Anxiety symptoms: The 6 physical signs you’re suffering with anxiety

Samia Longchambon says doctors thought her anxiety was asthma

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One in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, and eight in 100 people experience mixed anxiety and depression in any given week. Anxiety is more common than you’d think, and the symptoms aren’t limited to worrying, restlessness and dread. Anxiety can manifest physically, and spoke to Kemmy Gichaba, renowned Osteopath and founder of Holistic Impact to find out the six physical signs you might be experiencing anxiety.

Trouble sleeping

Lack of sleep could signal anxiety in a number of ways.

Kemmy said: “Having trouble falling asleep or waking up several times during the night or not feeling rested when you wake are symptoms of anxiety.”

The NHS site lists insomnia as a physical symptom of generalised anxiety disorder, so if you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep you should look into it.

Your jaw

The NHS site says muscle aches and tension and a dry mouth are physical signs you’re feeling anxious.

Kemmy said: “Clenching or grinding your jaw during the day or night could be due to anxiety.”

This is also known as bruxism, and it can lead to facial pain, headaches, worn down teeth, earache, and disrupted sleep.

See a dentist to look for signs of teeth grinding – they may prescribe you a mouth guard or splint.

Alternatively, you could try muscle relaxation exercises or cognitive behavioural therapy to reduce stress and anxiety.


Headaches are linked to most of the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety.

Kemmy said: “Lack of sleep, overthinking, tensing shoulders due to fear or dread and tension in the upper back are all symptoms of anxiety and these can translate into headaches.”

Most of the time these headaches will be tension-type headaches that disappear within a few hours, but they can last for several days.

If you are experiencing headaches several times a week or they are severe, you must see a GP.

Digestive issues

People often say they feel anxiety in their stomach or gut, and this isn’t untrue.

Anxiety and worry can upset the balance of digestion, slowing it down or speeding it up too much.

This can lead to either end of the scale – bloating, constipation and pain, or diarrhoea and frequent trips to the toilet.

Kemmy explained: “When you’re constantly worrying, you can develop a nervous digestive system.

“This can translate into stomach aches, IBS, acid reflux and diarrhoea.”

Shortness of breath

Panic attacks are characterised by short, shallow breathing that is hard to control, and general anxiety is similar.

The NHS lists shortness of breath and a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat as symptoms of anxiety.

Kemmy said: “One of the main symptoms I experienced with anxiety was holding my breath and not breathing properly.

“Or, you might find that your breath is shallow and you feel as if you can’t take a deep breath.

“You might also feel pressure in your chest.”

Avoiding or changing plans

While your social life isn’t a physical symptom if you’re avoiding or changing plans all the time this can be noticed physically by yourself and others.

Kemmy said: “If you’re anxious, you might find yourself making excuses not to meet friends because it’s anxiety triggering.

“Or, you might do things like changing your way home to avoid spaces that cause anxiety.”

The NHS website adds: “Your symptoms may cause you to withdraw from social contact (seeing your family and friends) to avoid feelings of worry and dread.

“You may also find going to work difficult and stressful, and may take time off sick.

“These actions can make you worry even more about yourself and increase your lack of self-esteem.”

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