.

Now that you know what to look for, you're more equipped to deal with these feelings when they happen.

Our minds and bodies are very closely connected. Anxious thoughts can trigger unpleasant physical symptoms.

When you pay close attention to what's happening in your body, you can recognize anxiety when it starts, and take steps to alleviate your discomfort right away.

And, if you need more inspiration or encouragement for dealing with anxiety, check out the resources on the Jour app.