Before I started delving deeper into my anxiety research on my own journey, I had no idea of the absolute vast number of symptoms anxiety could cause; anxiety sore throat being one!
Sure, I had been dealing with many awful physical and mental symptoms for as long as I could remember, but health anxiety had me in its very firm grip.
This meant that I honestly thought that my symptoms were a result of some condition or illness that the doctor had yet to discover.
I lived in constant fear, I did not feel safe or relaxed for one second. My only peace was when I was able to sleep at night.
During my very worst days, I felt permanently sick. I had what felt like never-ending allergy-type symptoms. I was always tired, off balance and just felt generally unwell.
One thing I’d say a lot is “I just don’t feel right, I can’t explain it.”
These allergy symptoms would intensify at times and I’d immediately start worrying that I was coming down with a flu or virus, and start to analyze every single symptom more than ever.
As a health anxiety sufferer, getting sick was my biggest fear. Just a common cold would increase my anxiety and that knot in my stomach would get even tighter as my brain went down its rabbit hole of horrifying thoughts.
In this article, I’d like to share more with you about the exact flu-like symptoms I’d experience, how it relates to anxiety, and how you can start to manage it if you are also experiencing the same.
These were my flu-like symptoms:
- Constant excess mucus (it would usually be worse right as I woke up and I’d often wake up shaky, with a racing heart and nausea as a result of swallowing all this mucus, gross.)
- An itchy, tickly throat that would sometimes lead to an “anxiety cough” (the horror when this happened. My brain would go “You’re coughing! It’s confirmed, you are sick! Let’s hope you live.”)
- I was tired constantly. The extreme fatigue I dealt with had me very worried that I was ill, because it was one symptom listed under every kind of medical thing.
- I would often have intense all over muscle pain that felt like I had worked out, even when I hadn’t. Muscle pain was always listed as a flu symptom.
- I’d shake sometimes so badly from panic, that my teeth would literally chatter, and I’d worry that I had a fever. I once woke up right into a panic attack and was trembling so much that I was holding my body tightly to try and make it stop. I had this awful sense of impending doom and felt like I was about to die, it was terrible.
- Sometimes I’d even get burning in my throat and keep swallowing to “check” if my throat was sore and if this meant I was sick. I know many people do this!
- A tightness in my throat, *feeling like something was stuck that would make eating difficult and cause me to panic.
* Globus sensation
Before I go any further, I’d like to mention something here that I know so many of you struggle with.
This last point, the feeling like something was stuck in my throat, can be due to tight throat muscles as we tend to clench everything up when we are anxious, often without even realizing it.
However, there is also something called Globus sensation that can cause this horrible sensation too.
It’s a feeling that something is lodged in your throat. It may feel like a lump or as if something is physically stuck. Your throat may feel tight and you may even experience a choking sensation.
Globus sensation is painless but very uncomfortable and it has been linked to high stress and anxiety. When you are able to find ways to manage excess stress, it usually clears up on its own.
When you’re anxious and feeling just “off” 24/7, it’s very hard to muster the strength to be interested in anything. This can make life incredibly difficult, because you can’t focus on your work or be present with the ones you love. All you’re thinking is “Am I sick, how much longer do I have?” on and on it goes until you feel like you are losing your mind.
The allergy fears start to creep in…
A major fear among health anxiety sufferers (my hand is way up in the air too) is suddenly developing a life-threatening allergic reaction.
This can be to something new or to something you have tried a million times before, logic does not apply here.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I have had shrimp or peanut butter (foods I have had my whole life) and suddenly started worrying that I could be allergic.
One time I had shrimp and this intrusive thought popped in “what if you have suddenly developed an allergy?” and instantly my stomach clenched up, my heart raced and I swear I felt tingling in my lips and face.
Then I felt like I couldn’t get a breath and had a bit of a panic moment as I tried to slowly breathe and bring myself back into the present.
This is how powerful our minds truly are. If we are focused enough on something, we can literally start experiencing symptoms from our thoughts alone.
Many of you have also let me know how you have supplements that sit on your kitchen counter for ages before you get the courage to take them and I fully relate to this.
I talk about magnesium all the time, because it is my favourite supplement, but I totally understand the fear of starting anything new.
Sometimes it helps to learn more about it and what it can do, you can learn all about magnesium, the form I recommend and dosages here.
So looking back now, there are some things I wish I had known about anxiety and how it can cause all these scary symptoms, thoughts and sensations.
How does anxiety relate to these flu-like symptoms and what can you do about it?
Understand that anxiety CAN and DOES contribute to flu-like sensations
First and foremost, anxiety absolutely can cause all of the symptoms I have listed above.
If someone had just told me this, even without me understanding why, I feel like I would have immediately felt some sense of relief.
In all of my research, I always saw the common “racing heart, shallow breathing, shaky hands” come up as manifestations of anxiety, never full on flu-type symptoms.
As a result, I spent a lot of time very confused and scared and convinced there was something very wrong with me.
Understand WHY anxiety contributes to allergy and flu-like symptoms
So you know that anxiety can cause these symptoms, but now it’s natural to ask how and why exactly anxiety causes symptoms that don’t really make all that much sense.
When we are anxious, stress hormone levels rise. When stress levels go up so does inflammation and internal inflammation can cause the body to produce excess mucus.
While inflammation seems like a bad thing, it’s simply your body’s natural response to stress.
Excess mucus makes it easier to expel toxins from your system, as well as protects against viruses and bacteria.
When you are chronically stressed, however, and dealing with constant excess mucus, you are going to deal with all of the symptoms I mentioned, including congestion, a tickle in your throat, fatigue and even nausea.
Find out your triggers
We all have triggers that can cause stress hormones to rise and contribute to the inflammation cycle.
Of course, simply being anxious is a trigger on its own so we need to break it down further and figure out what is contributing to our anxiety.
Some triggers are obvious, such as stress before a big presentation or going through a breakup, whereas others are not so easy to identify right away.
Here were just 3 of biggest triggers that kept me stuck in an anxiety loop for many years:
- Food sensitivities that I wasn’t aware of
- Not addressing childhood trauma, finding ways to distract myself from pain
- Financial stress
Learn how to manage inflammation
When stress goes down, inflammation goes down, which is why it’s so important to start better understanding your triggers. I go deep into inflammation in my first book, where I share how it affected me and everything that helped me start managing it.
Here are a few ways you can reduce inflammation in your body:
- Limit “triggers” such as dairy, sugar, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol.
- Sip on herbal teas throughout your day. Spearmint with a dash of apple cider vinegar is my go-to for an irritated throat. I also love rooibos, chamomile and lemon balm.
- Make deep breathing a daily ritual. Deep breathing can instantly lower cortisol levels. When you make it a daily ritual, you won’t believe the long-term benefits!
- Consider helpful supplements such as magnesium glycinate, a high-dose B-supplement and adaptogens to help your body better manage stress. Ashwagandha is one of my favourite adaptogens. Use code HONESTLYHOLISTIC to save on these Ashwagandha gummies.
- Pay close attention to any areas of your life that need addressing/balancing out. It doesn’t matter how healthy you are if you aren’t tackling heavier issues that may be keeping you stuck. The body holds onto trauma and it will keep coming up again and again.
- Move your body every day. Walking and yoga are my favourite ways to get my blood flowing, but find something that works for you.
- Get enough sleep. Okay, this is easier said than done, especially if you are like me; someone who has never had the best relationship with sleep. Dimming the lights, reading before bed, my magnesium supplement and a golden milk all help tremendously to help me fall asleep faster and enjoy more quality sleep. I love the GOLD powder from Organifi, which includes lemon balm, my favourite herb. Use my code TAMRYN to save on any of their products😉
It’s important to always remember that anxiety is incredibly physical. There’s often emphasis put on how it can make you feel; scared, hopeless, defeated, but anxiety is as physical as it is mental and emotional.
Another thing that’s important to remember and to try to understand is that not all doctors understand anxiety. I have explained my symptoms to doctors before, only to have them look at me in confusion or immediately prescribe meds without really helping me to get down to the root causes.
When a doctor doesn’t understand the weird symptoms we are trying to describe, it’s natural that our panic will only intensify.
I was fortunate in South Africa to have a doctor who understood anxiety well and would always explain things to me calmly when I arrived, once again worrying about some new thing.
You don’t have to take the opinion of just one doctor, in fact, you may consider seeing a naturopathic doctor, as they will help you to dig a little deeper and recommend supplements, herbs and natural remedies that can help.
Not all friends or family will understand anxiety too. Let’s be honest, how can you fully understand unless you go through it yourself?
During my worst days I felt so weird, so “off” I wasn’t even sure how to put it into words as I didn’t even understand what I was feeling, let alone try and have someone else understand.
My best advice, for family and friends who are willing to learn and support you, is to share blogs like this with them or share my instagram posts that apply to you, where they can scroll through the comments and see other people’s experiences too. Sometimes this can really help when it’s hard for us to put it into our own words.
Last, but not least, please, please do your very best to stay away from Google and online forums. I experienced a bout of health anxiety again recently and am ashamed to say that I ended up on reddit, but it didn’t really help. Google and Reddit are not doctors and you will end up stuck in a cycle of addiction as you keep searching for that one bit of reassurance that will end your obsessing, but it never comes.
I wrote my Anxiety A to Z Encyclopedia so you can still satisfy that sometimes overwhelming compulsion to look up a symptom, but without experiencing the horror Google brings.
I am not a doctor and of course, can’t diagnose you so it is always important to see yours if there is something worrying you.
When I talk about symptoms I am always talking about them in relation to anxiety and stress only, not due to medical conditions.
I talk about ways allergy fears have shown up for me in my own health anxiety journey, as well as ways health anxiety affected me last year on my latest podcast episode.
I also have a separate episode where I delve deeper into scary throat symptoms and how to manage them.
I hope this post has helped to bring some comfort for you today if you have been experiencing any of this and living in constant fear.
Anxiety is very real and so are the physical symptoms, but healing IS possible. Sending so much love your way.