Can Anxiety Symptoms Change?

Written by Jim Folk
Last updated May 9, 2022

can anxiety symptoms change and shift

Can anxiety symptoms change? For instance, can you have the same symptoms for months and suddenly get new symptoms?

Yes, it’s common for anxiety symptoms to change over time, such as suddenly getting new symptoms for no apparent reason.

It’s also common for one symptom or set of symptoms to change to another symptom or set of symptoms.

Most people with anxiety disorder notice their anxiety symptoms change and shift over time.

For instance, we often hear, “Just as I was getting used to and unafraid of the symptoms I had, they changed, and I have to get used to and unafraid of the new ones. It seems this never ends where I’m having to adjust to new symptoms just as I’m getting used to the old ones.

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I (Jim Folk) experienced this, too, during my years with anxiety disorder! When I finally stopped reacting to the first batch of symptoms, they changed, and I had to start all over again with the new batch.

Again, changing and shifting symptoms is a very common experience for anxiety disorder. Here’s why anxiety symptoms can change and shift over time:

Anxious behavior activates the stress response, causing many body-wide changes that prepare the body for emergency action.

This survival reaction is often referred to as the stress response, fight or flight response, fight, flight, or freeze response (since some people freeze like a deer caught in headlines when they are afraid), or the fight, flight, freeze, or faint response (since some people faint when they are afraid).[1][2]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about the many changes caused by the stress response.

Since stress responses push the body beyond its balance point (equilibrium), stress responses stress the body. A body that’s stressed can exhibit symptoms of stress.

Therefore, anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. They are called anxiety symptoms because anxious behavior is the main source of the stress that stresses the body, creating symptoms.

Furthermore, chronic activation of the stress response, such as from overly anxious behavior, can cause the body to become chronically stressed, which we call stress-response hyperstimulation since stress hormones are powerful stimulants.[3][4]

Chronic stress can cause chronic symptoms – symptoms that persist even though you might not feel anxious or stressed at that moment.

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body.

Because of the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body, hyperstimulation can cause the body to act erratically at times, causing a change and shift in symptoms.

Recovery Support members can read the section “Hyperstimulation And Its Effects” in chapter 14 for an in-depth description of the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body.

While some people might not experience a change in symptoms, many do. Changing and shifting symptoms is a common anxiety disorder phenomenon.

Nevertheless, since anxiety symptoms, whether acute or chronic, are symptoms of stress, we don’t have to worry about them or when they change. They will subside when we eliminate the body’s elevated stress.

We can eliminate stress in many ways. For instance, you can read our article “60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress” to get started. As the body recovers from elevated stress, it stops sending symptoms, including symptoms that change.

If you are having difficulty with anxiety, hyperstimulation, or their symptoms, connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome issues with anxiety.

Overall, changing and shifting anxiety symptoms is a common anxiety disorder experience. Most people notice this during their struggle with anxiety disorder. Therefore, it’s nothing to be concerned about.

NOTE: We recommend discussing all new, changing, persisting, and returning symptoms with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms. If your doctor attributes your symptoms solely to anxiety, you can be confident there isn’t a medical or medication cause.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our Anxiety Frequent Questions archive.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Can Anxiety Symptoms Change?

References:

1. "The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis." DUJS Online. N.p., 03 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 May 2016.

2. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018.

3. Elbers, Jorina, et al. "Wired for Threat: Clinical Features of Nervous System Dysregulation in 80 Children." Pediatric Neurology, Dec 2018.

4. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.