Commonly Overlooked Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Commonly Overlooked Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Published on February 11, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Most people are familiar with the psychological effects of anxiety such as constant worry, nervousness, and fear. However, many people who are living with anxiety are entirely unaware of the ways in which anxiety disorder may be affecting their physical health.

Some physical symptoms of anxiety can be confusing and seem entirely unrelated to mental health. In fact, many people seek medical attention for symptoms that they believe are signs of a physical illness, only to discover that anxiety is wreaking havoc on their bodies.

Being aware of the many physical symptoms of anxiety can help clue you into an underlying mental health issue, and let you know when it might be time to seek professional help to take better care of your mind and body.

Chest Pain

One of the most common complaints of someone who has experienced an anxiety or panic attack is chest pain. This may feel like tension or heaviness in the chest, tingling, or shortness of breath. These symptoms can also indicate something more serious, such as a heart attack, so it is important to seek medical attention right away if you are experiencing chest pain.

However, it is very common for people to seek emergency medical help only to find they were having an anxiety attack. It is always better to be safe than sorry instead of assuming that your pain is the result of anxiety, but repeated incidents of anxiety-related chest pain are a strong indicator that it is time to seek professional mental health care.

Digestive Issues

There’s a reason we commonly refer to the sensation of a “gut feeling”. Our emotions have been found in research to share a profound connection with our digestive health. People with anxiety commonly suffer from stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea.

These symptoms can make someone who is unaware of their anxiety issues feel as if they have the stomach flu or a chronic digestive issue. In fact, some studies suggest that many people who are diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome experience their symptoms in conjunction with mental health issues.  

Oral Issues

A lesser-known issue related to anxiety is the onset of problems with the teeth and mouth. This may include teeth grinding, which can occur at any time but is most common during sleep. People who grind their teeth often wake up with jaw pain from clenching the muscles around their mouth and may begin to show damage to their teeth from grinding them against each other. 

Additionally, some people experience pain in the teeth or tongue from pressing their tongue against their front teeth or the roof of their mouth when they are feeling anxious. These habits can develop subconsciously, and many people do not even realize they are doing them until they begin to experience adverse symptoms. 


During periods of high anxiety, your mind, and body function as if you are in imminent danger. This means that you could be sitting on the couch watching television, and yet your mind is working in overdrive to sense any threats, and your body is constantly tense, readying itself to run or fight.

This process requires a great deal of energy, and therefore people with high anxiety may experience periods of extreme fatigue or even weakness. They may not fully recognize that their body is holding on to so much tension or exerting so much energy during the day, but the resulting exhaustion is a clue that the mind-body connection is depleting energy levels. 

Aches and Pains

Another common symptom that is often not immediately diagnosed as anxiety is unexplained aches and pains.  As already mentioned, anxiety can cause you to become tense, leading to sore muscles and pain in the joints. Back pain, neck pain, and headaches can all be a result of stress buildup in the body.

Many people with these issues incorrectly assume their pain is a product of age, lifestyle, or injury. While these can most certainly be factors that lead to chronic pain, anxiety should not be dismissed when considering pain management. 

Sleep Issues

Perhaps the most obvious physical symptoms of anxiety are issues involving sleep. Anxiety can cause you to spiral into seemingly endless thoughts of worry and regret, or may simply keep you up at night thinking about things that have little consequence.

In addition to insomnia, waking frequently throughout the night or being startled awake by disturbing dreams is also a common sign of high anxiety. Unfortunately, sleep disturbances negatively affect physical and mental health, worsening all other symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder.


Addiction as a result of substance abuse is both a physical and psychological issue. People who have trouble managing their anxiety or the secondary symptoms associated with anxiety disorder often turn to drugs or alcohol to help them feel calm or induce sleep. 

However, an addiction only worsens anxiety issues over time and adds to both physical and mental health problems. Those who believe they may be suffering from an addiction and a co-occurring anxiety disorder should seek help from professionals equipped to provide a dual diagnosis.  

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigma may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.