Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

The physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks can be very overwhelming and scary. In this article we will take a look at some common symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. 

Please be aware that this article is not meant for self diagnosis. Some symptoms can be related to other illnesses or problems. If you think you might be suffering from anxiety or panic attacks, consult your healthcare practitioner. 

Body and Mind are One

First of all, it is helpful to realize that body and mind are not separate from each other. Our body and mind are closely connected and in constant communication with each other.

What happens in our mind, influences our body. The same is true the other way around. What we do with our body, influences our mind and the content of our thoughts.

In other posts I describe breath, relaxation and physical exercises that can help to reduce anxiety and panic attacks.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety and Panic Attacks are types of fear. Fear is probably the most intense emotion we can experience in life. It comes with a specific set of physical symptoms.

Which exact symptoms are most prominently present, changes from person to person. Nevertheless, these are some common experiences:

Physical tension

Suddenly tensing up or holding chronic tension in specific areas of the body. For example, a crunching of the belly, a tightness in the hips, clenching jaws, drawn up shoulders or clenched fists.

Heart palpitations

A faster and / or irregular heartbeat, possibly accompanied by tightness in the chest area.

Superficial breathing pattern

A breathing pattern which only engages the upper parts of the chest and in which a minimal amount of air is being drawn in. Shoulder and clavicles are raised and the throat feels tight. This breathing pattern aggravates feelings of anxiety. Learn a more beneficial breathing pattern in this post

Holding the breath

The tendency to stop breathing. This builds up pressure and aggravates feelings of anxiety. Learn how to breathe through an anxiety attack in this post.


Breaking into a seemingly uncontrollable cold or hot sweat all over the body or in specific areas like palms, forehead or armpits.


The sensation of loosing contact with your body, feeling especially disconnected from the legs and feet. Energy is chaotically concentrated in the upper body and head. The effect is: clumsiness, dropping things, bumping into things and having difficulty focusing.

Feelings of Alienation

A scary feeling of distance to people or things around us. Suddenly noticing their strangeness, not feeling comfortable with them anymore. 

Sensitivity Towards Sounds

Sounds seem louder, have a startling effect and trigger new bouts of anxiety.


Constantly scanning the environment for possible threats and triggers for anxiety. Inability to focus on other things.

Gastrointestinal Distress

Lack of appetite, difficulty digesting, frequent urination, irregular bowel movement. This is due to our body having a stress response. Energy is taken away from the digestive system and directed towards the muscles and other processes that help us survive in case of a threat.

Becoming Aware of the Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic

Often, our first reaction to uncomfortable symptoms in our body is to distract or numb ourselves. This is understandable. Nobody likes to feel bad.

However, when we take the time to feel and become more familiar with what we observe in our body, we can learn from the experience. We might discover why the anxiety or panic attacks are happening to us in the first place, and we will be able to manage our emotions in a more holistic way.

In this article you can read about connecting to your body and being present with physical sensations.

Exercises to Soothe Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Do you want to learn how to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks? Then take a look at the following posts with exercises to cultivate more calmness and relaxation in body and mind.

Slow, abdominal breathing

Contract & Relax (short relaxation exercise)

Self-care to soothe anxiety

Stepping out of negative thought patterns



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