Nonverbal Signs of Anxiety

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Have you ever been anxious during a particularly special moment? Perhaps you got cold feet before getting married or felt nervous before competing in a tennis match. If you have ever experienced anxiety, you might have already realized that there are many different types. This lesson will discuss some common anxiety disorders and review nonverbal signs for these anxieties.

What is Anxiety?

You're about to walk on stage to deliver a speech. You feel nervous and a little scared. Did you suddenly come down with a case of the stomach butterflies? Probably not. What you experience in this moment is anxiety. Anxiety is the fear of what could happen; for example, maybe you'll trip on the stage, forget the speech, or faint. Perhaps, you fear that the audience will laugh at you because your zipper is down. While feeling nervous before a speech is normal, anxiety becomes a concern when it starts to impact normal life activities. There are many disorders where anxiety is the underlying culprit, from panic attacks where a person feels dizzy, sick and may have challenges breathing; to phobias where people are terrified of specific things like small spaces (claustrophobic) or spiders (arachnophobia).

Nonverbal Signs

A person may tell you he or she is anxious, but what are the nonverbal signs that someone is experiencing anxiety? There are actually quite a few. Let's take a moment to go through the list:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Problems with the digestive system
  • Over eating
  • Under eating
  • Dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • Chest pains
  • Changes in behavior
  • Addictive behaviors (drugs, drinking)
  • Irritability
  • Increased urination and/or diarrhea
  • Twitching

Sweating is a common nonverbal sign of anxiety

Types of Anxieties

Obviously, the non-verbal list of anxiety signs is quite long and varied. A person who experiences slight anxiety for a speech is probably not going to start drinking heavily. As mentioned previously, there are varying degrees of anxieties. One person may have a fear of spiders, whereas another may be experiencing severe anxiety from a traumatic experiences. Let's take a moment to go over a handful of anxiety disorders. Remember, some sort of anxiety is normal, but when the symptoms do not go away, then it may be a disorder. Also, the symptoms of each disorder may overlap.

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