Mental Health Blog

What does anxiety look like mentally, emotionally, and physically?

Posted by Sarah Carter on

Anxiety tends to show up differently for different people. This isn’t too surprising given that all humans are so innately unique and different, but we tend to put anxiety and other things of that nature in a box that’s easy to label and spot. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tend to serve our children, spouses, or ourselves best because it limits what we notice or attend to in our lives. Here are different ways anxiety could show up in our lives:

Physical:

  • Tingling sensations, jittery feelings, general uneasiness
  • Nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach
  • Panic attacks
  • Randomly high heart rate, breathing rate, or blood pressure
  • Muscle tension, clenched jaw, or muscle knots
  • Checking the environment for threats
  • Headaches
  • Inability to get to sleep or stay asleep
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Chronic pain

Emotional:

  • Impending sense of doom
  • Consistent fear and/or panic
  • Hypervigilance
  • Sadness, anger, irritability

Mental:

  • Constantly making lists or checking that things are done
  • Overly planning for the future or a potential crisis
  • Cycle or spiral thought patterns that you cannot escape
  • Thoughts around being out of control
  • Struggles with focus or concentration
  • Inability to finish tasks due to time spent worrying

It is also worth noting how these may show up differently in children, teens, and adults. A teen may show their anxiety through isolation, irritability, struggles with eating due to GI problems, and numbing through media engagement. A child may show it by wanting to sleep in their parents’ room, having frequent stomach aches, nightmares with recurring themes, and temper tantrums. While none of those symptoms on their own are necessarily cause for concern, it is beneficial to notice patterns, connections, and overlaps in how your child is feeling to know how to proceed.

Anxiety can sound scary and overwhelming, but with the right support, there are ways it can be understood and overcome. At first, people often need tools on how to calm themselves when their anxiety is becoming stronger. Some physical things that can help include using a weighted blanket, taking a hot shower, doing deep breathing, or going on a walk outside. Emotionally, some people need connection with safe people, media content that causes an opposing emotion such as a comedy show, or relaxing music. Mentally, some people benefit from journaling to understand their thoughts, making lists to come back to their worries, or having a space like therapy to explore the thoughts that are causing them distress. With the right tools and support, anxiety can become quieter and less a focus of your life.

 

Sarah Carter is a Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor #6982.  She is supervised by Lisa Lewis, LMFT# 112889.

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