Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Gillian May
Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

Most people know the main symptoms of anxiety and depression. These are symptoms like losing interest in activities, feeling tired, sad and nervous, having sleep troubles, etc. But there are some other lesser-known physical symptoms that many people experience but rarely talk about.

These symptoms can often lead people to think there’s something physically wrong with them, which can be confusing. Sometimes there can be many trips to the doctor without realizing that it’s actually anxiety or depression going on.

By talking more about these symptoms, we can raise awareness so that other people don’t have to suffer so much. Instead, they can get the help they need without going down a rabbit hole. If you have any of these symptoms, it would be good to get checked by a doctor for sure. But if they occur in combination with other well-known symptoms of anxiety and depression, it may be time to consider getting mental health help.

1. Nausea

Many people with anxiety or depression get tummy problems, but nausea is an alarming and concerning condition. Since anxiety and depression significantly affect the nervous system, they can also affect the stomach’s blood supply and nerves, causing nausea. Since nausea can be a sign of many other illnesses, it can be confusing. However, if you’re experiencing a significant amount of symptoms of anxiety and depression, nausea may be a symptom of these issues as well.

2. Bowel issues

Along the same line as nausea, the nervous system can also affect the way the bowels operate. People can experience either constipation or diarrhea, and sometimes it can alternate between the two. This can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome. However, there’s some research that shows that anxiety and depression may be connected to irritable bowel syndrome.

3. Headaches

Headaches can be caused by severe muscle tension often associated with anxiety and depression. But they can also be migraine headaches which are more neurological in nature. When the nervous system is affected, it can often increase the number of migraine headaches for certain people prone to them.

4. Trembling

This symptom can be confusing for some people, but it’s usually a by-product of nervous system dysfunction that is common in anxiety and depression. This is often a result of the increased sympathetic nervous system activity in the body which heightens symptoms of anxiety in particular. Trembling can be felt in all parts of the body but is common in the hands and stomach area.

5. Sweating

Not everyone experiences this symptom, but it can happen to some people. This is particularly true for anxiety where the nervous system is on high alert. It may be more common in people with higher blood pressure, obesity, or who take certain medications. Women in the perimenopausal or menopausal stage may also be more likely to experience sweating with anxiety.

6. Feeling hot or cold

When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, blood from the extremities can be drawn inward leaving the hands and feet feeling cold. But sometimes the opposite can happen and a person may feel too hot, or even experience flushing.

These are 6 lesser known physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. They are caused by nervous system dysfunction but can be very confusing as they overlap with other physical health issues. The best way to cope with some of these symptoms is to try and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which can be done by techniques like meditation, EMDR, diaphragm breathing and even splashing cold water on the face. There are more techniques out there and I encourage you the explore them all. Of course, CBT therapy has been shown to help with anxiety as well.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - I also have a book on Alcoholic Liver Disease coming out in 2021.


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