Overlooked Behavioral Symptoms of Anxiety & How to Manage Them

behavioral symptoms of anxiety

There are plenty of overlooked behavioral symptoms of anxiety that could be showing up in our daily lives. Dealing with anxiety can be an overwhelming experience. It’s not just about the racing thoughts and the constant worry. Anxiety can also manifest in various behaviors that affect your daily life.

Anxiety manifests in so many ways, some of which we aren’t even aware are related to it. Understanding anxiety disorders is really useful in mastering your mind. It’s useful to be aware of some of the common anxiety behavior symptoms that might be making our days even more difficult.

While blaming anxiety for our actions is tempting, once we recognize what the anxiety is doing, it is our job to understand and shift things. So, for each of the behavioral symptoms, I’ve also included a suggestion for managing them. These might not work for you, so do some brainstorming and figure out what will help you.

Overlooked Ways Anxiety Might Show Up in Your Life

Anxiety has a way of sneaking into our lives in so many ways. Some of which we don’t even realize. Let’s explore some of the craft ways anxiety shows up in daily life.

Difficulty Making Decisions

difficulty making decisions anxiety

Making decisions isn’t easy on a good day, but have you noticed how much harder it becomes when you’re having an anxious day? The mind gets frazzled, and it’s like you can’t even think straight, let alone make a decision.

So, it’s no surprise that one of the common behavioral symptoms of anxiety is having difficulty making decisions. It’s not simply about choosing between two options, it can extend to even the smallest choices in life (like do I take my meds first or eat first…?).

The fear of making the wrong decision can paralyze you, leaving you feeling stuck and indecisive.

Managing Tip: When faced with a decision, break it down into smaller steps. Write it down on paper. Analyze the pros and cons, and remind yourself that making mistakes is a part of life’s learning process. If I’m having a particularly frazzled, anxious day, I write all the things I have to do and choose on post-it notes, then when I’ve conquered them, I scrunch up the note and throw it away.

Trouble Completing Tasks

trouble completing tasks anxiety

Unfinished tasks, never getting anything done, sound familiar?

Anxiety can make it challenging to complete anything, both at work and in your personal life. The constant worry and fear of not meeting your own or others’ expectations can lead to procrastination and a sense of being overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, completing tasks can be even more difficult. You feel like you’re drowning and can’t think straight but you’re paralyzed. It’s not uncommon for people with anxiety disorders to experience trauma responses over things like this.

Managing Tip: Bring out the post-its! Or create a to-do list. You could even try some time management techniques, like the Pomodoro Technique, to break tasks into manageable chunks. Celebrate small victories to boost your confidence (appreciate the dopamine rush and hack into those happiness chemicals).

Avoiding Socializing

overlooked anxiety signs

The last thing I want to do when I’m anxious is be around other people. I worry that it’ll make it worse, or they’ll notice and judge me. I know that’s all in my head, but the mind is mean. It’s up to us to take control of those nasty thoughts and tell them where to shove it. 

Social anxiety is a well-known form of anxiety, and it often results in avoiding social situations altogether. When your anxiety is heightened, you may find yourself canceling plans, making excuses, or isolating yourself to escape the discomfort of social interactions.

Managing Tip: Gradual exposure to social situations can help. Start with small gatherings or reach out to a trusted friend or therapist for support. Try something like going out for a coffee with someone who knows about your anxiety. Activities that involve play are a great way to get out with friends without being bombarded by conversation and questions.

Perfectionistic Tendencies

anxiety perfection

Striving for excellence is admirable, but perfectionism driven by anxiety can be debilitating. You set impossibly high standards for yourself, fearing any mistakes or shortcomings, which can lead to chronic stress. These perfectionist tendencies are really common with people who have high functioning anxiety.

Achieving perfection is impossible.

Managing Tip: Challenge your perfectionistic thoughts by asking yourself if they are realistic. Aim for progress, not perfection, and acknowledge your achievements along the way.

Feeling Angry

feeling angry anxiety

Anger is a complicated emotion. It can be a powerful force for change, but it can also eat you up inside.

Interestingly, feeling angry is a surprising behavioral symptom of anxiety. You might find yourself easily irritated, frustrated, snappy or even downright explosive at times, which can strain relationships and your own mental well-being. If you’re feeling frazzled or overwhelmed, it’s even easier to get triggers and lash out.

Managing Tip: Practice anger management techniques, like deep breathing or counting to ten, to diffuse intense emotions. It’s important to focus on understanding your emotions. Be mindful of what is triggering you and why. Are your boundaries being infringed upon? What is it that’s causing you to react so strongly? Seek professional help if anger becomes unmanageable.

Urge to Self-Medicate

anxiety self medicate

If things get too overwhelming, the urge to escape can be strong.

Coping with anxiety can be challenging, and some individuals turn to substances like alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. This behavior can lead to addiction and exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

However, it’s not just self-medication to watch out for. I don’t drink or do any substances, but that doesn’t mean that urge to ‘self-medicate’ goes away. But for me, it shows up with sugar cravings and obsessive escapism, either through reading, writing, or playing games.

Managing Tip: Opt for self-care over self-medication. Be mindful of your urges. What are you trying to escape? When are those urgest at their highest? If things become too overwhelming, reach out to a therapist or counselor who specializes in addiction and anxiety. They can provide guidance on healthier coping mechanisms.

Unexplained Stomach Issues

IBS Anxiety

Nobody seems to talk about all the unpleasant stomach issues that come with anxiety. Nausea, cramps, Diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, gas… It’s not fun.

Anxiety can take a physical toll on your body. Unexplained stomach issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or frequent upset stomach, can be linked to anxiety. It can also exacerbate anxiety.

Managing Tip: Maintain a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise (like yoga for anxiety). Additionally, you can practice relaxation techniques like meditation to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms associated with anxiety. Pay attention to what foods make it worse and try to avoid those if possible.

Trouble Sleeping

trouble sleeping anxiety

If you’re not sleeping well, things quickly start to become a lot harder. When you’re tired, your capacity for handling life decreases and as a result, anxiety increases. We need different types of rest in order to function, and physical rest is one of the most important.

Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is a classic behavioral symptom of anxiety. Racing thoughts, worries, and restlessness can keep you up at night, leading to sleep deprivation.

Managing Tip: Create a sleep schedule and bedtime routine that includes relaxation practices, like reading or taking a warm bath. Limit caffeine, food, and screen time close to bedtime, and consider seeking professional help for insomnia. Try a sleep app to monitor exactly what’s happening during the night.

Watching Out for Anxiety Behavioral Symptoms

anxiety behavioral symptoms

In conclusion, understanding the behavioral symptoms of anxiety is a crucial step in managing this condition. Remember that you’re not alone, and seeking support from a mental health professional can provide you with effective strategies for coping with anxiety and regaining control of your life.

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