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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

16 unusual symptoms of anxiety

Oct 26, 2020 12:24PM ● By Kimberly Blaker
Older woman looking out window

Imagine, out of the blue, you feel your brain spin 180 degrees at lightning speed as if fueled by an electrical current. This bizarre feeling isn’t lightheadedness, dizziness or anything you’ve ever experienced. You panic and wonder, “Am I going crazy?” Or worse, “Am I going to die?” You try to brush it off when, suddenly, it happens again.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five Americans will experience an anxiety disorder in a given year. What’s more, there are over 100 possible symptoms, many of which you’d never expect to be caused by anxiety. For that reason, when they occur, they often exacerbate anxiety because of the worry caused by the symptoms.

Identify the symptoms

The following are some of the more bizarre symptoms of anxiety, though most are not uncommon. If you experience symptoms that persist, seek medical attention to rule out a non-anxiety-related medical condition.

1. Indigestion. Anxiety can cause temporary or even chronic indigestion. Burping, passing gas, diarrhea and heartburn can all be symptoms.

2. Phantom ringing. Tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears, can be a sign of stress or anxiety. According to, you may hear buzzing, ringing, humming, whizzing, chirping, roaring, swooshing or any number of other sounds.

3. Burning sensation. This unusual symptom can be felt on your skin, lips, tongue and even in your eyes. It can feel like a sunburn despite no sunburn being present, a prickling sensation or even shooting sparks.

4. Heart irregularities. Skipped heartbeats, palpitations or a racing heart can all be symptoms of anxiety. The problem is differentiating between heart irregularities caused by anxiety versus a heart attack. When in doubt, seek medical treatment right away.

5. Physical numbness or tingling. These feelings can occur in your hands, feet, arms, legs or face.

6. Excessive yawning. During anxiety attacks, hyperventilation is a common response resulting in your body feeling like it isn’t getting enough oxygen. As a result, you might experience frequent yawning.

7. Phantom smell. Phantosmia, an olfactory hallucination, sometimes occurs with anxiety. It can cause you to smell something that isn’t there, or rather, a neutral smell becomes unpleasant.

8. Brain shivers or zaps. Most often, this bizarre sensation is caused by antidepressants or withdrawal from them. However, sometimes it’s associated with anxiety. Brain shivers can range from mild to severe and feel different from person to person, though they usually last only a brief time. They can feel like an electrical jolt or a shaking, vibration or tremor in the brain.

9. Phantom vibrations. If you’ve ever felt your phone vibrate only to discover it hadn’t, attachment anxiety may be the cause. This is a genuine phenomenon, according to a study reported by the University of Michigan in 2016.

10. Tremors. Anxiety can cause numerous types of tremors. In addition to shaking or trembling, other typical forms include arm or leg spasms, cramping or longer or slower shaking than usual.

11. Derealization. This is the experience of feeling like you’re not in reality. You may feel disconnected from the world and people around you, sort of like being in a dream state. Alternatively, you may have a distorted perception of space, time and the size of things. Everything might feel foggy or fuzzy, or that you’re very ill or going crazy.

12. Globus hystericus. This symptom can feel like a lump in your throat, or you might have difficulty swallowing. Some people also feel a tightness in their throat.

13. Eye problems. Blurred vision, dilated pupils, watery eyes and shapes that float in front of the eyes can all be a result of anxiety.

14. Skin rashes. Stress can cause hives, itching and rashes. If you already have rosacea or psoriasis, anxiety and stress can exaggerate it.

15. Shooting pains. You may experience these in several areas of your body, including your face, abdomen, arms and chest during episodes of anxiety.

16. Freezing hands and feet. Stress and anxiety can cause decreased circulation. As a result, your hands and feet may feel icy.

How to alleviate anxiety

Depending on whether you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or the severity of the symptoms, anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication may be a viable solution. But there are other things you can do as well to reduce anxiety and its symptoms.

During periods of high stress, get plenty of rest. This will help keep anxiety under control and result in fewer or less severe symptoms.

Additionally, practice slow breathing. Alice Boyes Ph.D., in her article, “Breathing Techniques for Anxiety,” says the key is to focus only on breathing out. While concentrating on slowly, steadily and gently breathing out, allow the tension to flow out of your body and relaxation to flow in.

Mindfulness meditation is another useful technique for reducing anxiety according to a growing body of research. You can start by meditating for just a few minutes each day and gradually increase it to more extended periods.

Get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy workout. Even a 10-minute brisk walk can provide several hours of anxiety relief, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Finally, if your doctor has told you your symptoms are anxiety-related, remind yourself of this when symptoms strike. Try not to worry about the symptoms, which only serves to exacerbate anxiety and cause the symptoms to persist. 

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