When someone is feeling anxious, part of their sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive.
This kicks off a cascade of effects throughout the body, such as a racing pulse, sweaty palms, shaky hands and dry mouth (4).
These symptoms occur because your brain believes you have sensed danger, and it is preparing your body to react to the threat.
Your body shunts blood away from your digestive system and toward your muscles in case you need to run or fight. It also increases your heart rate and heightens your senses (5Trusted Source).
While these effects would be helpful in the case of a true threat, they can be debilitating if the fear is all in your head.
Some research even suggests that people with anxiety disorders are not able to reduce their arousal as quickly as people without anxiety disorders, which means they may feel the effects of anxiety for a longer period of time (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
A rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking and dry mouth are all common symptoms of anxiety. People with anxiety disorders may experience this type of arousal for extended periods of time.
Becoming easily fatigued is another potential symptom of generalized anxiety disorder.
This symptom can be surprising to some, as anxiety is commonly associated with hyperactivity or arousal.
For some, fatigue can follow an anxiety attack, while for others, the fatigue can be chronic.
It’s unclear whether this fatigue is due to other common symptoms of anxiety, such as insomnia or muscle tension, or whether it may be related to the hormonal effects of chronic anxiety (10Trusted Source).
However, it is important to note that fatigue can also be a sign of depression or other medical conditions, so fatigue alone is not enough to diagnose an anxiety disorder (11Trusted Source).
Fatigue can be a sign of an anxiety disorder if it is accompanied by excessive worrying. However, it can also indicate other medical disorders.
Many people with anxiety report having difficulty concentrating.
One study including 157 children and teens with generalized anxiety disorder found that more than two-thirds had difficulty concentrating (12Trusted Source).
Another study in 175 adults with the same disorder found that almost 90% reported having difficulty concentrating. The worse their anxiety was, the more trouble they had (13Trusted Source).
Some studies show that anxiety can interrupt working memory, a type of memory responsible for holding short-term information. This may help explain the dramatic decrease in performance people often experience during periods of high anxiety (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
However, difficulty concentrating can also be a symptom of other medical conditions, such as an attention deficit disorder or depression, so it is not enough evidence to diagnose an anxiety disorder.
Difficulty concentrating can be one sign of an anxiety disorder, and it is a reported symptom in the majority of people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
Most people with anxiety disorders also experience excessive irritability.
According to one recent study including over 6,000 adults, more than 90% of those with generalized anxiety disorder reported feeling highly irritable during periods when their anxiety disorder was at its worst (16Trusted Source).
Compared to self-reported worriers, young and middle-aged adults with generalized anxiety disorder reported more than twice as much irritability in their day-to-day lives (17Trusted Source).
Given that anxiety is associated with high arousal and excessive worrying, it is not surprising that irritability is a common symptom.
Most people with generalized anxiety disorder report feeling highly irritable, especially when their anxiety is at its peak.
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Having tense muscles on most days of the week is another frequent symptom of anxiety.
While tense muscles may be common, it’s not fully understood why they’re associated with anxiety.
It is possible that muscle tenseness itself increases feelings of anxiety, but it is also possible that anxiety leads to increased muscle tenseness, or that a third factor causes both.
Interestingly, treating muscle tension with muscle relaxation therapy has been shown to reduce worry in people with generalized anxiety disorder. Some studies even show it to be as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Muscle tension is strongly linked to anxiety, but the direction of the relationship is not well understood. Treating muscle tension has been shown to help reduce symptoms of worry.
One type of anxiety disorder called panic disorder is associated with recurring panic attacks.
Panic attacks produce an intense, overwhelming sensation of fear that can be debilitating.
This extreme fear is typically accompanied by rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea and fear of dying or losing control (30Trusted Source).
Panic attacks can happen in isolation, but if they occur frequently and unexpectedly, they may be a sign of panic disorder.
An estimated 22% of American adults will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, but only about 3% experience them frequently enough to meet the criteria for panic disorder (31Trusted Source).
Panic attacks produce extremely intense feelings of fear, accompanied by unpleasant physical symptoms. Recurring panic attacks may be a sign of panic disorder.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by a variety of symptoms.
One of the most common is excessive and intrusive worrying that disrupts daily functioning. Other signs include agitation, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, tense muscles and trouble sleeping.
Recurring panic attacks may indicate panic disorder, fearing and avoiding social situations could indicate social anxiety disorder and extreme phobias could be a sign of specific phobia disorders.
Regardless of which type of anxiety you may have, there are many natural solutions you can use to help relieve it while working with a licensed healthcare professional.