3 Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a negative emotional state that's made up of several easily recognizable facets. Recognizing it's the first step towards treating them and stopping them from negatively affecting sporting performance.
3 Symptoms of Anxiety

Last update: 24 April, 2021

Sporting performance can be seriously harmed by a state of anxiety. As such, recognizing the main symptoms of anxiety is something that every athlete should be able to do.

Anxiety has always been one of the most studied variables in sports psychology. One of the most famous lines of investigation is distinguishing between one-dimensional anxiety and multi-dimensional anxiety.

One-dimensional anxiety presents the stress or anxiety as a whole. By which we mean as if it were only one symptom. On the other hand, multi-dimensional anxiety is where several facets or signs make up the anxiety,

Currently, we understand anxiety as the latter: a combination of symptoms rather than just one dimension. For that reason, and given the importance of knowing how to control your nerves, below we explore the symptoms of anxiety.

What are the main symptoms of anxiety?

As we mentioned above, anxiety is a combination of several symptoms that affect the majority of the systems in the body. Recognizing them is a simple task if you know how to detect which situations are likely to cause you stress.

In addition to that, specialists have also created questionnaires that you can use to evaluate your levels of anxiety within a sporting context. Among those, the Competitive Anxiety Inventory (CSAI-2R) stands out for its easy application and shortness of length; completing it takes no more than 5 minutes.

1. Physical symptoms

First of all, we want to talk about the physical manifestations of anxiety. These usually appear the quickest, but they’re also easy to fight. Likewise, they’re the easiest ones to recognize, as we’ve all experienced these symptoms that we associate with stress at least once.

woman contemplating her game plan about to swim wearing swimming cap and bathing suit

Among these symptoms, we find the feeling of having a knot in your stomach, experiencing an increased heart rate, tachycardia, an increase in how much you sweat, and muscle tension. The most effective way of stopping these symptoms is to apply some relaxation techniques.

As a professional review by the University of Granma notes, people often use relaxation techniques to calm their fight or flight response.

2. Cognitive symptoms

Anxiety can also manifest itself in the form of negative thoughts about the future. These negative thoughts include doubts, insecurities, and a lack of self-confidence.

When it comes to facing a difficult situation you can use 2 strategies: one that concentrates on the present and trusts in the work you’ve already done; and the other is where you focus on all the possible situations and consequences.

The first isn’t just better at increasing your chances of success, but it can also help you to avoid feeling anxious. The future is something that still doesn’t exist. It’s possible to imagine it according to what the present tells us, but we can’t say for sure; unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances can always get in the way!

3. Behavioural symptoms

Lastly, when considering the main symptoms of anxiety, it’s possible to group together a set of responses that carry a lot of weight when talking about the origin, maintenance, and evolution of the emotion.

Normally, when a person feels anxious, they tend to avoid anything that causes a negative state. For example, an individual with a fear of needles will look away when they have to have a vaccine; or a person with a fear of change will avoid new situations and new challenges.

woman looking stressed at the camera with her hand on her head in gym clothes

Avoiding these situations helps to avoid short-term discomfort. However, over time it doesn’t do anything more than make the anxiety worse. It’s for that reason that in order to fight anxiety effectively, you have to gradually expose yourself to whatever it is that you fear. This procedure isn’t easy, so we recommend you talk to a professional who can guide and support you.

Now you know the main symptoms of anxiety, so fight them!

Up to a certain point, anxiety is useful and functional; it’s a way to advise a person to prepare themselves against danger. However, it can become problematic when you feel it in situations that aren’t actually threatening your integrity, like speaking in public or a sporting competition.

However, it’s not just about recognizing the symptoms that you should consider, it’s also important to know how to overcome them. Paralyzing anxiety or trying to hide your anxiety doesn’t help you at all. You have to directly work against situations that cause you stress and its physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms.

With all that we’ve said, the best advice we can give is that you work on the anxiety as soon as it appears. This way you’ll be able to avoid harming your sporting performance.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Escobar, D. S., y Callejas, T. W. (2019). El control de la ansiedad somática en atletas escolares de taekwondo (Revisión). Revista científica Olimpia, 16(56), 210-222.
  • Fernández, E. M. A., Río, G. L., y Fernández, C. A. (2007). Propiedades psicométricas de la versión española del Inventario de Ansiedad Competitiva CSAI-2R en deportistas. Psicothema, 19(1), 150-155.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.