Dealing with the physical symptoms of anxiety or depression can be challenging. But dealing with the physical symptoms of both can often feel like too much for one body to handle. And many times, it can be difficult to know what is caused by anxiety and what is caused by depression — or if it’s a byproduct of struggling with both at the same time.
That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share some of the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression we don’t often talk about. Because when you’re dealing with multiple mental illnesses, knowing that someone else is experiencing the same “unexpected” physical side effects might make you feel less alone in your struggle.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Stomach problems of all kinds. Nausea and having to use the restroom, mostly. I assumed I just always ate something wrong, but as I got older, I realized it was all linked to my anxiety.” — Holly L.
2. “Constant muscle tension. It literally exhausts me. Sometimes I’ll catch myself and ironically force myself to relax, but it instinctively comes back without my knowing.” — Samantha A.
3. “Phantom itching (i.e. feeling things crawling under your skin and then having the urge to scratch), as well as aversion to certain smells.” — Melissa K.
4. “Sudden tears. Most of the time, I don’t even realize they are going to happen. And when I do, I can’t stop them. It is embarrassing.” — Nan G.
5. “The feeling of butterflies in your stomach that comes out of nowhere. Recently I had an entire day of that feeling. Up until that point I had only had that feeling off and on.” — Jessica E.
6. “Skin picking. I’ve done it since I was a kid and have destroyed my body with scars because of it. Pimples, bumps, ingrown hairs — it doesn’t matter where — no place is off limits. I hate it, it’s compulsive and borderline obsessive. I never knew it was an anxious tick.” — Tara P.
7. “Pain. I’m so tense all the time that I’m constantly in physical pain. It combats with my depression because I lay down for hours hour on end without moving, and my body hurts when I lay horizontally for too long.” — Molly H.
8. “I experience unexpected heart palpitations that come and go. I’ve seen a doctor and my heart is healthy — it’s just a symptom that my anxiety causes.” — Samantha G.
9. “I have cold hands and feet all the time. it started when I was really young and I never really thought anything about it, but I went to a well-being class last year and learned it could be a symptom of anxiety. That was the most surprising to learn. I’ve had problems with depression and anxiety since I was a child and I never thought they’d be even closely related.” — Chelsie B.
10. “My face will flush bright red and I start holding my breath to not cry. Then I usually start crying and get a massive headaches after.” — Morgan L.
11. “Fatigue. I never realized just how physically tired and exhausted I am just with being in public. When I say it’s been a long day, it might not be because of physical activity or moving around, it’s because the stress of homework or a test in school, having to talk with people during my day and feeling anxiety for any reason actually brings me physical fatigue and makes me more tired than a 40-minute visit to the gym. The social aspect is what makes my anxiety tick and brings fatigue. But then if my depression starts to consume me, it makes my whole body stiff and gives me back aches.” — Jared T.
12. “Brain fog — to the point it messes with my vision. It literally feels like I have a cloud of fog in my head that’s slowly seeping out from my eyes and ears, making it hard to hear or deal with noise and hard to see and focus.” — Monica C.
13. “My hands and feet fall asleep. It’s the worst, especially when I’m driving. Once I had to drive home in a thunderstorm and my anxiety was literally so bad my face and my tongue fell asleep. It was terrifying. It usually only happens when my anxiety comes on all of the sudden, and seemingly for no reason.” — Laura J.
14. “I have acid reflux and migraines from it. Also thought I was having thyroid issues present, but stress was presenting all the symptoms.” — Mikayla H.
15. “I shake uncontrollably. At the least bit of anxiety. It’s embarrassing, I get self-conscious, which only exasperates my other mental symptoms and physical symptoms.” — Denisa G.
16. “Joint pain — mainly in my knee, hip and elbow, as well as back pain. [I] always know I’m run down and experiencing depression symptoms when I get these physical symptoms too.” — Amy W.
17. “I get hives. My tongue will break out in ulcers when I’m dealing with a lot. I also get really sick in the mornings almost every morning — a combination of wanting to throw up and getting stabbed in the guts. It always passes after about 30 seconds.” — Nichole P.
18. “I am a lot more aware of my surroundings and even though I feel physically exhausted and want to sleep, I can’t sleep.” — Katherine M.
19. “Headaches. When I am dealing with both and the world is becoming too much, I usually start getting a headache/migraine. It’s like my body’s emergency warning to go hide and take a nap.” — Sarah H.
20. “Blurry vision and numbness to other sensory organs (especially sound). It feels like everything gets fuzzy around me but I have tunnel vision and sounds get blocked out (but I’m also hypersensitive to sound, so it’s a really weird mix of being overstimulated and and under-stimulated).” — Elizabeth G.
21. “I clench my jaw so tight that it literally pops out of place and causes wicked pain. I see a chiropractor regularly to get it put back in place.” — Nicole G.
22. “I sweat so much. It’s the worst when I’m at work or a social event and I have sweat marks. Sometimes I even fog up my glasses. It seems small, but it’s embarrassing. Especially working with the public in sales.” — Nikitaa K.
23. “Memory loss. I feel as if my life is passing me by once I realize what day it is, but I can’t even recall what I did in the past few weeks.” — Ashley B.
24. “Chewing the inside of my cheeks and lips to the point where I’m rubbing my canine teeth down.“ — Jay B.
25. “Eczema and rashes. All the time. My rashes are huge red blotches on my arm, neck and chest. They don’t itch or hurt. But they bother me.” — Allison B.