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Identifying the Physical Effects of Anxiety

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Occasional concern or worry is a normal part of life. For many, stress about relationships, money, or health can create a normal feeling of anxiety. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They are more persistent and often make it challenging to function daily. Understanding different anxiety disorders and how anxiety feels is essential.

Identifying anxiety in yourself allows you to see how you feel and explore options for treatment. Managing anxiety along with treating maladaptive coping methods, like addiction, can require professional help. However, each client is different in their treatment needs. 

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Anxiety is a persistent sensation of worry or concern. In your body, it can feel different depending on the situation and how you perceive it. However, physical symptoms of anxiety can include the following:

  • Being easy to fatigue 
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or the need to move around 
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches or indigestion 
  • Unexplained aches or pains 
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Lack of focus or concentration 
  • Increased heart rate
  • The feeling of your heart “beating out of your chest”
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating 
  • Physical trembling 

As you can see, the physical symptoms of anxiety can vary greatly. Many of these symptoms are easily recognizable, and there are situations where they are normal and expected. For example, if you are nervous speaking in front of people when preparing for a presentation, you may feel your heart race or sweat more than normal. However, if you have an anxiety disorder, these feelings often do not fit the situation at hand. Each anxiety disorder manifests differently. 

Anxiety Disorders

Below we will outline some different anxiety disorders and how they commonly feel. 

#1 Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A persistent feeling of dread or anxiety that interferes with daily functioning is considered generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This type of anxiety disorder is persistent, going on for months or years at a time. Depending on the person, symptoms may vary. However, it can feel like a consistent sense of being wound up without being able to settle, impacting focus, mood, and sleep. Physical symptoms, such as general aches and pains and intestinal irritation, are common. 

#2 Panic Disorder

Unlike the persistent feelings of GAD, panic disorder is the frequent and unexpected occurrence of panic attacks. A panic attack feels like intense fear and an overwhelming fight-or-flight sensation. While symptoms vary, they commonly include sweating, shaking, and an intense pounding of the heart. Panic attacks are not controllable (without interventions like medication and therapy), leaving the individual feeling powerless over their body and surroundings. 

#3 Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is exclusive to social situations. It generally feels like persistent and intense feelings of judgment from others. For many, there is a sensation of being watched constantly when in public. Physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, or a pounding heart are common. However, it can also feel like fear of communicating with others, which may include being soft-spoken or avoiding eye contact. 

#4 Phobia-Related Disorders

Similar to social anxiety disorder, phobia-related disorders stem from a specific trigger that causes intense feelings of fear. These feelings are general and irrational to the actual danger the item or situation poses. Physical sensations of fear, such as sweating, shaking, or a pounding heart, are common when near or thinking of the phobia.

Anxiety and Addiction 

Decades of research have shown that anxiety and addiction are commonly found together. Research has found that substance-induced anxiety disorders occur in less than one percent of those with co-occurring disorders of addiction and anxiety. On the other hand, at least 75% of cases show that substances are used as a way to self-medicate for anxiety. More research is needed to better understand the specifics of how genetics, specific anxiety disorders, and other factors function specifically. 

Due to the prevalence of self-medicating, it is vital to be aware of anxiety before engaging in self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse. However, both conditions are treatable. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we offer dual-diagnosis treatment options that address both addiction and mental health disorders like anxiety. Regardless of what came first, anxiety and addiction tend to exacerbate symptoms of the other. Thus, getting help is vital. 

Getting Help

Many treatment options are available for anxiety. Most commonly, they include psychotherapy, talk therapy, and medication. One example is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps with changing thinking patterns that impact overall feelings of anxiety. Others find improvements in anxiety through stress management techniques that may include exercise, mindfulness, or meditation. However, the most important piece is finding treatment that helps you. 

Working with a qualified mental health professional is by far the best way to find a solution that suits your unique needs and helps you learn tools to manage anxiety. For those with co-existing conditions of anxiety and addiction, getting help is even more important, as the combination of the two can be complicated and challenging to solve. 

Anxiety disorders vary and look different for each individual. Learning the basic feelings of each anxiety disorder can improve your understanding of each and how they might look and feel for yourself or your loved one. Anxiety and addiction are two disorders that commonly occur together and require simultaneous treatment. Treatment that addresses both improves overall mental health, decreases physical symptoms of anxiety, and teaches tools to manage anxiety and stay sober. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we believe that sounds mental health is vital to addiction recovery. We offer individualized programs to help you build new coping mechanisms and receive the treatment you need. Call us today at (949) 426-7962 to learn more. 


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