When people think about symptoms of anxiety, their minds typically go to worrying, panic/anxiety attacks, and fear or phobias. They might imagine that if they were struggling with anxiety then they would feel their heart racing and feel restless for much of the time. However, there are several lesser-known symptoms of anxiety, which are not necessarily less common, but can more easily be overlooked or discounted as something else. If you notice yourself or someone you care about exhibiting these symptoms, check in with them as they may be struggling with undiagnosed anxiety.
1. Inability to let a thought go. If you just cannot seem to get off of a topic or let it go, it may be because you are anxious. A key component of executive functioning is set-shifting which involves being able to move onto the next idea or task. Anxiety decreases your ability to do this and makes it more likely that you will find yourself perseverating on small details or the same issue for days/weeks/months on end.
2. An increase in symptoms of another psychiatric disorder such as an eating disorder or depression. It may be the case that you struggle with depression or an eating disorder and those symptoms have decreased. If you have a history of an eating disorder and suddenly experience a surge in concerns about body image and eating, you may also be struggling with anxiety and it is manifesting this way. Additionally, depression and worry often go together and anxiety can trigger depression.
3. An increase in relationship problems such as becoming more controlling or nit-picky with your partner. Suddenly everything your partner does becomes really annoying and every little thing is affecting you like nails on a chalkboard. You may find yourself correcting your partner over minor things like word choice or what they are eating or doing. Often this type of critical and controlling behavior comes from a need to focus on something aside from what you are actually anxious about or you may want to feel like you have control over *something,* the latter of which is a more commonly observed and known symptom of anxiety. Another reason for this could be that you are feeling very edgy and are taking it out on the person closest to you.
4. Indecisiveness. If you find you cannot make simple decisions like what you want to eat or which pair of shoes you like, it is highly possible that you are really struggling with anxiety. It is important to ask yourself where the indecisiveness is coming from and if you are, for example, worrying about making the wrong decision and second or triple guessing yourself.
5. Procrastination. Not only might you want to avoid doing work or facing a bill in the mail, which is more common, but if you are putting off or avoiding other things like reaching out to friends or cleaning your home, you may be experiencing anxiety.
6. Sluggishness or feeling very tired can indicate that you are experiencing less restful sleep than usual or are not getting enough sleep. Difficulty sleeping is a commonly known symptom of anxiety. Also, while some get keyed up and agitated when they get anxious, some find themselves slowing down and getting sluggish. Think fight or flight.
7. Frequently getting sick. If you’re under stress, your immune system will certainly take a hit. If you find that you keep getting sick, consider whether you are experiencing anxiety.
8. Weight gain, especially in your midsection. Having heightened cortisol levels for extended periods of time can lead to weight gain and bloating in your stomach. High levels of cortisol can lead to blood sugar drops which leads to craving sweets. Even without “stress eating” or changing your eating habits, you may find that anxiety leads to weight gain. Other symptoms of anxiety like decreased sleep can also lead to weight gain.
Recognizing these lesser-known symptoms of anxiety can of course lead to getting treatment faster, but it is also very important because simply understanding your own behavior and having those close to you understand it can be hugely helpful.