20 Hidden Signs Of Anxiety That Can Keep You From Being Your Best Self

hidden signs of anxiety

Most of us think of anxiety as something that only shows up along with major unexpected adversity or change – navigating crises, intense shifts, personal “earthquakes,” loss, and other seismic shifts in life that spike numerous fears and concerns. However, this is not the only way that anxiety can show up. It doesn’t always yell at us. Anxiety can also whisper to us. The quieter and often hidden signs of anxiety are more subtle, yet just as important to pay attention to.

Anxiety’s job – regardless of whether it’s yelling at us or whispering to us – is to alert us to something that isn’t quite right. I think of anxiety as the experience that arises from conflict about future unavoidable pain as well as the perceived threat to something we care about.

At one end of the spectrum is yelling anxiety. It can’t be ignored and insists on taking over just about anything else you might be thinking about or trying to do. It is relentless and exhausting.

At the other end of the spectrum is whisper anxiety. The hidden signs of whisper anxiety can seem almost normal despite being uncomfortable and therefore easier to ignore than yelling anxiety.

Yet these hidden signs of anxiety are still nudging us to notice them and pay attention – even though their messages are not clearly identifying themselves as anxiety.

Some of whisper anxiety’s typical forms include:

  1. Difficulty Sleeping
  2. Strange Dreams
  3. Using Anxiety-Based Vocabulary
  4. Over Apologizing
  5. Nail Biting, Nail Picking, Skin Picking, Hair Twirling
  6. Not Being Able To Sit Still
  7. Boredom
  8. Irritability
  9. Alcohol, Drugs, Comfort Food, Gaming, Sex
  10. Distraction Seeking
  11. Repetitive Thoughts
  12. Devoted Advance Planning
  13. Perfectionism
  14. Procrastination
  15. Escalated Emotions
  16. Uncomfortable Saying No (People Pleasing)
  17. “Catching” Stress And Anxiety From Others
  18. Social Avoidance
  19. Risk Aversion
  20. Intimacy Challenges

Taking note of odd habits, strange behavior, or compulsive thoughts can help clue us into our discomfort, and often point us in the direction of our anxiety. Anxiety, and especially the whispering kind, is always about being uncomfortable, but not in a way that’s overwhelming. These are the kinds of worries and internal conflicts that can be put on the “back burner simmering,” but not completely out of mind until addressed head on.

The discomfort we feel isn’t a bad thing. It can actually be considered a super-power. Whisper anxiety is our early detection mechanism that there is something not quite right. That there is something or someone we care about that needs our attention.

The challenge is to pay attention to the hidden signs of anxiety instead of brushing them off as unimportant or simply ignoring them. Anxiety always carries an important message for us.

When we are able to notice, listen to and address our whispering anxiety, we can prevent it from escalating. By channeling its motivation into solutions, we can “fix” the issue our anxiety is alerting us to.

By tending to low-grade anxiety and being aware of the hidden signs of anxiety to which we are most susceptible, we can move through our lives feeling more in control, and thus more comfortable.

Looking for more help in harnessing anxiety to maximize wellness ? Learn more about my book Hack Your Anxiety and access free tools to help you manage the fear and anxiety going around the world today.

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD