There are lots of symptoms that may indicate you’re struggling with anxiety. Here we show you the signs you may be affected – both the common ones and the more surprising symptoms. 

Why it’s important to spot the signs of anxiety

Anxiety can come and go, and its source may change, but if you’re prone to it, you may keep struggling with it unless you put some steps in place to deal with it. That’s why it’s crucial to identify the signs and get the right support. There are a lot of overlaps with symptoms of stress but some key differences. You’ll generally notice feelings of stress when there’s a trigger. But anxiety can hit even if there isn’t a particular issue causing it. 

It’s important to remember everyone’s different and will experience anxiety in different ways. You’re unlikely to have all these symptoms. There may be some you never experience, and others that affect you severely. And you may find you experience different symptoms at different times. The signs of anxiety can be broadly divided into three categories – effects on your body, mind and behaviour. Do you recognise any of these? 

The physical signs of anxiety may include:

  • ‘Butterflies’ in your tummy 
  • Digestive problems, which may include IBS symptoms such as bloating, and needing to go to the toilet more often – or being constipated
  • Aches and pains, including headaches, back pain and neck stiffness
  • Fast, shallow breathing 
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Tension in your muscles – you may find yourself clenching your fists, for example
  • Grinding your teeth, especially at night (this may lead to jaw stiffness and headaches)
  • Pins and needles
  • A sense of restlessness – others may comment that you’re fidgety, and you might find it hard to sit still
  • Trouble sleeping, whether that’s difficulty nodding off in the first place, or waking in the early hours and being unable to go back to sleep
  • A change in your sex drive
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating more than usual

The effects of anxiety on your mind may include:

  • Having a constant sense of dread, as though the worst is about to happen, even if you can’t connect it to anything
  • Feeling worried others can see your anxiety
  • Thinking you ‘need’ to worry in order to stop bad things happening
  • Wanting reassurance from others, although it doesn’t help for long, or at all
  • Having dissociative experiences – either feeling disconnected from your body or from the world around you
  • Ruminating on things that have happened or you’re worried might happen
  • Talking a lot about the things that make you anxious – you may even find it difficult to concentrate on any other topics of conversation
  • Worrying the anxiety itself will lead to health problems
  • Feeling people are annoyed or upset with you, even when there’s no sign of this

The effects on your behaviour may include:

  • Drinking alcohol to excess 
  • Over-eating, particularly junk food – or eating less
  • Reaching for other unhealthy behaviours in an attempt to soothe yourself, such as smoking
  • Struggling to maintain a social life – and even when you do go out, you may find it difficult to enjoy yourself
  • Being distracted at work
  • Snapping at people
  • Finding it hard to concentrate