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How to Recognize Unusual & Distressing Anxiety Symptoms

Imagine, out of the blue you feel your brain spin 180 degrees at lightning speed as if fueled by an electrical current. This bizarre feeling isn’t light-headedness, dizziness or anything you’ve ever experienced. You panic and wonder, ‘Am I going crazy?’ Or worse, ‘Am I going to die?’ You try to brush it off when, suddenly, it happens again.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five Americans will experience an anxiety disorder in a given year. What’s more, there are over 100 possible symptoms, many of which you’d never expect to be caused by anxiety. For that reason, when they occur, they often exacerbate anxiety because of the worry the symptoms cause.


The following are some of the more bizarre symptoms of anxiety, though most are not uncommon. If you experience symptoms that persist, seek medical attention to rule out another medical cause since all the symptoms of anxiety can also be associated with various medical conditions.

  • Indigestion. Anxiety can cause temporary or even chronic indigestion. Burping, passing gas, diarrhea and heartburn can all be symptoms of anxiety.
  • Phantom ringing. Tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears, can be a sign of stress or anxiety and can be experienced in several ways. According to, you may hear buzzing, ringing, humming, whizzing, chirping, roaring, swooshing or any number of other sounds.
  • Burning sensation. This unusual anxiety symptom can be felt on your skin, lips, tongue and even in your eyes. It can feel like a sunburn despite no sunburn being present, a prickling sensation or even shooting sparks.
  • Heart irregularities. Skipped heartbeats, palpitations or a racing heart can all be symptoms of anxiety. What’s so troublesome is that it can be difficult to tell the difference between heart irregularities caused by anxiety versus a heart attack. When in doubt, seek medical treatment right away.
  • Physical numbness or tingling. These feelings can occur in your hands, feet, arms, legs or face. It can also be felt as physical weakness.
Talking about anxiety symptoms with a doctor
credit: National Institute of Mental Health
  • Excessive yawning. During anxiety attacks, hyperventilation is a common response leading your body to feel it isn’t getting enough oxygen. As a result, you might experience frequent yawning.
  • Phantom smell. Phantosmia, which is an olfactory hallucination, sometimes occurs with anxiety. It can cause you to smell something that isn’t there or, rather, a neutral smell becomes unpleasant.
  • Brain shivers or zaps. Most often, this bizarre sensation is caused by antidepressants or withdrawal from them. However, sometimes it’s associated with anxiety. Brain shivers can range from mild to severe and feel different from person-to-person, though they usually last only a brief time. Brain shivers or zaps, explains, can feel like an electrical jolt or a shaking, vibration or tremor in the brain.
  • Phantom vibrations. If you’ve ever felt your phone vibrate, only to discover it didn’t, it could be caused by attachment anxiety. This is a very real phenomenon, according to a study reported by University of Michigan in 2016.
  • Tremors. Numerous types of tremors can be caused by anxiety. In addition to shaking or trembling, other typical forms, according to, include arm or leg spasms, cramping or longer or slower shaking than usual.
  • Derealization. This is a feeling of not being in reality. says this can be experienced in several ways. You may feel disconnected from the world and people around you, sort of like being in a dream state. Your perception of space, time and the size of things may be distorted. Everything might feel foggy or fuzzy or that you’re very ill or going crazy.
  • Globus hystericus. With this anxiety symptom, it feels like a lump in your throat, or you might have difficulty swallowing. Some people also feel a tightness in their throat.
  • Eye problems. Blurred vision, dilated pupils, watery eyes and shapes that float in front of the eyes can all be a result of anxiety.
  • Skin rashes. Stress can cause hives, itching and rashes. If you already have rosacea or psoriasis, it can be aggravated by anxiety and stress.
  • Shooting pains. These can be experienced in several areas of your body including your face, abdomen, arms and chest during episodes of anxiety.  
  • Freezing hands and feet. Stress and anxiety can decrease your circulation. As a result, your hands and feet may feel icy.
Mental Illness in adults statistic image


Depending on whether you have an actual anxiety disorder or the severity of the symptoms, an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication may be the solution. But there are other things you can do as well to reduce anxiety and alleviate symptoms.

During periods of high stress, get plenty of rest. This will help keep anxiety under control and result in fewer or less severe symptoms.

Also, practice slow breathing. Alice Boyes, Ph.D., in her article, “Breathing Techniques for Anxiety,” says the key is to focus only on breathing out. While concentrating on slowly, steadily and gently breathing out, allow the tension to flow out of your body and relaxation to flow in.

Mindfulness meditation is another useful technique for reducing anxiety according to a growing body of research. You can start by meditating for just a few minutes each day and gradually increase it to longer periods. For complete instructions, visit

Get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy, hardcore workout. Even a 10-minute brisk walk can provide several hours of anxiety relief according to psychologists, says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Finally, if your doctor has told you that your symptoms are anxiety-related, remind yourself of this when symptoms strike. Try not to overly stress about the symptoms, which only serves to exacerbate anxiety and cause the symptoms to persist.

Feature image credit: Harvard University

The content of this blog is not intended as medical advice.

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