Chronic Anxiety Symptoms: the Good! the Bad! and the Ugly!

He is experiencing what most of us call butterflies in his stomach today.  You see it is a big day…

Growing up he was the skinny kid, often picked on and left out.  When it was time to play dodge ball, he was usually the second to last picked for a team.  The balls flew often and hard in his direction….. Luckily he wasn’t a big target.

His father was fit and smart.  The kind of guy that was always slightly overdressed and exactly who he wanted to be.

When he turned 13, he hit a growth spurt.  He grew six inches in one year alone.  This led to aches and pains, but more friends and glances from the opposite sex.  In his senior year he led the Knights football team to the state championship game.

He definitely felt butterflies in his stomach that day!

Today, he has his first job interview since graduating college and the butterflies are back.  What’s with those butterflies?  And why did he perform well in the game and in his interview?

The Healthy Alternative to Stress: Concern

When most of us think of chronic stress symptoms, we think of awful scenarios: getting rejected by our loved ones, tripping and falling while walking down the aisle, and living a life alone and unhappy.

In reality, Stress is more like wine and chocolate.  It is good for you in small doses, but terrible for you in larger quantities.

Small amounts of concern can help you perform at your peak level.  That’s why our friend above was able to perform so well.  Research has shown that your performance will increase with small amounts of concern compared to none at all.

It can also help you when facing perceived danger.  When concerned, you get highly aroused and experience rapid breathing, increased heart rate and sweating.  In these situations, anxiety throws you into the fight or flight response often helping you avoid potential harm.

Chronic Stress Symptoms:  The Bad

When stress becomes severe, or part of your everyday life, it brings along with it terrible symptoms.

Research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health has shown that stress is the number one mental health problem among American women and is second only to alcohol and drug abuse by men.  There are over 100 symptoms associated with anxiety.

Common short-term Stress Symptoms include:

  • Heart Rate Increases
  • Blood Pressure Rises
  • Digestions Halts
  • Muscle Tension
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Mood Swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Desensitization
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability or Anger
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Fear of Being “Crazy”
  • Jaw Pain
  • Skin Rash
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Feeling of a Lump in the throat
  • Chest Pain
  • Hyperactivity
  • Insomnia
  • Racing Thoughts


Long-Term Chronic Stress Symptoms include:

  • All of the Short Term Symptoms
  • Elevated Levels of Cortisol
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Weight Gain
  • Suppression of the Immune System
  • Vulnerability to Ulcers
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Damage to Blood Vessels
  • Decreased Work Productivity
  • Difficulties in Interpersonal Relationships


With severe stress, fear and worry overcome all other emotions.  Sometimes the source of this uneasiness is not always known or recognized, which can add to the distress you feel.

The Age of Stress

Right now we are in the Age of Stress.  We live in an unlimited information age.  We are constantly bombarded by bad news.  Turn on your T.V., open up a newspaper or surf the net and you’re bombarded with disturbing images and stories. We begin to wonder if we are safe anywhere.

Most of us are working long hours in jobs that are unsatisfying and tedious.  We are working to pay the bills, not fulfill our passions.  And that’s the lucky few of us that have a job!

Go on vacation?  Not most of us.  Well, we might not go into the office, but we are constantly checking our phones.  Even on vacation or at home we are always on the go and always reachable.  We feel pressure to do these things because we believe we have to, not because we want to.

Recognizing the Influence of Stress in Your Life

The first step in overcoming stress is recognizing it’s symptoms and it’s influence in your life.  Fortunately, many stress related symptoms can be avoided or ended once you take the correct small actions to conquer stress.  The body has a remarkable ability to restore itself to healthy functioning.

Action Questions

  1. What do you like about stress?  How does stress help you? (ex. You believe it helps you produce at work, get things done, etc..)
  2. What concerns do you have about stress in your life?
  3. Are there other problems that stress teams up with in your life?  (ex. Depression, stress, money issues, children, in-laws, etc…)
  4. What concerns do those close to you have about the stress in your life?
  5. How does stress get you to act differently than you normally would? (ex. snap at your co-workers, make lots of excuses, not try or do something, perform poorly etc..)
  6. What does the voice of stress whisper in your ear?  How is it so convincing?  (ex. I can’t stand this, I must perform perfectly, he/she must like me, I must get this job etc…)
  7. Who in your life supports stress taking you over? (a boss, a friend, a family member etc….)
  8. Where did you learn how to respond to stress?
  9. How has stress affected your relationship with yourself?
  10. 80% of your stress is caused by 20% of the actions, thoughts, events and people in your life.  Identify the toxic 20% of your life that leads to the greatest amount of stress?


Say Yes to Love,

Dr. Michael Arn & Dr. Ashley Arn