It’s human nature to get anxious about things now and again, but a growing number of people are suffering from severe, chronic anxiety.
They often experience anxiety attacks, maybe even multiple times a day, which can have a serious impact on their lives.
Although people have always had anxiety issues, our pressured modern social media-dominated lifestyles mean that more of us are having these problems, triggered by all kinds of things.
A panic attack and an anxiety attack aren’t the same thing. A panic attack will normally come on extremely quickly and will be very acute, but normally won’t last for very long, if dealt with properly.
Although an anxiety attack may share some of the same symptoms, it will be less acute and debilitating, but will probably last longer.
You may well have had an anxiety attack during your life without realizing it, or you might be experiencing them often and not have any idea what’s going on.
Once we’re aware that we suffer from anxiety, we can generally pick up on these attacks, but until we make that connection, we tend to ignore the signs.
An anxiety attack can manifest itself in a huge variety of ways, some of which you might expect and others which might have never occurred to you.
A lot of these are linked to the natural fight or flight mode that our body goes into when we’re stressed and certain substances start coursing around our systems, preparing us to deal with a potentially dangerous situation.
If someone suffers from anxiety, their fight or flight system may not be working properly, meaning their body goes into reaction mode even when there’s no logical reason for it to do so.
Here are a few things your body might do when you’re experiencing one of these attacks.
1. Blushing Or Blanching
These two are an example of some of the contradictory symptoms of an anxiety attack.
It makes sense that we don’t all have the same reactions, as we’re all different and our bodies react differently to stressful situations.
With the onset of an anxiety attack, you may either find the blood draining out of your face completely, which you’d normally associate with a state of shock, or find that it rushes to your face, like you’re embarrassed or have been exercising.
Both of these are signs of changes to your body’s circulation. If you go white, then your body is making sure that your blood is concentrated around your vital organs, where it’s needed most.
If you go red, your body is trying to bring down its raised temperature. If you go red and your temperature rises, it can feel similar to a hot flash during the menopause.
2. Getting Hot Or Feeling Chilled (Or Both)
As well as changes in your appearance, your body heat can rise or fall when you’re having one of these attacks.
If you find yourself getting hot, as if you’ve suddenly developed a fever, then that’s another result of blood being pumped quickly around your body.
This sudden rise in temperature can mean you start sweating, which can then mean you start to in fact feel chilled.
3. Having To Go To The Bathroom
This is one that anyone who’s ever been nervous will be able to identify with, but those that suffer from anxiety are likely to notice that they feel the need to urinate more often when they’re having an attack.
The experts aren’t entirely sure why this is, but they think it might be because the bladder is essentially a muscular sack, and when you’re anxious your muscles all tense up. This may include the bladder.
Some people naturally fidget more than others anyway, but you might find yourself fidgeting more during an anxiety attack, and you may well not even be aware that you’re doing it.
This might be tapping your pen, your feet, or constantly fiddling with your glass or whatever else you’re holding in a social situation.
5. Increased Nervous Energy
All that adrenaline pumping around your body means that you’re likely to have far higher energy levels that you might have normally.
You won’t be able to sit down for long or settle to anything without feeling uneasy and impatient.
In the grips of an anxiety attack, it’ll probably be impossible for your brain to concentrate on anything but the thing that’s causing you to be anxious.
You won’t be able to focus on a task, and, much as you may try, it will be nigh on impossible for you to get any work done.
7. Change In Sex Drive
This is another one that could go either way depending on the person in question.
If your sex drive is normally fairly consistent, then it could either crater when you’re feeling anxious, or might suddenly go through the roof.
Whichever way it goes for you, it’s all linked to the hormones raging around in your system when you’re anxious.
Many of us are no strangers to stress headaches, but headaches can also be linked to anxiety attacks.
This is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety attacks regularly are more prone to chronic headaches or migraines.
This can often be a bit of a vicious circle, as you might convince yourself that your anxiety-induced headache is in fact a symptom of a serious illness, which leads to more anxiety, and so a worse headache, and so on and so forth.
Headaches caused by anxiety can be a result of tension in the back and neck muscles, which can be made worse by eating an unhealthy diet and sleeping poorly.
9. Loss Of Or Increased Appetite
A lot of people who suffer from anxiety are likely to have no appetite at all when they’re experiencing an attack.
They may feel nauseous at the very idea of trying to eat anything, and even bring any food they do eat straight back up.
That’s because anxiety leads the brain to secrete hormones that activate the fight or flight response. In a situation like that, the body is clearly going to prioritize immediate survival over food.
On the other hand, it could go completely the other way. Some people do fit the well-worn stereotype of stress-eating, their bodies craving extra sugary or salty foods.
However, the general rule, although there are always exceptions, is that the more severe the anxiety, the less likely you are to find solace in food.
10. Dry Mouth
Try as they might to overcome their lack of appetite and get some nutrition inside them, people who suffer from anxiety might feel like they can’t swallow thanks to the dry mouth they experience as part of an attack.
This can be for a number of reasons, including the fact that anxious people tend to breathe through their mouths, or because the body is trying to keep fluids in the places they’re most needed, thanks to the fight or flight reflex.
A big part of it might also be because when suffering an anxiety attack people tend to forget to drink water, and being dehydrated can cause severe anxiety symptoms.
When we’re anxious, we can go one of two ways, either ignoring the signs that our body is giving us or being ultra-aware of them. That can mean that our mouths actually aren’t much drier than normal, our senses are just heightened.
Unfortunately for those who suffer from these attacks, they can take their toll on the whole body in surprising ways.
If your anxiety is severe and is having a negative impact on your life, you needn’t suffer alone. Help is available and you should discuss it with your health professional who will be able to point you in the right direction.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.