Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults in the United States. Although many people think the effects of anxiety are “all in your head,” physical symptoms of anxiety exist and are more common than you think. What’s more, many people who unknowingly suffer from anxiety may not realize the root of their physical symptoms may be anxiety-related. So, how do you know if you’re experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety? Here are a few clues.

Step into consciousness

The first step in evaluating whether you’re suffering from physical symptoms of anxiety is to pay attention to your body. Often times, our bodily functions or ailments can go unnoticed. This is an easy way for people to unknowingly develop aches, pains, and other anxiety-related symptoms until they’re too serious to be ignored. Start becoming more aware of how your body feels. Take a few moments to relax and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and take note of how you feel. Are you having trouble taking deep breaths? Feeling tired? These may be signs of anxiety.

Anxiety expressed in the organs

One major physical symptom of anxiety is chest tightness and a racing heart. Because your sympathetic nervous system controls your heart rate, feeling stressed or anxious will change the way the heart operates. Your adrenal glands naturally produce hormones. When you experience anxiety, these hormones pump more adrenaline and cortisol. Then, the heart responds by speeding up your heartbeat. The heart isn’t the only organ that points to feelings of anxiety. The stomach also responds to stress and anxiety by producing constipation, pain, diarrhea, and more. Just like the brain communicates with the heart, it communicates with the gut, too. Concerning the gut, the brain works with the enteric nervous system, which is responsible for handling all your digestion. Therefore, feeling overly stressed or anxious can wreak havoc on your stomach and digestive tract. Finally, the body also communicates physical signs of anxiety with your lungs. If you’re often short of breath, this could be due to anxiousness. To combat feeling shortness of breath, try practicing deep breathing exercises. This will help your body regulate the appropriate amount of oxygen in your blood.

Sleeplessness and other random symptoms

The physical signs of anxiety don’t just end with your organs. They can appear through interruptions in your daily life, like sleeplessness. People who suffer from anxiety have a hard time falling asleep. What’s more, many people also struggle with staying asleep. This is because those hormones we mentioned before – adrenaline and cortisol – are flooding the body. High levels of these hormones tell your body to be on alert. Therefore, a good night’s rest is practically impossible. Sleeplessness can contribute to fatigue, another physical sign of anxiety.

While most of these physical symptoms seem logical, there are a few signs of anxiety that are a bit random. For one, people who are anxious have a hard time swallowing. This is due to a tightness in the throat, known as globus sensation. No one really knows why it happens. In addition, people who suffer from anxiety are more likely to contract the common cold and other sicknesses. This is because the immune system is not functioning properly due to those pesky hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones put your body into fight-or-flight mode, which harms the immune system if you’re in this mode for too long. If you happen to notice any of these physical signs of anxiety, talk with your doctor to learn how to reduce these symptoms. You may also want to seek wellness activities such as meditation, counseling, or yoga to help reduce your anxiousness. Although the physical symptoms of anxiety are no fun, noticing them early on is the first step in feeling better.