One of the challenges therapists often experience is trying to describe the symptoms of a condition that can manifest in so many different ways. Anxiety is one of the best examples of this. When we try to describe the symptoms of anxiety, we’re often limited by the symptoms that are “most common,” for example:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Worries and nervous thoughts
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Feeling restless
- Sweating, etc.
These are the common, nearly universal symptoms of anxiety. While not everyone may feel tension, and not everyone will have worrisome thoughts (see our past blog post on people that live with only the physical symptoms of anxiety) but, in general, a person with anxiety can expect to feel at least some of those symptoms.
What makes anxiety more complicated is that it can manifest in ways that seem like they have nothing to do with anxiety – symptoms that sound nothing like the more common symptoms described above. In fact, there are so many of these symptoms that even as therapists, we are often tasked with trying to differentiate what is anxiety and what isn’t.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Trouble Walking
Long term stress and anxiety can change both how your body reacts to stress and how you process those changes. When someone has panic disorder, they often experience what’s known as “hypersensitivity.” They self-monitor their body for physical symptoms, start to notice that any feeling they have, and feel that feeling stronger than they would without anxiety.
Some people find that this process causes what should be natural, subconscious movements to become conscious. For example, walking. Walking is 200 muscles in your body moving together. Your brain knows how to walk. But sometimes, people that are hypersensitive because of their panic attacks, start to feel odd when walking. Suddenly, they have to remember how to walk, as they have conscious control over their movements. This leads to trouble walking.
Another example of this might include trouble swallowing.
- Eye Pain
Another symptom of anxiety that you may not expect is eye pain. One symptom that most people do experience is muscle tension. But muscle tension isn’t limited to your back and shoulders. Some people get muscle tension in the muscles around the eyes. This tension pulls on these muscles, leading to eye pain. Some people may even have vision problems, including blurry vision, as a result of this eye muscle tension.
- Sudden Urge to Urine or Cold Feet
What do an urge to urinate and cold feet have in common?
Not very much, actually. But they do point to something that many people do not know about their own bodies.
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, your body is trying to determine how best to use its resources. It’s trying to decide where to send blood, where to activate neurotransmitters, where to send hormones and vitamins, and so on.
When a person struggles with anxiety, their body is reacting as if they’re in the middle of some type of extreme danger. In order to escape that danger, your body moves resources to the places it thinks need them most. For example, blood may rush to your muscles and heart, because your body thinks you’re going to fight or flee. This takes warm blood away from your feet and toes, causing them to feel cold.
Similarly, your brain is trying to determine how to keep you safe from danger. In order to do that, it moves resources away from other parts of your brain – including the part of your brain that controls your ability to hold in your urination. It’s why animals (including humans) are prone to urinating when they are very scared. The part of their brain responsible for relaxing the bladder is no longer activated so that resources can move to other parts of the brain.
The Many Symptoms of Anxiety
All of these symptoms we are describing here are not rare symptoms. Thousands of people across Brooklyn and NYC struggle with the same issues. That is why it so important to see a therapist. Working with a therapist, we can identify what these symptoms may be, how they’re linked with anxiety, and what you can do to find some relief from them.
There are hundreds of anxiety symptoms just like these that can affect people of all ages. If you’re looking for a NYC therapist to help you understand your symptoms more and start the process of addressing them, contact Flourish Psychology, today.