14 September, 2020

Anxiety is a serious mental health condition that can make us feel worried, nervous, and afraid. It’s known for changing how we think and behave. But did you know it can also have real impacts on our physical health?

This is because anxiety is the body’s reaction to stress or perceived threats, and can trigger the fight-or-flight response. Someone with chronic anxiety might experience physical symptoms occasionally or every day, as their body is constantly in a state of high alert.

Learn what anxiety does to the body here.



Can’t pinpoint what’s causing those niggling headaches? Anxiety might be the culprit. Constant stress and worry can lead to headaches and painful migraines. A hot bath or shower may help to relieve some pain.

Upset stomach

It’s common for people with anxiety to experience stomach pain, nausea, diarrhoea and other digestive issues. Research has shown a strong connection between the brain and the gut. This might explain why we feel ‘butterflies’ when we’re nervous, or why stomach problems are one of the most common symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Breathing problems

Some people with an anxiety or panic disorder might experience breathing difficulties. Shortness of breath and fast, shallow breathing are common physical effects of anxiety. Some people might even experience hyperventilation. Deep breathing exercises are a great way to regulate your nervous system if you feel an anxiety or panic attack coming on.

Heart palpitations

When you’re anxious, it might feel like your heart is going to burst right out of your chest. A pounding heart and heart palpitations can be worrying physical side effects of anxiety, but they normally subside as the anxiety or panic lifts.


Anxiety isn’t just tough on us mentally and emotionally – it can also be physically exhausting. All those stress hormones can leave us drained and flat. Fatigue is a common side effect of anxiety, as is difficulty falling and staying asleep at night.

Aches and pains

Feel like you’ve run a marathon every day? Muscle and joint aches and pains are a very real physical side effect of anxiety – the most common being neck, back, and shoulder pain. Try stretching every morning and checking your posture throughout the day.

Loss of libido

Anxiety, just like many other mental health conditions, can have an impact on your sex life. It’s not uncommon to experience low libido when you have an anxiety disorder. Whether you’re distracted by anxious thoughts or you’re simply too tired from all the other physical effects of anxiety, it can be difficult to get in the mood.


Sweating is a common physical effect of anxiety disorders. Some people are chronic ‘nervous sweaters’ and experience excessive sweating in social situations. Unfortunately, the concern or embarrassment around sweating can fuel the anxiety and worsen the symptom.


Have you ever trembled with fear before a big presentation or public speaking event? Shaking and shivering can be caused by anxiety-induced hormone surges.

These are just some of the physical effects of anxiety. Research shows having severe anxiety can increase the likelihood of serious health issues like asthma, heart disease, back problems, ulcers, and eyesight difficulties.

Our counsellors can support you in dealing with your anxiety in a supportive, respectful, and confidential environment. Learn more about our counselling services and how to book an appointment here.

Learn about the different types of anxiety in this blog post.


Infographic displaying physical effects of anxiety on human body