Stress is a common occurrence. Most people experience mild levels of stress every day, which is completely normal. You're running late, traffic is horrible, the kids are fighting — a million and one different things can cause stress levels to rise. However, some people experience more than these normal levels of stress. Although stress and anxiety overlap in many respects, anxiety is a chronic and recurrent condition.
There are a number of common signs that most recognize as side effects of anxiety, a few symptoms are less well know and less common. This means you might not even know that you have an anxiety disorder. Below are some uncommon anxiety symptoms.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety affects millions of Americans. This mental health disorder is characterized by how it makes patients feel on a regular basis. Worry, anxiety or even fear plague their life and can often interfere with daily activities. Most of the time, those who have anxiety often experience physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms associated with the disorder. This includes:
- Nervousness or fear
- Racing heartbeat
- Constant worrying
- Panic attacks
- Cold sweats
Harder-to-Recognize Anxiety Symptoms
Although most people can recognize their anxiety symptoms, other side effects of the disorder are more surprising and thus harder to pinpoint. If you are struggling with any of the following physical signs, they could be warnings that you have an untreated anxiety disorder:
1. Tense Muscles
If you've had anxiety for a while, you may not notice that your muscles are always tense. Many of those with anxiety disorders unconsciously flex their muscles, ball their fists or even clench their jaw. Exercise is a great way to relieve this tension, as well as long, hot showers.
2. Ongoing Stomach Issues
Sometimes it's not what you eat that causes an upset stomach. The gut is extremely sensitive to stress, and anxiety disorders can lead to reoccurring stomach issues or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
3. Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath can be a warning sign of a serious medical disorder like asthma, allergies, pneumonia, emphysema or even heart conditions. However, it can also indicate that you may be struggling with anxiety. When people panic or grapple with stress, this can lead to hyperventilation, which is when you exhale more than you inhale. This means you are getting less oxygen in your blood, causing your blood vessels to narrow. Anxiety-related breathing difficulties also can also lead to tingling in your fingers or lightheadedness.
4. Skin Problems
When your body undergoes high levels of stress, as it does with anxiety, it often releases more hormones like cortisol. This can cause the glands under your skin to secrete more oil. When excess oil is caught in hair follicles, acne is a common result. The chemicals produced by your body under stress can lead to additional skin issues as well, like increased sensitivity, inflammation and other discomforts.
5. Hair Loss
Losing your hair is a common way your body reacts to stress. There may be three root causes tied to stress-related hair loss:
- Telogen effluvium: Increased stress causes hair follicles to go into their resting phase making it easier for hair to fall out while shampooing or combing it.
- Trichotillomania: A compulsive urge that is tied to anxiety where people pull hair from their scalp, eyebrows or other areas.
- Alopecia areata: Believed to be caused by stress, this is when the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss.
Don't Struggle With Anxiety Alone
If you recognize that you are suffering from any of these symptoms, then you may have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder — but you do not have to struggle with it alone. Seek help from a professional.