Strange Symptoms: Can This Really Be Anxiety?

Abs - September 5, 2017

I have gas. Clouds of it. Mostly burping. But occasional flatulence. And I itch. A lot. In places I often cannot reach without the aid of a long, sharp object. I know what you’re thinking: her husband is a lucky guy!


What did I do to deserve such a pleasant constellation of inconveniences? Turns out (and it took me years to believe this) that good ole Anxiety is the culprit. It doesn’t help that I have IAD (Illness Anxiety Disorder), which makes me hyper-aware of every bodily sensation all day long. But there are real scientific reasons for these (and all) anxiety symptoms.


Let’s start with the gas. The “fight or flight” anxiety response we are always talking about causes your respiration to become shallow—this is what makes some sisters feel like they aren’t getting enough air when they panic. The body’s response to this shortness of breath is, of course, to gulp air or hyperventilate. And, since everything that enters the body must, at some point, exit—well, there you have it. Loud and frequent belching. In my case, imagine a drunk pirate with the hiccups and you have a pretty solid picture of my anxiety-induced burping. The good news is that, once you stop swallowing so much air, there is less of a need to burp it out. So it does go away. I’ve learned to roll with it while apologizing profusely to my unfortunate audience (which once included a room full of mourners—what can I say? Funerals make me anxious).


For those of you who have listened to our podcasts, you may remember our discussion on the connection between the gut and the brain through the vagus nerve. In fact, the stomach is known as the “Second Brain” in the world of neuroscience. When we are anxious, digestion is profoundly affected, which is where the back-door gas comes from (right, Mags?).


One more thing to know about gas and anxiety: they can form their own loop. In other words, you are anxious so you start gulping air and experiencing digestive issues. Your body tries to alleviate the bloating and discomfort caused by the infusion of air by releasing gas, both orally and through the poop chute. But it cannot release it all at once so the trapped air will cause discomfort—not only in the belly. Gas travels throughout the body and gas pains can be felt everywhere. Getting gas pains in your chest cavity is very common. However, people don’t associate chest pains with gas so they get anxious and start gulping more air. You see where this is going.


Let’s move on to itching. I’m not talking about hives or rashes here. I am referring to invisible itching like I am being ravaged by imaginary fleas. What I’m really being ravaged by, however, are stress hormones (which, in my mind, look just like fleas). These stress fleas course through your body “waking up” your circulatory system in preparation for a rapid exit (fight or flight). And that’s where the itching or tingling comes from. For some reason no doctor or astrologist has been able to identify, my itching always happens just under my left shoulder blade. Which causes me to rub against whatever I can find to scratch it. Again, I spend quite a bit of time apologizing to witnesses (such as a potential employer who totally thought I was a wack-a-doo and did not hire me—what can I say? Interviews make me anxious).


There are, of course, remedies for all of these symptoms. Gas-X, Tums and peppermint tea can be great additions to any spin kit. And I carry one of those massage claws so I can scratch less conspicuously. None of these particular symptoms are disruptive in my life—they are more of a nuisance than anything else. And my ability to burp the theme to Star Wars is a big hit with my nephews.


What these weird symptoms do, however, is illuminate how comprehensive the experience of anxiety is. When our fight or flight response is aroused, the reaction is systemic. The whole body is involved. And this is extremely important for both Anxiety Sisters and those who treat them to understand. Anxiety is experienced holistically, which is why it is so hard to pinpoint and why so much has to be ruled out before it is diagnosed. And this is also why anything that can occur in the body can be a symptom of anxiety. Even yawning!


Did I mention my cold feet?



I’m collecting strange symptoms for my research…anybody willing to share?

28 thoughts on “Strange Symptoms: Can This Really Be Anxiety?

  1. Went thru the itchy skin after my brother passed it was horrible something we lose it starts with a c it was bad now fighting anxiety a lot going on with my children trying to quit smoking it’s very hard it makes my aniexty worse

    1. Bernadette,
      We are so sorry to hear about losing your brother. The death of a loved one is one of those things that can trigger anxiety attacks. Quitting smoking is very anxiety provoking, both physically and emotionally–make sure you are getting help and support.
      Mags and Abs

  2. I’ve been known to grab my throat like in a choking position; always with my right hand… always, kicker… I’m left handed. I’ve had a few vomit episodes when in full blown attack. And my heads been itching a lot lately. I have Thyroid issues, and I have Digeorge Syndrome, as well.

    1. Ah, the thyroid. Yes, we are familiar with this pain-in-the-butt organ. I have Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid. So there’s the hair loss and the dry skin and the itching from that as well. Symptoms are sooooo much fun!

      Thank you for sharing,

      PS) We’ve interviewed lots of chokers/vomiters…much more common than you’d imagine!

  3. Wow these symptoms are me to a T!! I’ve been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and take a higher dose of Zoloft for it, but still experience these symptoms!

    1. Hi Anna,
      It is so many of us to a T…it’s the weird anxiety stuff nobody talks about but is a reality for many of us! Mags and Abs

  4. Cold feet? How does this relate? I too have the itchy shin I’ve scratched it raw at times. :(… But my feet get very cold when I’m anxious ..I didn’t know it pertains to this as well.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Some people heat up and others tend to become freezing with anxiety (or sometimes both happen) and many people get rashes and itchy skin. Our bodies, when anxious, are producing so many hormones for our flight or fight response and just gearing up to protect us…it affects different areas of the body in various ways. Mags and Abs

  5. I have the gas and bloating I have often wondered if it was related to my anxiety it does seem to happen when I am going through one of my depression and anxiety episodes.
    My stomach has always been such a part if my anxiety. I know I am going to have a hard day when I feel the pit of my stomach.

  6. Hi Connie,
    I feel 99 percent of all my feelings in my stomach (and there is a lot of serotonin there too). Gas and bloating are definitely part of anxiety. Abs burps when she is anxious and I burp when my anxiety attack is just about over! Our minds and bodies are not disconnected! Thanks for your comment, Mags and Abs

    1. Both of us get fever blisters from anxiety. Burning lips make sense when you are getting symptoms on your mouth. I know an anxiety brother that gets hives all over when he is under stress as well.

      mags and abs

  7. I also experience the annoying itching.. I also stiffen up in my neck and shoulders. My husband says I embarrass him. i find it so frustrating.

    1. What does your husband find embarrassing about your anxiety? Often it is hard for the people in our life to fully understand the physical symptoms that come with anxiety and they do not know how to react. Sometimes the reactions look like embarrassment, anger, fear, etc. Perhaps you can show him some of the blogs on our website so that he can start to understand this illness a bit more. Anxiety symptoms can confuse us Anxiety Sisters, so it can be really confusing for those people just watching us deal with it. If possible model patience for him and help him to learn more about anxiety (although I know it is frustrating when you need the support).
      Let us know if we can help educate him. Mags and Abs

    1. Hi,
      Those symptoms all sound familiar. Sometimes beta blockers are used to target symptoms of this type. Also relaxation exercises may help.
      Mags and Abs

  8. I believe the resent scientific demonstration of the Direct link between our Gut and Brain via the Vegas Nerve is the reason we develop everything from gas and nausea to autoimmune disorders, which is when hives and itching come into play. My anxiety is triggered by all sorts of body sensations as well. I just went through a rough surgery and have had hives ever since. I don’t know why I’m being So resistant to getting back into my mindfulness practices, anyone have any suggestions to reignite getting back into old routines?

    1. Terez,
      Yep that gut/brain connection is so fascinating. As for getting back into the mindfulness practices…we can understand the struggle. Sometimes, it helps just to tell myself that I am going to do something for a very short period of time (5 minutes) and put it on my calendar. It makes it seem less intimidating if I don’t have to start doing a whole big thing at once….let us know how you do because we struggle with the same issue, doing something we know is helpful even if it is hard. Mags and Abs

  9. These symptoms are me 100%. I also tend to aggressively rub my temples and forehead when I’m overwhelmed and anxious. I’ve stopped apologizing for my weird symptoms though. I am who I am and constantly apologizing for it was making my anxiety so much worse.
    Anyway, stay strong anxiety girls, we’re all in this together.

  10. Comforting to read about these symptoms. It’s been a rough few weeks with my anxiety. Shallow breathing, tight chest, and to tense that my muscles are sore but I don’t even realize I’m tense until I am in a calm state and it feels like I’ve gotten hit by a bus. I definitely get bloated, so that totally makes sense with all the deep breaths I’m trying to take. The struggle is real but at least we have each other! Thank you for your wonderful posts and information!

  11. There have been times when anxiety hits, I’ll get cold. When severe, I’ll get the chills. I’ll burp alot and I just feel like it’s hard to take a full breath. Not pleasant.

  12. My throat will close and food gets stuck in my throat. so I have to throw up.
    I always have acid reflux, that started when my agoraphobia started.
    Clenching of teeth, feels almost like my jaw is locked.
    Vision goes blurry and ears ring very loud

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