Most people assume that symptoms of anxiety look and feel like constant worry. Or maybe people assume anxiety is a fear that something is wrong or will go wrong in the future. While anxiety may show up like this, it’s definitely not the only way and perhaps not even the most common way.
Signs you may be feeling anxious that might be different than what you would expect
If you feel irritable or angry all the time, you may be experiencing anxiety.
Lashing out at the people around us may be a sign we’re experiencing anxiety. We may lash out at those close to us, or even at strangers, co-workers or other drivers on the road.
Maybe you held your crap together during that terrible meeting with your micromanaging, hypercritical boss earlier in the day. Now you’re stuck in traffic for the fourth time this week on your commute home and you feel like you’re going to lose your mind or at least your temper.
It could be that phone call or text from your estranged mom/sister/uncle/friend catches you off guard. The feelings of frustration, grief, resentment you’d successfully buried, bubble to the surface in a fit of screaming you unleash on your toddler who just dumped water all over the bathroom floor. On a normal day that spilt water might make you feel frustrated, but today you loose your shit.
When we bury our anxiety, I can almost guarantee you it will bubble up, and over, later. For a lot of people this looks and feels like anger, irritability and rage.
Physical symptoms of anxiety include skin crawling or tingling sensations without a medical reason.
People describe this sensation differently, but basically anxiety for many people can feel like their skin is crawling or tingling. One might feel this in specific body parts like their back or shoulders, or throughout their entire body like it’s running through their blood. Sometimes the feeling is constant. Sometimes it only happens when something triggers an anxious response.
Imagine the act of public speaking is anxiety provoking. It may be that as soon as you step into the setting in which you have to speak publicly your skin starts to tingle. This might result in a sensation that causes you to feel panicked, fearful and unable to cope. Your brain might even start to believe that your body is physically under attack in some way. This may elicit your fight, flight or freeze response which might lead to a tingling sensation, similar to a limb falling asleep. It may resolve on its own. Or it may take engaging a coping skill like taking a hot shower or meditating to return your body to its “normal” state.
Frequent stomach aches and headaches can be a physical symptoms of anxiety.
Similar to skin crawling, some people experience frequent stomach aches and headaches with no known medical cause. Of course it’s important to rule out medical conditions that might contribute to these types of symptoms. Once that’s done you might consider the context in which these headaches and stomach aches occur. When we consider the shame often associated with mental health, it makes sense that we more easily identify and accept physical or medical “problems” than emotional ones. It’s completely possible that the unresolved conflict with your partner is literally giving you a migraine. The job you have grown to hate might actually be giving you a stomach ache. And the complete overwhelm you feel as a new mom may be contributing to the frequent headaches or stomach cramps that you just can’t seem to shake.
Repetitive, intrusive and scary thoughts are often signs of anxiety.
Ever feel like your brain is stuck in a loop? Do you find yourself replaying a conversation you had with a coworker, a friend or your partner over and over again? Maybe you’re considering all the ways it went wrong or all the things you wish you’d said? Do you try to predict how conversations will go before you have them and come up with possible response for every scenario? Maybe you’re waking up in the middle of the night panicked as you recall something you said or did something you perceive to have been all wrong in a certain interaction. Maybe you can’t fall asleep to begin with because your thoughts keep taking you back to the interactions earlier in the day. If any of this resonates, I’d say there’s a good possibility you’re experiencing anxiety.
Perfectionism can be a symptom of anxiety.
This one catches the most people by surprise. Anxiety often looks like perfectionism. That person in your life (maybe it’s you) who appears to have it all together, all the time- they might really be a ball of nerves, terrified at the thought of making one mistake, saying one wrong thing and everything falling apart.
Think about it. If anxiety is caused by a perceived lack of control, then perfectionism may seem like the cure. Maybe if I can be perfect in every aspect of my life- perfect spouse, perfect parent, perfect employee, perfect friend then nothing bad will happen. I can avoid all negative outcomes and prevent ever feeling anxiety or worry that results from feeling like I failed myself or someone else.
If you’ve ever known a perfectionist, or maybe you are one, then you know they worry constantly about not being good enough. Eventually if we keep trying to burry all of our “imperfect” thoughts and feelings such as anxiety, anger, grief, loneliness, sadness, etc. they will surface somewhere else in our life.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, you’re not alone. Treatment for anxiety is available.
If you see yourself in any of these symptoms of anxiety, it’s important to know you’re not alone. It doesn’t have to stay this way. While these experiences are super common, it’s not necessary to keep living this way. You deserve better than to keep giving your anxiety the upper hand in your life. There are a wide range of options to address anxiety. You can find free or cheap mindfulness and meditation apps and self help books that may be helpful. You may also benefit from seeking out the support of a professional counselor.
Check out these other anxiety related blog posts.
Anxiety counseling in Katy, TX
Anne Russey Counseling offers anxiety treatment in Katy, Texas and throughout the state of Texas via online counseling. In addition to anxiety counseling, Anne Russey Counseling provides postpartum depression treatment, postpartum anxiety treatment, general counseling for moms and LGBTQI+ affirming counseling.