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Symptoms of anxiety

A look at the symptoms on anxiety.
Young girl looking out of a window holding a baseball
© University of East Anglia

In this section are some of the symptoms caused by anxiety and the possible causes.

We will follow this by looking at examples of anxiety disorders.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

When we feel stressed, chemicals are released from a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. These trigger more chemicals from another part of the brain called the pituitary glands, which in turn triggers cortisol to be released from the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys. This is known as the hypothalamus – pituitary – adrenal axis or HPAA for short.

The cortisol that is released is responsible for many of the anxiety symptoms commonly experienced, otherwise known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Whilst this is a normal response to a perceived threat, with anxiety disorders, the ‘fight or flight’ response is overactive. It happens even when there is no real danger.

  • Dizziness and feeling lightheaded
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Stomach complaints, nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Easily fatigued
  • Loss of appetite

Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

  • Obsessive worrying about illness or death of self or loved on
  • Fear that things will go wrong
  • Perfectionism
  • Social shyness and embarrassment
  • Feeling tense and on edge

Behavioural symptoms of anxiety

  • Obsessive behaviours
  • Hair pulling, skin picking
  • Clinginess
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Irritability and angry outbursts

Not all children will experience all of the symptoms described above and often people with anxiety experience the same symptoms again and again.

© University of East Anglia
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Anxiety in Children and Young People during COVID-19

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