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What does anxiety in your head feel like?

Anxiety is a common mental health condition that involves excessive worrying, nervousness, apprehension, and fear. It is typically an unpleasant feeling in your head that something bad is going to happen, even though there may not be an actual threat or danger. Anxiety can manifest both emotionally and physically in a variety of ways. Learning to identify the various signs and symptoms of anxiety in your head and body is an important step in managing the condition.

Emotional Symptoms

Anxiety often causes a wide range of difficult emotions and sensations in your mind. Here are some of the most common ones:

Excessive Worry

One of the hallmark symptoms of anxiety is relentless worry or dread. You may find your mind going over all the possible things that could go wrong, even unlikely or irrational disasters. This includes worrying excessively about your health, loved ones, finances, work performance, and any other life domain. The worrying persists even when there is no real reason for concern.

Feeling Nervous and Restless

Anxiety can leave you feeling constantly nervous, tense, jittery, and on edge. You may feel like you just can’t relax or sit still. Your mind may race with nervous thoughts and you may struggle to concentrate. Even in moments when everything seems fine, you still feel restless and unsettled.

Feeling Irritable

The state of constant worry can leave you feeling irritable, impatient, cranky, and moody. You may get annoyed or frustrated more easily by small things when you are anxious. Outbursts of anger are also common.

Feeling Panic

One of the most intense manifestations of anxiety is panic or feelings of sudden terror. You may experience a surge of extremely intense fear, a sense of impending doom, and an urge to escape even when there is no real threat present. These panic attacks typically reach their peak within minutes.

Feeling Uncertainty

Anxiety can leave you feeling uncertain and insecure about things you are normally confident about. You may second-guess your choices or struggle to make even minor decisions. Your mind is overwhelmed with self-doubt.

Difficulty Concentrating

The constant barrage of anxious thoughts can make it very difficult to concentrate, focus your thinking, or complete tasks. You may struggle to read, have conversations, or do work when anxiety is present. Your mind feels too distracted, agitated, or fearful to focus clearly.

Physical Symptoms

Along with emotional symptoms, anxiety can also cause various physical sensations and reactions in your body. These include:

Increased Heart Rate

One of the most common physical manifestations of anxiety is a rapid or pounding heartbeat. You may feel your heart racing or throbbing in your chest. This occurs as a result of the “fight or flight” stress response.

Muscle Tension

Anxiety triggers your body’s stress response, which causes your muscles to tense up. You may feel tension in your shoulders, neck, back, or other areas. Trembling, twitching, or shaking muscles are also common.


Excessive sweating is another common response to anxiety. You may notice your palms getting clammy and damp when you feel anxious. Sweating can also occur on your face, underarms, or other areas of your body.

Shortness of Breath

Rapid, shallow breathing is common with anxiety. You may feel like you can’t catch your breath or get enough air. Avoiding taking deep breaths may also occur when anxious.

Dizziness or Lightheadedness

Hyperventilation brought on by anxiety can cause you to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or unsteady. The sense of dizziness may persist in some people with anxiety. Feelings of faintness may also occur.

Nausea or Stomachaches

Since anxiety activates the body’s stress response, it can lead to nausea, digestive upset, and stomach pain. Many people with anxiety experience butterflies in their stomach or a pit in their stomach.

Feeling Detached

Some people may experience a sense of feeling detached or disconnected from themselves and reality during periods of high anxiety. It may feel like you are observing yourself from outside your body. Things seem dreamlike or foggy.

When to Seek Help

While anxiety can seem like an inevitable part of life for many people, severe or persistent symptoms may require professional help. See your doctor or a mental health professional if anxiety is:

– Causing significant distress
– Interfering with your work, school, or relationships
– Causing physical health problems
– Leading to substance abuse or other unhealthy coping behaviors
– Not improving with self-help strategies

Treatment options for anxiety include therapy, medications, relaxation practices, and lifestyle changes. Getting help early leads to better outcomes.

Self-Help Strategies

There are many effective strategies you can try at home to manage symptoms of anxiety in your mind and body, including:

Deep Breathing

Taking slow, deep breaths when you start to feel anxious can help lower your heart rate and calm your mind and body.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups one at a time to relieve tension caused by anxiety.

Meditation and Mindfulness

These practices involve sitting quietly and focusing your awareness on the present moment to calm your anxious thoughts.


Physical activity and movement helps burn off nervous energy and reduces anxiety. Even gentle exercise like yoga or walking can help.

Cognitive Restructuring

Identifying and reframing anxious, irrational thoughts can help break the mental habits driving your anxiety.

Cut Back on Caffeine

Caffeine can make anxiety symptoms worse, so limiting intake from coffee, tea, soda and chocolate may be beneficial.

Spend Time Outside

Getting outdoors, spending time in nature, and exposing yourself to sunlight can all provide anxiety relief.

Talk to a Friend

Sharing your feelings with trusted friends and family can help ease the burden of anxiety. Don’t isolate yourself.

When to Seek Emergency Help

In rare cases, anxiety may reach a level where emergency medical care is needed. Seek immediate help if you experience:

– Thoughts of harming yourself or suicide
– Difficulty breathing or chest pain
– A sudden, severe panic attack
– Anxiety so extreme you cannot function at all

Emergency mental health services and support are available 24/7. Reach out for help – you don’t have to face intense anxiety alone.

The Bottom Line

Anxiety can be an overwhelming and challenging condition. However, understanding the common signs and symptoms occurring in your mind and body is the first step towards regaining control. Reaching out for support and implementing self-help strategies can help you manage anxiety symptoms and start feeling better.