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Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress

author image Meenakshi Sagar
With an educational background in microbiology and public health, Minnie Sagar has been writing health-related articles since 2001. In 2006 she became a health journalism fellow from the University of Southern CA, Annenberg School of Communications. Sagar also has a passion for animals and the environment and produces multimedia productions covering these topics.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress
Social interaction helps many people cope with everyday stress. Photo Credit Igor Mojzes/iStock/Getty Images

If you are a parent, wife, husband, son, daughter, student or employee, chances are you wear multiple hats in a course of a single day. While enjoyable, these roles can also present stress and anxiety. These terms are often used interchangeably, but distinct differences between stress and anxiety can produce different physical symptoms.

Anxiety vs. Stress

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress
Stress has many components. Photo Credit Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images

Stress has behavioral, cognitive, emotional and physical components. A person who is stressed may experience a change in eating habits, have trouble concentrating and experience mood swings and nausea. Stress is caused by situations that take place in a person’s environment and can be acute and short-lived or chronic and protracted. Physical and mental stress can lead to anxiety. Anxiety has emotional, cognitive and physical components. It is often characterized by tense or restless feelings, worried thoughts and specific physiological changes, such as elevated blood pressure.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress
Symptoms of anxiety can include insomnia, headaches or fatigue. Photo Credit Xerv_II/iStock/Getty Images

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 18 percent of American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder in any given year. Symptoms of anxiety may include heart pounding, sweating, shortness of breath, muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, stomach upset, dizziness, tremors, muscle twitches and frequent urination or diarrhea. The frequency and intensity of these symptoms play an important role in the diagnosis of specific anxiety-related disorders, such as panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress and certain phobias. A person experiencing these symptoms should visit a physician to get a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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Physical Symptoms of Stress

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress
People respond to stress differently. Photo Credit AnaBGD/iStock/Getty Images

People respond to stress differently, which leads to a wide variety of physical symptoms. The most common symptoms include aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat and diminished sex drive. How long these symptoms last varies, depending on the type of stress. In general, the more routine and chronic the stress is, the longer the symptoms tend to persist. When a person learns how to manage her stress, the associated physical symptoms typically resolve.

Importance of Managing Stress

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Stress
Be physically active, manage your finances and eat healthy to help manage your stress. Photo Credit Warren Goldswain/iStock/Getty Images

In many cases, the source of a person's stress can be linked to his environment and relationships. These sources of stress lend themselves to self-management, and since stress can lead to anxiety, learning how to manage stress becomes an important factor in avoiding negative physical symptoms associated with both anxiety and stress. Common self-management strategies include being physically active, eating a healthy diet, managing your finances, assessing your relationships and getting plenty of sleep.

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  • Reaching your Potential: Personal and Professional Development; Robert K. Throop and Marion B Castellucci
  • Loving Someone With Anxiety: Understanding and Helping Your Partner; Kate N. Thieda, M.S.
  • Stress Management and Prevention: Applications to Daily Life; Jeffrey A. Kottler and David D. Chen
  • How to Overcome Stress and Pressure for a Happier and Healthier Life; Larry Iverson, Ph.D.
  • National Institute of Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders
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