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Anxiety is a common, everyday occurrence for many people. Whether worrying about a stressful situation (like an exam) or getting nervous before a big event (first date jitters anyone?), anxiety is a typical feeling.
And whether or not you’ve had personal experience with anxiety, it may make you think of shaking, sweating, worrying or avoiding certain situations.
But certain symptoms are less typical. You may not even fully realize these symptoms are anxiety symptoms and you think you have anxiety for no reason.
We break down the usual symptoms of anxiety and what may be considered “weird,” or uncommon, anxiety symptoms, as well as treatment options for anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal feeling of dread, fear or worry. While everyone may experience anxiety differently, there are some general symptoms.
Some common symptoms of anxiety include:
Feeling nervous or restless
Feeling physically weak and/or tired
Fast breathing (hyperventilation)
Stomachaches or nausea
Feeling extremely self-conscious
If your feelings of anxiety are intense, last for more than six months or negatively impact your life, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are very common, affecting approximately 40 million American adults every year — around 18 percent of the total adult population.
Common types of anxiety disorders include:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Someone who has GAD worries uncontrollably about normal situations, such as money, work, school or relationships. GAD affects 6.8 million adult Americans, or just over 3 percent, and affects women twice as often as men.
Panic disorder.Panic disorders are when you have a panic attack for no obvious reason. A panic attack can feel like sudden, overwhelming fear. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, racing heart and sweating.
Social anxiety.Social anxiety is an extreme fear of being in social settings or feeling like you’re being judged negatively. More than just being shy, you may have trouble talking to people, speaking in public or meeting new people. An estimated 15 million, or 7 percent, of U.S. adults had social anxiety in the past year.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People diagnosed with OCD experience repeated unwanted thoughts and behaviors. They may continuously wash their hands, perform repeated “rituals” or are obsessed with symmetry. These behaviors aren’t a choice and can complicate everyday life for those with OCD.
Our overview of anxiety disorders goes into more detail on all the different anxiety disorders and their symptoms, as well as treatments.
Anxiety can show up in lots of ways and can vary from person to person and disorder to disorder.
While symptoms of different anxiety disorders may vary, there can be unusual or strange symptoms of anxiety. So while anxiety may be common, it’s not always easy to spot.
If you have anxiety or have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and are feeling a strange symptom, you may be relieved to know it could very well be your anxiety.
Here are some of the more unusual symptoms of anxiety:
If you’re feeling pain in your jaw or wake up with toothaches, this could be a sign of anxiety. Anxiety can cause you to clench your jaw and grind your teeth, also known as bruxism. In fact, a study found a connection between those already diagnosed with anxiety and developing TMJ.
This can cause symptoms of a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), including joint clicking, facial soreness and jaw pain.
You can ask your dentist to check for signs of teeth grinding, and from there, talk to your healthcare provider if you suspect bruxism might be a sign of anxiety.
A ringing, buzzing or whistling noise in your ears, known as tinnitus, is another weird symptom of anxiety,
Another study from 2018 found that tinnitus, as well as dizziness, can be related back to emotional stress, which can worsen anxiety.
Those with anxiety may also feel their tinnitus is louder. This can lead to a vicious cycle where tinnitus causes anxiety and that anxiety makes you more aware of the tinnitus.
Breaking out in unexplained hives, skin rashes or itchy skin can be another unusual anxiety symptom. Researchers believe anxiety-related itchy skin or “psychogenic itch” is when psychological factors are a cause of the itching.
When you get anxious, your body's stress response goes into overdrive which affects your nervous system and causes sensory symptoms, like itching or rashes.
Furthermore, constant itching can lead to more anxiety which leads to more itching, causing a cycle that affects wellbeing.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about possible causes of itching, as skin irritation is not always a symptom of anxiety. It could have another cause, like an allergic reaction, eczema, psoriasis or more.
A coping mechanism to stress or trauma, dissociation is “checking out” or detaching yourself from reality. More than just daydreaming, dissociation can affect your sense of identity, consciousness and memory.
Signs of dissociation can include:
Re-experiencing a past traumatic event
Spacing out or losing touch with what’s going on around you
Going blank or being unable to remember things
Gastrointestinal issues, more often referred to as “butterflies in your stomach,” can be another weird anxiety symptom.
There’s direct communication between the brain and the gut via the enteric nervous system (ENS). Just as the thought of eating can trigger the release of stomach juices, researchers found that a troubled intestine can send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.
So if you’ve ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience or similar stomach issues, you may be dealing with anxiety.
Feeling short of breath, sighing, a tightness in your chest and even yawning can all be weird anxiety symptoms.
Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, is your body’s way of responding to anxiety and stress by kicking into fight-or-flight mode. Your body is preparing you to run by getting more oxygen to your muscles, as well as pumping more blood to your muscles and increasing your heart rate to fight.
Studies show a close connection between anxiety and your respiratory system, resulting in shortness of breath.
Research also suggests this can result in yawning or sighing as a way to get more air into your lungs.
However, shortness of breath isn’t always a direct symptom of anxiety. Having trouble breathing can come from other causes, such as asthma, high blood pressure or even as a side effect of anxiety medications like SSRIs.
Whether you’re having the typical symptoms or are experiencing weird symptoms of anxiety, there are ways to manage it.
Medication is often used as a tool to help manage and relieve many symptoms of anxiety, including gastrointestinal symptoms.
If you are having weird symptoms of anxiety, your healthcare provider may recommend anti-anxiety medication on its own or in combination with therapy.
Common medications prescribed for anxiety include:
Antidepressants. Often prescribed to treat depression, some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can also help manage anxiety symptoms. Antidepressants used to treat anxiety include sertraline (Zoloft®), escitalopram (Lexapro®) and duloxetine (Cymbalta®).
Beta-blockers.Beta-blockers can help reduce the physical symptoms of performance anxiety, such as before a speech, presentation or performance. Although they can help with the physical symptoms, beta-blockers don’t treat psychological symptoms of anxiety.
Benzodiazepines. Fast-working and typically prescribed for short–term use, benzodiazepines provide immediate relief from anxiety symptoms by promoting sedation. Common benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety are Xanax® (alprazolam), Valium® (diazepam) and Klonopin® (clonazepam).
Buspirone.Buspirone is a treatment for anxiety symptoms often used for people who don’t respond to antidepressants. Unlike with benzodiazepines, there’s no risk of physical dependence or withdrawal.
Since there are a variety of anxiety disorders and each person’s symptoms can vary in severity and type, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.Make an appointment with a healthcare provider to talk about your anxiety symptoms, general health and any other medications you currently use, as some anxiety medications can interact with other medications.
It may seem counterintuitive to focus on breathing if you’re feeling short of breath as a result of anxiety.
But focusing on your breathing can help you get it under control and get more air into your lungs. Breathing techniques are also easily accessible to help you cope with weird anxiety symptoms anytime.
One breathing technique to try is diaphragmatic breathing. This technique uses your most efficient breathing muscle, the diaphragm (located just below your lungs), which means you can use less effort to breathe and slow down your breathing rate.
Here are the steps to try diaphragmatic breathing:
Sit up comfortably in a chair or lie back on a flat surface.
Place one hand on your upper chest and the other below your rib cage to better feel your diaphragm as you breathe.
Breathe in slowly through your nose so your stomach moves out (like a balloon inflating).
Tighten your stomach muscles. Let them fall inward as you exhale through your nose or mouth.
Continue taking deep breaths in and out, feeling your stomach expand and deflate. Try this every day for five to 10 minutes.
Relaxation is a top tip for relieving anxiety. Whether through meditation, breathing practices or yoga, relaxing also helps ease any weird anxiety symptoms. It’s especially effective when used in combination with other anxiety treatments such as medication or exercise.
Research has found that anxiety often improves with meditation. Even a few minutes of mindfulness each day can help calm your mind.
Several types of therapy are used to treat anxiety disorders, most commonly exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Exposure therapy practices exposing people to the situations or objects that trigger their anxiety while in a safe environment. Often combined with relaxation techniques to reduce stress, exposure therapy can help those with anxiety overcome their fears.
CBT focuses on breaking harmful thought patterns while teaching you different ways of thinking and reacting to anxiety sources.
Like medication, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to psychotherapy for anxiety. Your therapist can work with you to find a solution that’s best for you.
Clinical studies have shown that exercise can significantly reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Stay physically active by taking a walk around your neighborhood, going for a bike ride, taking a yoga class or trying an intense workout. Working out can also be used as moving meditation to help clear your mind of any anxious thoughts or to release pent–up energy.
Although research is limited, a number of natural supplements can help reduce or relieve weird anxiety symptoms.
Some supplements that can help to treat anxiety and its symptoms are:
L-theanine. An amino acid commonly found in black and green teas, as well as some mushrooms. You can also take l-theanine as a capsule.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Found in seafood, seeds, nuts and plant oils, omega-3 fatty acids could play a role in reducing weird symptoms of anxiety.
Chamomile. Chamomile is often associated with relaxation and calmness, and can be drunk as a tea or even taken as a supplement in capsule form.
Magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in over 300 enzyme systems in your body and helps reduce blood pressure. There has also been some research suggesting magnesium supplements can improve anxiety symptoms.
Cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a naturally-occurring compound found in cannabis, which, unlike THC, doesn’t make you feel high. Instead, it’s linked with relaxation, improvements in sleep and other benefits, including reducing the severity of anxiety. You can learn more about the anxiety-related effects of CBD in our complete guide to CBD and anxiety.
While there are some more recognizable symptoms of anxiety, it also has some lesser-known and perhaps weird symptoms.
It can be frustrating to be struggling with symptoms and not know what caused them. However, with the help of your healthcare provider and treatments such as psychotherapy, medication, relaxation techniques and more, you can find relief from anxiety and all its accompanying symptoms.
Dr. Jill Johnson is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner and board-certified in Aesthetic Medicine. She has clinical and leadership experience in emergency services, Family Practice, and Aesthetics.
Jill graduated with honors from Frontier Nursing University School of Midwifery and Family Practice, where she received a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialty in Family Nursing. She completed her doctoral degree at Case Western Reserve University.
Jill is a national speaker on various topics involving critical care, emergency and air medical topics. She has authored and reviewed for numerous publications. You can find Jill on Linkedin for more information.
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