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Symptoms of anxiety

People have different experiences of anxiety. Symptoms can vary depending on the type and level of anxiety. Some symptoms may develop over time – you might not realise certain feelings, thoughts or behaviours are related to anxiety.

When you feel anxious, your body goes on ‘high alert’, looking for potential dangers. This may lead to symptoms that affect your body, mind and behaviour.

Topics on this page

Physical symptoms

When you have anxiety, your body can react in different ways.

For example, you might experience:

  • sweating
  • a rapid heart rate
  • a tight chest
  • a dry mouth
  • hot and cold flushes
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling weak or tired
  • difficulty breathing
  • feeling sick in the stomach
  • feeling like you need to go to the toilet
  • digestion issues
  • changes in appetite
  • sleeping difficulties
  • shaking or trembling
  • headaches
  • panic attacks.

If you are worried about any of these symptoms, and if they persist, talk to your doctor.

Mental and emotional symptoms

When you feel anxious, you might experience different mental and emotional symptoms.

For example, you might:

  • think about your fears a lot
  • imagine worst-case scenarios (also known as catastrophising)
  • fear that people will notice you’re anxious
  • fear that you will have physical symptoms associated with your anxiety
  • want to run away – fast!
  • cry
  • feel angry
  • feel restless
  • find it hard to concentrate.

Behavioural symptoms

Sometimes anxiety can lead to changes in the way you behave.

For example, you might:

  • avoid situations where you might feel judged or embarrassed
  • avoid talking to others, especially strangers
  • avoid social gatherings
  • avoid places that might make you feel anxious, such as shopping centres or lifts
  • struggle to meet work, study or home commitments
  • increase the use of substances, such as alcohol
  • find it hard to sleep.
Alanah, 23, Canberra

It wasn’t until her late teens that Alanah realised that the tightness she felt across her chest every time she felt a little nervous “wasn’t completely normal”. An eventual chat to her GP put her on the path to managing her anxiety.

Watch Alanah's story of anxiety.

Logo: Liptember Foundation

Thanks to Liptember Foundation for supporting Jean Hailes to produce these pages on anxiety. Each year, the Liptember Campaign raises funds and awareness for women's mental health during the month of September.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at June 2022.

Last updated: 02 August 2022 | Last reviewed: 28 June 2022

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