Anxiety Symptoms: Vision

Anxiety can cause distorted vision and tricks of the mind. It doesn’t mean you are going mad or losing the plot. Common visual disturbances are:

  • Thinking you saw something that wasn’t there
  • Things being hyper-real or surreal
  • Colours being very vivid and strong
  • Things appearing as if in a dream
  • Strange swirly patterns and flashing lights

Why do these strange visual symptoms happen? The fight or flight response brings about some very real physical, physiological changes in our bodies. I hearts beat faster, we take in more oxygen and we are on alert.


The amount of blood pumping through our veins increases and this can put a bit of extra pressure on the brain and nervous system. In fact most of the vision problems experienced during anxiety are identical to the kind of vision experienced while doing heavy exercise.

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It is common to mistake visual symptoms of anxiety for a sign or something much more sinister. Often people think they might be having a stroke or that a brain tumour is developing.


Of course strokes and brain tumours are thankfully very rare, you should always discuss new and unusual symptoms with a doctor. You will often feel much better when nasty sounding illnesses have been ruled out. Worrying about your health just makes anxiety worse.

Anxiety Symptoms: Nausea

Nausea is a common symptom of anxiety. It is also one of the most annoying. Often people report feeling sick to the stomach, sick with worry or fear and of losing their appetite.

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In actual fact, anxiety attacks very rarely make people vomit. The idea of anxiety, the reason that is has evolved as part of human nature, is to keep us safe. It is unpleasant but not in itself dangerous.

Why do we feel nauseous when we are anxious? Basically, our bodies are preparing for defence and that means getting oxygen and energy to where it is needed, such as our muscles. It also means diverting resources away from less important tasks such as digestion and that is why both nausea and Diarrhoea can be a problem.

The best thing to do is to try to calm yourself down by relaxing the upper-body as much as possible and breathing slowly and gently down into the abdomen.

There are a few gentle remedies for nausea that are worth a try:

  • Bach’s Rescue Remedy
  • Peppermint Tea

If nausea is a big problem for you or you are prone to vomiting, the doctor might prescribe a drug like prochloperazine (Stemitil) which is an anti-emetic. All of the general anti-anxiety techniques on this site should help diminish and finally eliminate anxiety and its associated nausea.

Anxiety Symptoms: Breathing

Anxiety symptoms to do with breathing can be some of the most frightening that we have to deal with.

Breathing is the vital bodily function we are most aware of. We can have terrible problems with our heart and other organs and not know about it for years, but the second breathing becomes difficult we feel anxiety and maybe even panic, because we know that without air we won’t survive for long.

But our fear is misguided. The breathing problems caused by anxiety are not real physical problems, they are just our throat becoming slightly congested due to the extra blood flowing through the veins in our necks (read anxiety symptoms: throat for more details).

Often we feel these symptoms to do with breathing when we have anxiety:

  • Feel like we can’t swallow
  • Feel we can’t breath in or breath out
  • Feel we can’t get a full breath
  • Feel we can’t control our breathing
  • Feel like our breathing is too fast and is getting out of control.

In fact all of these are symptoms of anxiety and specifically symptoms of hyperventilation (please read this post on Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome and Anxiety for more info.)

If we learn to relax our breathing and breath slowly and gently from the abdomen, then our symptoms will subside. Good breathing is not just for anxiety attacks, it is for life and should be practised every day.

Hyperventilation is not just a symptom of anxiety, it is also a cause. If you can improve your breathing habits, your default breathing pattern, then anxiety can be banished for good.

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Anxiety Symptoms: Throat

The throat is an area of the body where symptoms of anxiety are often felt. There are two kinds of symptoms that particularly effect the throat: difficulty breathing and difficulty swallowing.

Having difficulty breathing when we are suffering from anxiety is common, but the description is inaccurate. Actually, we are managing to get plenty of air in to our bodies: too much. Please read this post on Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome and Anxiety.

This feeling of resistance to breathing is probably due to the blood pumping through the veins in our necks, making our windpipes ever so slightly narrower. It is not even close to being dangerous and if you make an effort to relax your upper body it will pass. Also this post is dedicated to Anxiety Symptoms: Breathing.

The same enlargement of the throat leads us to feeling that we can’t swallow, and eating and drinking when anxious can be hard. Again though, this feels bad but is completely harmless.

The best thing to do to combat all of the symptoms of anxiety that you feel in your throat is to practice relaxing your upper body, including your jaw and your chest.

Also check out  Anxiety Symptoms: Tingling.

And, if you are interested in the physical causes of anxiety, read Killing Anxiety From The Roots. It has a lot of information on this.

Anxiety Symptoms Tingling

Tingling is just one of many symptoms of anxiety. When we feel anxious and our bodies go into fight or flight mode, oxygen and energy is diverted to our muscles and adrenalin rushes through our system. One side effect of this is that we can feel a tingling sensation, which can be anywhere but is often in hand, feet or legs.

Like all symptoms of anxiety, tingling is harmless and will pass with the anxiety. Worrying about it just makes the problem worse as you should be trying to focus on your breathing and relaxing. This will make the tingling stop.

Doing some physical activity like walking might also help to loosen up the muscles and relax you, ending the bout of anxiety. You can also sometimes feel anxiety in your throat. This is all part of the same fight or flight reaction and not to be feared.

And, if you are interested in the physical causes of anxiety, read Killing Anxiety From The Roots. It has a lot of information on this.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms in Adults

Diagnosing adults with Anxiety Disorder can be difficult. Many people start to suffer from anxiety in their early teens and the symptoms displayed by children and adolescents can be quite different.

Adult Anxiety Disorder and childhood Anxiety Disorder are basically the same thing, but there are various factors that make its presentation in adults different. Firstly, adults are more prone to worry about the social stigma of having a mental health problem or a mood disorder. Secondly, adults are likely to have responsibilities that make avoidance behaviour difficult.

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The typical symptoms of Adult Anxiety Disorder are:

  • Racing heart (palpitations)
  • Chest tightness
  • Feeling disconnected and “strange”
  • Dizziness
  • IBS and upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability

Often doctors assume that any of the above symptoms are caused by other physical diseases or health problems. It is common for an adult suffering from a panic attack to be admitted for ECG heart examination.

The risk of Adult Anxiety Disorder increases with stress from work or family life, financial problems, poor health, poor diet and nutrient deficiency, vestibular disorders (dizziness and vertigo), alcohol and drug abuse, lacking a focus in life, mid-life-crisis and divorce.

There may not be a clear reason for a bout of anxiety, and patients should not be sent for psychotherapy or regression hypnosis such as hypnoanalysis on the misguided basis that there is some unresolved trauma in their past. This is rarely if ever the case.

Hyperventialtion and Anxiety

The link between breathing and how much anxiety we feel is well documented. It is important to not breath too much and also not to breath into the chest. The thing is many of us have got into bad breathing habits. We breath too rapidly or to shallow, taking air into our chest without moving our stomachs. People often advise those with anxiety to breath deeply. If this advice is misunderstood then it can result in further hyperventilation leading to more anxiety.

The correct way to breath is to take air in through the nose slowly and expand the stomach as the diaphragm, the chest shouldn’t move much at all. The stomach should then retract in as the air is pushed out slowly through the nose. If we get into good breathing habits anxiety will diminish.

I have heard various pieces of advice some of which might be helpful. Firstly, when resting you should not normally be able to hear a breath, it should be so slow and light that it is soundless.

If you stand up and put your hands on your hips, or just above your hips, you should be able to feel your abdomen expand as you breath in.

You should breath, depending on who you listen to, between six and ten times a minute (some say twelve). Therefore a full breath cycle should take between six and ten seconds.

You should try and relax all unnecessary tension from your face, head, neck and shoulders. Pay attention to the jaw and forehead as these often hold unnecessary tension. This tension can encourage chest breathing and hyperventilation. The muscle relaxation and correct breathing will help tremendously with anxiety.

The easiest way to learn diaphragmatic breathing is to lie on your back with your legs straight and to place one hand on your chest and one just below your navel. Practise breathing so your navel hand rises but the chest doesn’t move much at all. It can help to put something heavy on the navel, such as a large book.

Obviously stop all breathing exercises if you feel any pain or unpleasant symptoms and seek professional advice.

Dizziness Vertigo Anxiety

A while back I blogged about the links between anxiety and dizziness and how more often than not the two seem to go together: people experiencing dizziness as part of an anxiety attack or a panic attack.

Today I want to look at dizziness and vertigo as potential causes of anxiety and panic disorder – things like agoraphobia. It has often been said that stress and anxiety can bring on what is often referred to as giddiness, dizziness, light-headedness and vertigo. The reason being that blood is diverted to the muscles, the oxygen balance in the blood changes. This is perhaps true however it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The fight or flight response is meant to save us, but why did we evolve to disable our balance mechanism when poise and stability is needed most, when we are in danger? That begs a question along the lines of the chicken and the egg: what comes first dizziness or anxiety/panic?

For sure anxiety or a big shock can bring on balance problems like vertigo, often very short sharp bouts. However I think, and there is a certain amount of scientific evidence to back this up, that there are a lot of people with panic disorder who actually have an underlying balance problem.

If you into a supermarket and feel funny, maybe get derealization or feel dizzy or lightheaded the doctor will no doubt send you to a psychologist that will tell you that your subconscious doesn’t like being out of control and in a supermarket there is no easy way of escape. Maybe this is rubbish. Maybe the lighting and long aisles of a supermarket make it such a strange environment that the signal from ear and eye get somewhat out of sync in people with a slightly defective vestibular system. Maybe that is what causes the panic like symptoms and leads for the desire for an easy escape route.

If you think about it, the agoraphobics’ worst nightmares are all places that tend to be unnatural and odd and somewhat disorientating: supermarkets, shopping malls, motorways and highways: all places that could cause strange feelings in a person with a vestibular balance problems.

Also read Does Anxiety Cause Dizziness?

This is potentially important because in such cases your psychologist or charlatan hypnoanalyst will be telling you your neighbor sexually abused you. In fact there are types of vestibular rehabilitation and other physio techniques, as well as drugs, that might well help.

If your anxiety seems heavily related to dizziness or vertigo, or you experience balance problems elsewhere in life it might well be worth looking into.

Anxiety Dizziness

Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. Referred to by doctors as vertigo, it can feel like a spinning sensation, as if objects are actually spinning round. The dizziness can also feel like the floor is unsteady, rocking up and down like a boat.

One explanation for why anxiety and dizziness often go together is to do with the fight or flight response.  When we are anxious our bodies natural protection mechanism, the flight or flight response, tries to protect us by focusing our energy and attention on the perceived threat. It draws blood towards our core and gives less resources to unnecessary functions.

Somewhere along the line our balance mechanism in our inner ear is disrupted causing what is a harmless although unpleasant symptom.  It should be noted that dizziness can be caused by other things than anxiety, so a trip to the doctor to rule out ear infections, viruses, labyrinthitis and other physical causes is important.

Assuming it is anxiety, the best thing to do is to come to terms with it. It is harmless and passes quickly as soon as you relax. The problem is that because it feels so unpleasant we tend to assume it is more serious than it is, and this causes us to worry more and feed the fear cycle.

Also read Does Anxiety Cause Dizziness?

If dizziness from anxiety is a serious problem for you then the normal anxiety medications like SSRI’s and Benzodiazepines may well help. There is also a drug called prochlorperazine (marketed as Stemetil and Buccastem) which is used to treat dizziness and associated nausea or vomiting.

Really though, drugs should be a last resort. Easier to say than do, but if you can accept anxiety symptoms they will pass, lessen and eventually disappear, and dizziness is no exception. Try taking some calming breaths and telling yourself that the dizziness you are experiencing is just an unpleasant symptom and nothing else.

Anxiety Stress

Anxiety and Stress go hand in hand. They have a symbiotic relationship meaning that they both feed off each other.

What’s the difference between anxiety and stress?

Anxiety has specific mental and physical symptoms, and is clinically identifiable. Follow this link for an explanation of anxiety symptoms. Stress on the other hand is a much more common phenomenon. Stress also much more commonly expresses itself as anger, irritation, short patience and irritability. Anxiety, on the other hand, tends to manifest itself as fear, hyperventilation, dizziness, feeling dislocated, or having stomach discomfort.

Both Anxiety and stress have been related to IBS .

If one lives constantly in a state of stress then anxiety and even an anxiety disorder are likely to follow. However this is not the case for everyone. Some people “thrive off stress” in the same way that adrenaline junkies effectively thrive off anxiety. but that does not mean that daily stress is good for you. In fact it is much better for you to be able to unwind and de-stress.  While stress might motivate you through the day and give you a buzz, when the working day is over your body needs a chance to relax.

The same tricks that help you overcome anxiety cam help you deal effectively with stress: meditation and yoga, exercise, herbal supplements and everything else mentioned on this site.

One of the main features of stress may be difficulty in getting to sleep. Insomnia can be caused by muscle tension, dwelling on the events of the day or worrying about the future or by having too many stimulants in your system.

Caffeine is an obvious candidate for removal if you want to sleep better. It can stay in your system for as long as twenty hours (although it effects different people in different ways.) Also, some people think they are unwinding from stress when they have an alcoholic drink. This is in fact not the case. Alcohol actually becomes a stimulant after it is broken down by your liver and this is one reason why many anxiety sufferers get anxiety with a hangover or even while drunk!