14 Signs You Have Anxiety and Don’t Know It

13 Signs You Have Anxiety — and Don't Know It

The word ‘Anxiety’ seems like such a harmless word which begins with stress or any kind of chronic worrying, and when our minds are at a constant state of stress, anxiety can occur and cause havoc on the neuropathways in our brain that control the function of our body which then can translate into all kinds of adverse physical symptoms. 

So, how do you know whether your anxiety is a serious mental health condition where it keeps you from doing activities — anything from solving a jigsaw puzzle to impairing your ability to do the daily tasks that you were once able to do?

“Anxiety is a normal emotion that almost everyone feels,” Lawrence D. Needleman, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Ohio State University Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic. “But if it is persistent, and it’s interfering with important aspects of their lives, then people should seek attention for it.”

Although common physical conditions might be easy to diagnose with a number of tests, mental health disorders tend to be more complicated. In fact, doctors diagnose less than half of patients who meet the criteria for psychological disorders, according to the World Health Organization. Medical professionals often under diagnosed because they haven’t had sufficient training with mental illness, Dr. Needleman said.

But patients also need to seek out help. Though it may be difficult to even admit we may have anxiety if we are unaware of the full spectrum of symptoms that are associated with it.

“People who are suffering might not bring their problem to someone’s attention because of shame or embarrassment,” added Dr. Needleman. “(Patients) might also not recognize what their problem is — they might not realize it’s an underlying anxiety disorder.”

Anxiety can be a normal reaction of the body. For example, if you are hiking and run into a bear, the anxiety you experience will help you get away. This is a normal response, but at times our mind and bodies can experience anxiety from abnormal responses.

Approximately 40 million adults in the United States have some type of anxiety disorder, and much more might not realize it. Deciphering how your thoughts, feelings, and fears compare to the average person can be difficult.

What symptoms of anxiety might you have without realizing it?

Overreactions to Stress

“Anxious thoughts or anxiety-provoking thoughts can often have to do with anticipating some negative or catastrophic event in the future,” said Dr. Needleman. “So people with anxiety disorder tend to overestimate these events or catastrophes and underestimate their resources.”

Difficulty Relaxing

An inability to relax, ease the mind of concerns and constantly carrying around stress could be a sign of an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If stress-reducing techniques work for others but don’t work for you, a stronger treatment might be required to treat a possible anxiety disorder.

Easily Startled

Jumping out of your chair at a showing of Paranormal Activity happens to plenty of people, and is not necessarily a sign of anxiety disorders. But experts classify an “exaggerated” startle response as a sign of anxiety, according to the NIMH.
Frequently feeling on edge and startled by even the slightest, unexpected event could mean you have an exaggerated startle response and perhaps anxiety.

Difficulty Concentrating

A primary symptom of several mental health disorders, staying focused and concentrating on a task can be difficult for people living with anxiety disorders.

Trouble Falling or Staying Asleep

Sleeping problems and anxiety often go hand in hand. Not only can a lack of sleep worsen anxiety symptoms, but also difficulty sleeping can be a sign of anxiety disorders.
A racing mind of thoughts when trying to fall asleep can be problematic. It can cause us to get inconsistent sleep and can upset our circadian rhythm, which is the rhythm that helps our bodies cycle sleep effectively. If you can’t ‘shut off’ your mind when trying to fall asleep, or you just can’t fall asleep because of this, there’s a good chance you have anxiety.

Feelings of Unreality

“Something people with anxiety experience is a feeling of unreality,” explained Dr. Needleman. “They feel detached from themselves or sometimes even feel out of the body.”


Anxiety disorders cause painful problems that many physical and mental conditions share. Identifying these as signs of anxiety, rather than other disorders, could be difficult, but a combination of these symptoms could represent an anxiety disorder.
“Many of the physical symptoms in isolation might just lead people to think they have headaches for whatever reason, or nausea because of a stomach bug,” said Dr. Needleman.
Generalized anxiety disorder can cause migraine headaches with severe pain felt on one or both sides of the head, just behind an eye or ear, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Muscle Aches and Tension

People with anxiety can commonly experience chronic pain, including diseases like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Symptoms of these conditions include pain, stiffness, inflammation, and damage to joint cartilage.

Throat Problems

Feeling like something is stuck in your throat is known as globus hystericus. Stress and anxiety can cause this sensation, in addition to a feeling of tightness in the throat. These can contribute to difficulty swallowing.


Trembling and shaking can be a symptom of anxiety, especially if a person feels like they can’t stop themselves. Tremors can be more pronounced when resting or trying to sleep, according to the Anxiety Centre.


Sweating before a presentation doesn’t instantly mean a person has an anxiety disorder. But anxiety sweating can be a sign of a larger disorder if it is also associated with constant problems relaxing.


Stress, fear, and anxiety can cause a number of stomach and intestinal distress, including nausea. These mental health conditions cause the body to function abnormally, resulting in an unsettled feeling in the stomach.

Urge Incontinence

Anxiety can cause frequent trips to the bathroom, especially for women, according to a study from Leicestershire MRC Incontinence Study Group. Researchers found that more than half of the study participants with urge incontinence showed other symptoms of anxiety.

Shortness of Breath

Anxiety itself can already be troubling, but when that anxiety affects the way you feel about your own health, it becomes a tremendous burden. It’s not uncommon for many people suffering from anxiety and anxiety attacks to feel as though they have health issues, and one of the main contributing symptoms is a shortness of breath.

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of an anxiety disorder, especially if anxiety affects the way you breathe. In this article, we’ll take a look at the causes of shortness of breath, how to cope with it, and how to prevent it from occurring.

Causes of Short of Breath from Anxiety

Shortness of breath can be frightening. In some cases, shortness of breath causes anxiety, while in others, shortness of breath is caused by anxiety. Many times it is both.

To get an idea if your shortness of breath is related to an anxiety disorder, take the free 7-minute anxiety test developed specifically to give you a snapshot of your anxiety.

Anxiety related breathing issues tend to be a result of hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is also known as “over-breathing,” and it occurs when your body is receiving too much oxygen and is expelling too much carbon dioxide.

Hyperventilation is the physiological symptoms that occur when you have chronic anxiety.

Even though the bodies need oxygen, healthy carbon dioxide levels are still important. When you are taking in too much air and letting out too much oxygen, it can cause your body to feel like you’re not breathing enough. Anxiety hyperventilation is often caused by one of two issues:

  • Breathing too fast, such as during an anxiety attack when your body is in fight or flight mode.
  • Thinking about your breathing, which may cause trigger anxiety and you then take in more air than you need.

The term “fight or flight” describes a mechanism in the body that enables humans and animals to mobilize a lot of energy rapidly in order to cope with threats to survival.

Shortness of breath from anxiety or any other stress-related disorder is the brain’s way of trying to relax or calm down from the perceived thoughts of stress or threatening situation puts a person in a fight or flight response, and if it’s chronic, shortness of breath can occur from almost any thought.

Even though the fight or flight response is automatic, it isn’t always accurate. In fact, most of the time when the fight or flight response is triggered it is a false alarm — there is no real threat to survival. The part of the brain that initiates the automatic part of the fight or flight response, the amygdala, can’t distinguish between a real threat and a perceived threat, or stressful situation.

Breath is one of the most powerful factors that affect our mind and our body’s ability to sustain homeostasis which is the tendency of the body to seek and maintain a condition of balance or equilibrium within its internal environment, even when faced with external changes.

If breathing is such that it isn’t allowing a normal breathing cycle for the body to function properly and calmly, a host of medical conditions can present themselves. One of those is Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD).

VCD has long been strongly associated with a variety of psychological or psychogenic factors, including conversion disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, stress, physical and sexual abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks. [Source]

Heart Symptoms

Symptoms of anxiety can also mimic those of certain heart diseases. These are natural body responses that help us on a very basic level to escape from danger or harm. They allow the body to respond quickly and in a heightened way. They also cause the heart rate to elevate quickly and the force of each beat to increase.

There are a number of abnormal heart rhythms that come from the upper heart chambers. When these rhythms are fast (over 100 beats per minute) they are called supraventricular tachycardias or SVTs. These abnormal rhythms can occur in completely normal hearts as well as in people that have had prior heart injuries or problems. In some people, they are a random event and not provoked by exercise or other activities.

These abnormal rhythms can occur in completely normal hearts as well as in people that have had prior heart injuries or problems. In some people, they are a random event and not provoked by exercise or other activities.

Anxiety, however, can often cause symptoms of palpitations, lightheadedness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and at times passing out. Many people who experience these kinds of heart symptoms believe that they are having signs of a heart attack or some other heart-related disease.

When they go to the hospital and get their heart tested, the results usually come back as negative for anything related to heart disease.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Stress in its chronic state can come from the most normal activities or thoughts and can manifest into physical symptoms as outlined above. At this point, you’re in a constant state of fight or flight mode and require some form of intervention, whether it’s from breathing techniques, medications, cognitive behavioral therapy or other psychological counseling, or a combination of these.

When symptoms present themselves to the point that they are interfering with your everyday life and activities, it’s essential to find a qualified practitioner who can treat and manage these kinds of brain-related issues.

Also, no amount of “research” on the internet will ever be able to provide a person with what a practitioner with a medical degree can offer from the 8-10 years of medical schooling, 3-5 years of medical internship, and many years of professional hands-on experience with patients that have these kinds of issues.

You may run into medical doctors who may not be well versed in your particular situation, and you very well might be face to face with a quack practicing medicine at some point, and they are out there, however, if you search out other practitioners who you can respect, perhaps a naturopathic doctor or counselor who specializes in behavioral health, you may be able to find the relief you’re looking for.

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14 Signs You Have Anxiety and Don't Know It