Anxiety and Panic symptoms really can feel like the end of the world to those going through them. The relentless feelings seem never ending and there would seem no way out, but this is not true, with the correct knowledge, choices and actions there is always a way out.

Having knowledge as to what the symptoms mean, can really help you in your ability to cope when Anxiety/Panic strike and the correct knowledge can also help to remove a lot of the fear associated with these conditions.

I have listed below common symptoms along with a brief logical explanation of what each one means.

Hyperventilation (Over Breathing)

When we get panicky we 'over breathe' and this is called Hyperventilation. It is basically because when you panicking everything speeds up and your bodies balance of oxygen to Carbon Dioxide is not correct, we also shallow breathe from our chests rather than "belly breathing" through our Diaphragm.

Yawning is also a form of Hyperventilation.

Due to the blood being starved of the correct oxygen levels for a time, it's quite normal to experience dizziness, blurred vision and pins and needles in limbs as a result of hyperventilation. All of this is normal, not dangerous and will pass as the body re adjusts back to your normal state.

Hyperventilation is harmless and not a medical emergency.  The body will come back to normal on its own.

Chest Pains & Palpitations

When anyone experiences anything that they feel is abnormal within their chest area it can cause them significant worry, however chest pains or palpitations caused as a result of Panicking or Anxiety are not harmless at all, in fact there is no evidence to support that either Anxiety or Panic symptoms have any adverse effect on the heart at all.

Stress causes lots of changes in the bodies normal make up. In your heart this can cause your heart rate to increase just like exercise also does, however in a stress response this would prepare your body for action, to save your life!.

In this instance your nervous system is being stimulated by the hormone "adrenalin". This is the bodies super fuel and is activated whenever your body perceives that there is any danger. This is why naturally (and logically if you think about it) when this hormone is in action within your body then your heart rate would naturally go up.

Chest pains are easy to explain, when you tense your muscles also become tense, this includes your chest muscles, hence why it's uncomfortable, tight and painful.

The chest pains you are having are only due to the constricting of the chest wall muscles, They are nothing to do with your actual heart no matter how uncomfortable you feel. 

Dizziness or a feeling that you are going to faint

Dizziness is a common symptom of Anxiety and Panic. This is really common just before or during a Panic Attack.

This was one of my main symptoms and I had it often. I just didn't like the feeling of it and would become aware that potentially every time I stood up or moved quickly it would come, so I focused on it and then true to form it came more often!!

It happened much more if I felt in a situation that I really didn't want it to come, such as during a work meeting when I needed to stand up "normally". I believed I would faint and my arms and legs could go week which added to my fear. Dizziness can come at anytime, when you're feeling ok, just before or during a Panic/Anxiety attack.

This symptom can be felt in a number of ways such as:

  • A very sudden head rush type feeling
  • A feeling of pressure in the head
  • Feeling unbalanced
  • Feeling in a fog where your eyes just can't seem to focus
  • Numbness in arms and legs, like you have experienced a sudden loss of  power.Dizziness due to Panic and Anxiety cannot and will not harm you or cause any lasting damage.

In the end I dealt with it by standing up normally anyway or continuing walking, I still felt the rush for a time, but made no attempt to stop it. Then it passed.

Changes in your vision or blurred vision

Changes in your vision can be a normal and regular occurrence when you are suffering Panic/Anxiety symptoms.

These changes can manifest in different ways in different people, such as:

  • You can see spots in front of your eyes
  • It can seem as though you have tunnel vision with blurry edges
  • It can feel like your vision is narrowing

All this happens because your eyes are nerves which send their information to the brain though the nervous system.

With the above information in mind if your nervous system is over stimulated with your Anxiety then of course this logically will affect your eyes. Because your nervous system is highly stimulated then it can  receive false information and your eyes can play tricks on you. What you are experiencing is the aftermath of sending this false information  nothing more.

This is not dangerous and will not harm you. 

Sounds in your ears such as knocking, ringing or long beep's

This was a symptom that really scared me back in the day, but looking back I am not sure why really it scared me so much. 

You can hear:

  • A ringing in your ear
  • A rumbling sound in your ear
  • A long beeping sound (as in my case)
  • A sensation as though you have a plug in your ear and can't hear properly

When you suffer with Anxiety and Panic, you start to lose your focus on the outer world and enter a cycle of self monitoring and concentrating inside yourself, being aware of your every mood and waiting for or monitoring symptoms.

The ear is a complex organ and is connected to nerves as well as muscles and bones. This symptom is to me just an extension of the close listening you are doing to yourself, I used to use it as conformation that I was going crazy and was about to hear things and so every time I felt it I panicked!. This was not true and to be honest I am now years down the line and I never did go crazy or hear anything. None of this developed into anything. Its completely harmless. 

A feeling of choking or being unable to swallow with a very dry mouth

Its often one of the first symptoms of anxiety and many people whom have suffered these symptoms report feeling like this.. In my case my mouth would go really dry and I would get a choking sensation along with hyperventilation so I felt very uncomfortable indeed.

Feeling a choking sensation is not pleasant and in general people would feel scared when they feel like they may choke.

However all that is actually happening is that your throat muscles are concentrating while your salivary glands are producing thick mucus leading you to have a feeling of restriction around your throat area. This also feels like you are finding it difficult to swallow or breathe.

It's important to understand that even though you may feel that you are having difficulty, you are actually not and will still continue to breath and not choke.

This is harmless and you are at very little danger of your mouth drying out or actually choking.

Feeling sick or having digestive problems

The nervous system and digestive system are closely linked  and so if you're nervous system is heightening you are likely to have issue with your digestive health too. A good example would be IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) . This condition is linked to stress and can trigger during stressful times.

Think about how you feel before a job interview, you feel sick you struggle to eat before you go and have horrid tummy pains and frequent trips to the toilet to clear your bowels, it's a similar feeling with Anxiety.

When we are under high levels of stress for whatever reason our stomach produces extra stomach acid, our digestive juices and stomach muscles tense up to either quickly digest our food or eliminate it from our system via our bowels.

Because in Panic and Anxiety this high stress response is maintained throughout the day, it is logical to presume that it causes us internal upset. This build up of stomach acid and muscle contraction produces this excess stomach acid, which continuously irritates your stomach and then causes feelings of sickness, bloating, burping, diarrhoea etc.

This is a symptom that takes time to pass as each time your panic builds the process will spring into action, but rest, regular meals and drinking fluids will all help as will becoming aware of the process and not staying alarmed by it.

There is so much data now to support the theory that looking after your digestive health can make a massive difference to the way you feel and go a long way to easing the symptoms of many illnesses including Anxiety, Panic and Depression.

Emotional eating or craving sugar based food

There is a strong connection between eating sugar based foods and changes in hormone and mood.

Sugar is closely connected with mood. The rush we get from eating sugar elevates our mood, encouraging us to keep seeking that elevation by eating more and more sugar, but the slump we face afterwards, lowers our mood.

When you are anxious or in times of high stress, your body uses up a lot of energy and needs more fuel and quickly. This fuel comes in the form of blood sugar and so when your blood sugar is down you tend to crave more sugar based foods.

However these types of food are not the best things for you in this situation. Raw sugar tends to rapidly increase blood sugar levels and yes you get the quick energy that you require, but then your pancreas stimulates insulin in order to work to keep your body's blood sugar levels in the normal healthy range. The result of this is you feeling tired, dizzy and weak because insulin can reduce your blood sugar level too much.

To complicate things further when your blood sugar levels are too low, your body triggers an emergency response and you can actually feel stressed and even trigger a panic attack as your body is creating more stress within due to the changing levels.

It's because your blood sugar levels are swinging from one extreme to the other that this happens.

Any sugar or caffeine based food or drink you consume will only serve to stimulate your nervous system further.  This upsets the blood sugar levels even more and your body has to work even harder to keep things in a normal range.

It does not help to give an over active nervous system even more to work it up, that will not help your body to find the calm it needs.

There is so much data now to support the theory that looking after your digestive health can make a massive difference to the way you feel and go a long way to easing the symptoms of many illnesses including Anxiety, Panic and Depression.

Feeling too hot or too cold

This was also strange, I would find myself freezing one minute and boiling hot and sweating the next. I never seemed to be able to regulate my own temperature.

This is due to high stress going on within your body. Your respiration system is no exception. Just accept that it is another strange feeling/sensation generated by your Anxiety  and that it will pass.

Shaking and Trembling

I found this a really odd feeling it felt almost like an internal tremble like I was shaking from the inside out, but if I held my hands out I could visibly see my hands shaking too.

At the time of me suffering quite badly, this used to really scare me, I would sit and watch my hand shaking and worry it would get worse, shaking or not years on in hindsight it never harmed me at all and never took me to the point of no return. It is just your nervous system in over drive and your bodies way of getting rid of all the excess adrenalin that you are producing and nothing more.

Pins and Needles or numbness in hands or feet

It is common to get pins and needles in both the hands arms and feet. However it can happen anywhere on your body.

Your nervous system is always in touch with and sending messages to your brain and at the time of feeling Anxiety symptoms your nervous system is highly stimulated.

When you're nervous system is stimulated and surging with adrenalin, it often sends incorrect information to your brain, this can be felt as a variety of symptoms one of which can be numbness, pins and needles and tingling.

Difficulty Concentrating

This is a symptom that was quite bothersome to me, and in my experience it comes as a result of rumination and also the mental block you get when panic reaches a peak.

Rumination is a symptom of panic/anxiety, very much like spots are a symptom of chicken pox. Rumination is basically your brain going over and over things in your head, trying to find a solution. This is the brain's job, it's what it does, if it senses a problem it tries to find a logical solution. The problem is that this "mind churning" is keeping you concentrating deep inside yourself as you become pre occupied with what is going on inside your head and inner feelings and sensations rather than your focus being more on the outside world and your daily life

The problem here is that too much focus inwards causes brain fog and because you are totally focused on your negative thoughts and panic feelings, so when you have to ping back to life or answer a question or maybe think about where you are going, it makes it really difficult to think clearly while your mind is full of fog and so you struggle to concentrate, can't think or find it difficult to get your words out.

Difficulty concentrating can also come when you are in the midst of a Panic Attack, right at the point your panic peaks, it can rob you of your ability to think straight and causes confusion and difficulty concentrating causing you to react. This is why it's always helpful to delay your reaction to a panic attack when you begin your recovery, it helps to give you a moment to get your thinking straight and then you learn to manage your symptoms.

Feelings of Unreality

Please see page Derealisation for further information on this symptom

Feelings of High Emotion

When you are Anxious you feel very emotional and it is easy for your moods to swing from one extreme to the other.

 I found this incredibly difficult to deal with as I just seemed to have no power over the way that I was feeling and often felt quite unstable, totally at the mercy of my mood. 

I remember feeling so sensitive to anything that might be felt via my emotions that I avoided any sad story, television or radio that might set them off again giving me those horrible feelings.

I have been through this stage a few times with the episodes I suffered and it does get better, it's just part of the process.

A Feeling you may lose your grip or lose control of yourself

This is a troublesome symptom to say the least!. I found this really hard and it did lead many years later to me avoiding going out at all I was so scared of losing control in front of others.

Of course that did not help me at all, what I really needed to do was go anyway and work out that I could never get to the point of no return as it just does not happen. Panic can make you feel bad, it cannot make you go crazy or lose control. I had 12 years of this and I am still here, never did lose control or reach that point of no return and I am fine.

I can remember though that I used to feel really uncomfortable and self conscious in front of other people because I desperately wanted to hide my anxiety issues and appear "normal". When I was in the company of others, I  would pay no attention to the conversation or my surroundings, I would just concentrate on my inner thoughts and feelings and spend the whole time wishing I could leave and trying not to "crack" in front of someone!

It's worth also knowing that your body cannot keep panic at a peak for any length of time. Once it reaches a peak it must go down. Think of a roller coaster its rather like that. Yes if you keep adding fearful thoughts it can go back up to peak, but once it reaches it, it will have to come down again. I learned to ride the wave and also to delay my reaction considerably. 

I have had many thousands of Anxious feelings and probably hundreds of Panic attacks when I was going through this, but I still did not lose control of myself or every go crazy. The fear of going to the place of no return keeps you stuck, but that place does not exist people return from much worse symptoms and situations than this. Once you realise that there really is no such place, you begin to lose that fear.

Frayed nerves and jumping out of your skin at normal sounds

Having Anxiety means that you startle easily, because you are already in a heightened state. 

It's just a sure sign of a very over active and over stimulated nervous system and all the adrenalin surging around your body, nothing more. It will not hurt you and will pass.

Nightmares or Crazy Dreams while asleep or Insomnia not being able to sleep

You sleep function is controlled by your brain and your hyperactive nervous system that is really interfering with normal function is controlled by a functioning of the brain, an over stimulated nervous system will interfere with the brain's normal functioning,

Stress is also massively associated with sleep disorders and while you are stressed your sleep will be disrupted.

So what kind of sleep problems can we have?

  • You can fall asleep but won't stay asleep and will wake quickly sometimes over and over again
  • You can feel like you are falling and then you wake
  • Sometimes you seem trapped in between falling asleep and being asleep and seem unable to move. You realise that you are unable to move and this scares you and you jolt into action- once you have moved you are fine (this is called a waking nightmare)
  • You can have a really bad dream and then wake up having a panic attack (see page Nocturnal Panic Attacks)

The symptoms seem to come and go but it's good to remember sleep issues are a normal reaction to a stressful situation, many people can have issues with sleep even if they do not suffer from a current Anxiety issue. Just know it will pass as things settle down.