Anxiety can present in a multitude of ways, including psychological, physical, and behavioral symptoms. These symptoms can cause distress in various areas of a person’s life, including at work and in one’s social life.
While you might be familiar with common ways anxiety manifests such as a fast heartbeat, sweating, and racing thoughts, you may be less familiar with some weird or unexpected symptoms that can relate to anxiety.
Some of these weird anxiety symptoms include skin issues, indecision, perfectionism, stomach issues, and clumsiness.
1. Skin Issues
Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on the body's immune system and inflammatory response, leading to various skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, hives, or dermatitis.
When we experience a stressor, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, which can result in the release of histamine. Histamine contributes to skin redness, swelling, and discomfort.
Rashes related to anxiety typically appear as red, raised bumps on the face, neck, chest, and/or arms. These rashes can be very uncomfortable – they might itch, burn or tingle.
In addition, stress can stimulate the release of sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin. Excess sebum production can clog pores and contribute to the development of acne or worsen existing acne breakouts.
Experiencing skin issues can trigger anxiety due to the physical discomfort, uncertainty around the cause, or worry about the appearance of the rash. This increase in anxiety can worsen the skin issues, resulting in a frustrating cycle.
Anxiety can present as indecisiveness due to fear.
The fear could be of making a “wrong” decision, and uncertainty related to outcomes may be highly distressing. Racing thoughts that accompany anxiety can also result in paralysis around decision making as you play out various “what ifs” over and over again.
Indecisiveness can impact not only big life decisions, but also seemingly small decisions such as what to have for breakfast. Feeling unable to make daily decisions can become an overwhelming symptom associated with anxiety.
Anxiety or fear, especially a fear of failure or rejection, can show up for some as perfectionism.
Perfectionism related to anxiety can result in behaviors such as overworking and procrastination. With overworking, the person may spend inordinate amounts of time on tasks to ensure their perfection. Meanwhile, in procrastination, the person might avoid starting or completing tasks in order to avoid potential failure.
Anxiety can distort our thinking patterns, leading to cognitive distortions such as all-or-nothing thinking (seeing things as either perfect or a complete failure), overgeneralization (drawing broad negative conclusions from specific experiences), and catastrophizing (expecting the worst possible outcomes).
These cognitive distortions can fuel perfectionistic tendencies, as individuals may believe that anything less than perfection is unacceptable or catastrophic.
4. Stomach Issues
Our brain is connected to our gut. Our enteric nervous system (ENS) communicates back and forth with our brains, so symptoms related to anxiety can show up in both psychological and physical symptoms.
Because of the gut-brain connection, anxiety can have a very real impact on how our gastrointestinal system functions. Movement and contractions within the GI system may be affected, resulting in stomach issues. Additionally, these physical symptoms can result in subsequent anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.
Some common GI issues associated with anxiety include:
- Stomach pain or discomfort
Caffeine and alcohol can irritate the GI tract and contribute to increased anxiety levels. Limiting or avoiding these substances can help alleviate GI symptoms and promote overall wellbeing.
Anxiety can impact sleep, resulting in fatigue and a disconnect between our mind and body.
This disconnect can result in clumsiness throughout the day, and those with anxiety may even notice bruises or pains they don’t remember the cause of.
The activation of the nervous system during anxiety might also contribute to this clumsiness. An activated nervous system can impair our senses, including sight and hearing, and may also result in more impulsive muscle movement. This manifests as shakiness, which contributes to what feels like clumsiness.
For a comprehensive overview of the signs of poor mental wellbeing, check out our free Understanding Your Mental Wellbeing Workbook.
An Unusual Way to Cope With Anxiety
Heard of cold water immersion?
It’s a technique that involves exposing yourself to cold water, such as immersing your face in cold water or taking a cold shower.
While the concept may seem unusual, some people find it effective in alleviating anxiety.
This may be because it can trigger the body's "dive response," an involuntary physiological reaction. When exposed to cold water, our body initiates a series of adaptive changes to conserve oxygen and redirect blood flow to vital organs. These changes can include a reduction in heart rate and peripheral blood circulation, leading to a calming effect.
5 More Ways to Cope With Weird Anxiety Symptoms
- Social support. Connecting with others who share similar experiences can provide a sense of belonging and understanding. Seek support from family members, friends, or participate in peer-led support groups within your community.
- Mindfulness involves bringing your attention to the present moment and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. This practice can help break the cycle of anxious thoughts by grounding you in the present and reducing the tendency to ruminate.
- Physical activity can help reduce anxiety by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals. Exercise also provides an outlet for excess energy, promotes better sleep, and enhances overall wellbeing.
- Engaging in hobbies. Participating in activities you enjoy can distract your mind from anxious thoughts and provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Whether it's painting, gardening, cooking, or playing an instrument, it can provide a sense of accomplishment and promote a positive mood.
- Self-help tools. There are numerous self-help tools available that can assist in managing anxiety. These tools provide guidance and practical strategies to cope with anxiety and enhance mental wellbeing.
Finding a licensed therapist may also be an important step in addressing your anxiety. Sometimes, prescribed medication is a part of treatment.
Weird anxiety symptoms include:
- Skin issues
- Stomach issues
There are many ways to help manage your anxiety symptoms.
These include cold water immersion, social support, mindfulness, movement, engaging in hobbies, using self-help tools, and attending therapy.
Different things work at different times for different people. Experiment and discover what works best for you. You’ve got this!
About AmandaAmanda is a an LPC-S in Texas and has been practicing since 2013.
Amanda specializes in working with trauma, including acute, chronic, and complex, as well as anxiety and eating disorders and provides therapy to adult individuals in-person in Dallas and online throughout the state of Texas.
Amanda is a Co-Founder of Crescent Counseling.