What are the symptoms of anxiety?

If you experience anxiety, you might find that you identify with some of the physical and psychological sensations in the table below. Anxiety can feel different for different people, so you might also experience other kinds of feelings, which are not listed here.

Physical sensations:

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Tense muscles and headaches
  • Pins and needles
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Faster breathing
  • Sweating or hot flashes
  • A fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Needing the toilet more frequently, or less frequently
  • Churning in the pit of your stomach
  • You might experience a panic attack (see ‘What is a panic attack?’)

Psychological sensations:

  • Feeling tense, nervous and on edge
  • Having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
  • Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
  • Feeling like other people can see you are anxious and are looking at you
  • Feeling your mind is really busy with thoughts
  • Dwelling on negative experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again (this is called rumination)
  • Feeling restless and not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling numb

“For me, anxiety feels as if everyone in the world is waiting for me to trip up, so that they can laugh at me. It makes me feel nervous and unsure whether the next step I take is the best way forward.”

What are the long-term effects of anxiety?

If you have felt anxious for a long time or you are frequently anxious, you may experience additional effects in your mind and body, such as:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Depression
  • A lowered immune system, which might make you more susceptible to certain physical illnesses
  • Smoking or drinking a lot, or misusing drugs to cope (if you are experiencing problems with street drugs or alcohol, organisations under Useful contacts can provide more information and support)
  • A change in your sex drive

You might also have difficulty with everyday aspects of your life, such as:

  • Holding down a job
  • Developing or maintaining relationships
  • Simply enjoying your leisure time


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