Ringing ears and chest pain might not be the first things that come to mind when you picture anxiety, but there is a connection.

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Anxiety can show up in lots of different ways and rarely looks the same from person to person. Trying to figure out if anxiety is causing your symptoms isn’t always a straightforward process.

While anxiety disorders are some of the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in the United States, they’re not always easy to spot.

If you have an anxiety disorder and you’re experiencing a strange symptom — especially one your doctor can’t explain — you might feel relieved to know that your anxiety could be causing it.

Whether it’s a somatic symptom or an emotion that doesn’t seem connected to anxiety at first, tying these mysterious symptoms to a known cause could help you manage them.

Not all anxiety symptoms are well known. If you live with anxiety, you might experience one of these physical symptoms and not realize it’s rooted in anxiety.

Chest pain

A racing heart is a familiar symptom of anxiety, but chronic anxiety can also cause chest pain or the sensation of a heart “flutter.”

An increased heart rate and muscle tension are both part of your body’s fight, flight, or freeze response, but they can cause pain if anxiety is chronic.

This symptom can be especially distressing because it can mimic the onset of a heart attack, often causing even more anxiety. Researchers estimate that almost 50% of people who come to the ER with low-risk chest pain (that is, pain not related to a heart attack) experienced higher than usual levels of anxiety.

Tinnitus, or ringing ears

Tinnitus is the medical term for a ringing or buzzing noise in the ears, although it can also cause a roaring or whistling sound.

Research suggests that people with chronic tinnitus are also more likely to report anxiety.

The sounds of tinnitus may also be perceived as being louder by people with anxiety. This can lead to a vicious cycle where tinnitus causes anxiety, and that anxiety increases your awareness of the tinnitus.

Hives and skin rashes

Psychodermatology focuses on the interaction between your mind and skin. Research in this field shows a link between anxiety disorders and skin symptoms like chronic itching and hives. This might create another cycle in which stress and anxiety worsen itching, and vice versa.

Persistent hiccups

Hiccups, or involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, are usually understood as a digestive symptom. But they can also be caused or intensified by mental or emotional stress.

According to a small case study, children and adolescents could also develop hiccups as a symptom of psychological distress.


Dissociation is a defensive reaction to trauma or stress where your sense of identity, memory, or consciousness is altered. The most common forms of dissociation are:

  • Depersonalization: a sense of detachment or disconnection from yourself
  • Derealization: a sense of disconnection from your surroundings or reality

Although these symptoms may indicate a dissociative disorder, they can also be influenced by anxiety or stress as part of your fight, flight, or freeze response.

Gastrointestinal issues

Most people are familiar with the nervous sensation of “butterflies in your stomach,” but GI symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and nausea can also be caused by anxiety.

A growing body of research shows a powerful link between the brain and the gut, and GI conditions like IBS may be triggered or exacerbated by anxiety and stress.

Circulation problems

Anxiety and fear can slow blood flow because stress hormones like adrenalin cause blood vessels to constrict. Known as vasoconstriction, this can in turn lead to changes in body temperature and hot flashes.

Research suggests long-term stress and anxiety can even increase the risk of heart disease over time.

Jaw pain

Anxiety can cause you to inadvertently grind your teeth (known as bruxism) or clench your jaw while you’re asleep or awake. This can cause symptoms of a TMJ disorder, including:

  • jaw pain
  • joint clicking
  • facial pain

Many people are unaware that they grind their teeth at night. Your dentist can examine your mouth for signs of bruxism and suggest solutions for protecting your teeth, like wearing a night guard.

Shortness of breath and yawning

Shortness of breath, or chronic dyspnea, can be caused by anxiety. Research suggests that this can lead to labored breathing — sighing or even yawning — as you try to fill your lungs. Excessive yawning can also be a side effect of medications that are prescribed for anxiety, like SSRIs.

You might now be wondering what anxiety usually looks like.

The short answer is that anxiety manifests differently for everyone. While you might often experience body pain due to anxiety, someone else with anxiety might not be familiar with that symptom.

Still, some of the more common anxiety symptoms are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). According to the DSM-5 criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, some common symptoms include:

  • feeling restless or on edge
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • muscle tension
  • trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

Anxiety symptoms can mimic some other health conditions, but wondering if you should seek medical advice may end up causing you even more anxiety. As a general rule, if you’re experiencing anxiety or feel that’s interfering with your daily life — and you recognize any of the above symptoms — it could be a good idea to consult with your doctor.

Your primary care physician can determine whether your symptoms may be related to anxiety or another underlying health condition.

From there, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can nurture your health, whether that means managing an underlying medical condition, talking with a therapist, or incorporating some anxiety management techniques into your routine.

If you live with an anxiety disorder and have some unexplained symptoms, anxiety could be one of the potential causes.

While it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor when you have a new or concerning symptom, it can also help to lean on your past experiences with anxiety when deciding the best approach to take. For example, if a doctor has recently confirmed your heart health, you can remind yourself that the chest pain is more likely to be connected to anxiety.

Anxiety disorders can be manageable, and there are a number of home remedies you can try in addition to seeking medical advice. It’s a good idea to take your time and be kind to yourself as you search for care that works for you.