How to Know if You Have Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural stress response mechanism. Whether it be fear from uncertainty or a physical or emotional threat, your body lets you know of impending danger through anxiety. Anxiety is more than a feeling. It is a physiological process that prepares you to defend yourself in the presence of a threat. The biological response involves your brain, heart, lungs, blood, and muscles.

When you are exposed to a stressor, whether externally or internally, your body sets up a response using hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The adrenal glands secret adrenaline, a crucial hormone in the stress response that maintains the anxious state. The adrenaline rush you get when you need to meet a deadline or have a presentation is the effect of this hormone. The rush is called anxiety.

What Happens During a Stress Response?

Adrenaline is released into your bloodstream following a distress signal from a part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala processes your emotions and senses. Once it determines a stressor is a threat, it sends the information to the hypothalamus, also known as the command center.

The hypothalamus sends a command to the adrenal gland, which secretes adrenaline to prepare your body for fight or flight. The hormone increases your respiratory rate. At this point, you feel like you cannot catch your breath. Breathing is required to increase oxygen intake. Oxygen is needed in the production of energy for your muscles to use in fight or flight.

Adrenaline also increases your heartbeat and blood flow rate. The heart palpitations and heavy pumping effect of your heart in your chest is the sign of this effect. The heart increases its pumping speed to get oxygenated blood to your muscles quicker.

The communication between the amygdala and the hypothalamus is super fast and effective. Interaction between these two different sections of the nervous system is quicker than the blink of an eye. It enables you to jump away from oncoming traffic or catch on the staircase rail microseconds before disaster strikes.

The Downside of The Stress Response System

The same response occurs when you have intrusive memories from a traumatic experience. The amygdala regards your thoughts as real-time threats and initiates the stress response.

Similarly, when you think about future problems and imagine the worst possible outcome, your amygdala interprets your thoughts as stressors and initiates the stress response. In reality, the event is yet to happen, and the outcome is unknown.

Being constantly bombarded by stressors is not healthy because it overstimulates the adrenal glands. The overactive glands will make you live in a perpetual state of anxiety. 

What Are the Signs of Anxiety?

Symptoms from the Stress Response

High blood pressure
When your heart rate goes up, your blood flow rate increases as well. The hormones behind the stress response also constrict your blood vessels increasing pressure on the flow.

Heart Palpitations.
Adrenaline also increases your heart’s pumping rate. The dramatic pumping feels like the heart is beating outside your chest.


Your breathing rate increases to meet your body's oxygen demand needed by the muscles for fight or flight. During intense breathing, you use the upper part of your lungs. However, this manner of breathing raises carbon dioxide in your lungs as well. Due to lack of physical exertion carbon dioxide build-up causes hyperventilation.

Psychogenic tremors.

Your muscles in preparation to fight, contract and relax rapidly due to the influx of oxygen causing you to tremble and shake uncontrollably.

Gut Related Symptoms

Your digestive system is full of nerves. Besides the brain, your gut contains more nerve cells compared to other organ systems.  The nerves link your gut to the amygdala. During a stress response, the amygdala sends signals to certain hormones and neurotransmitters, which initiate gastric emptying. The action is vital because it relieves the gut of any responsibility during the fight or flight response. The outcome of this action is

  • Nausea -it manifests as butterflies in your stomach or just feeling sick to your stomach. You can also get the sensation that there is a knot tied in your stomach.
  • The urgency to defecate or diarrhea to free your gut from using energy reserved for fight or flight. 
  • Irritable bowel movements (IBM) - painful bouts of diarrhea lapsed with constipation and severe stomach pains. Patients with IBM experience worse episodes when they are anxious. The fear of having another IBM episode sends signals to the amygdala. The amygdala initiates a stress response worsening the severity and manifestation of IBM.
  • Constipation - The neural transmission overhaul during the stress response sends mixed signals in your lower gut. The signals cause irregular bowel movements and strain.
  • Suppressed appetite - the amygdala also mediates neurotransmitters and hormones like cortisol that suppress appetite during the stress response.
  • Hyperacidity - anxiety triggers the over secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
  • Indigestion - similar to constipation, different hormones and neurons interfere with the digestive process throughout the anxious state.

Other Relevant Symptoms of Anxiety

Irritability - anxiety is characterized by intense emotional arousal and worry. Thus, your ability to cope becomes complicated.

Impulsivity - anxiety causes you to act on impulse because of your inability to control your emotions. The adrenaline rush is designed to make you act quickly.

Restlessness - anxiety makes you feel on edge. It makes you nervous and unable to come down.

Lack of concentration - anxiety affects your working memory, which contains your short-term information. The result is decreased performance because of a lack of memory recollection.

Restlessness -anxiety also makes you unsettled. It could be from constantly worrying or the hormones at play interfering with other mechanisms in your system. Restlessness also encompasses insomnia, which worsens and instigates anxiety.

Take Control Over Your Anxiety

Anxiety is only healthy when in limitation. Too much exposure is detrimental to your health. It needs to be managed before it causes mental and physical damage to your body. In case your anxiety is interfering with your ability to live, consult a psychologist or therapist. 

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you are struggling with severe anxiety, New Dimensions can help.  New Dimensions provides Online Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs for adolescents and adults who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues.  Our programs are open to anyone who resides within the State of Texas, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Lubbock, College Station, El Paso, Odessa, Midland, Laredo, and Corpus Christi.  We also provide in-person Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs in Katy, The Woodlands, and Houston, Texas.  To learn more about our programs, visit us at or call us at 1-800-685-9796.

16 March, 2021

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