From CalmClinic Website
Anxiety and the Five Senses
Every one of your senses can be affected by anxiety in different ways. Anxiety can also cause more long term issues, where you start to experience unusual physical symptoms that don’t generally fall under the category of anxiety.
Rather than look over how anxiety affects the senses in a broader sense, let’s take a look at each of the five senses individually and discuss some of the most common anxiety symptoms that falls under these categories.
How Anxiety Affects Touch
Sensory problems related to touch are common, although often the person suffering from them doesn’t realize that it’s a sensory problem. Anxiety can cause numbness and tingling, especially in the limbs, and some people experience burning sensations on their skin. These are often caused by hyperventilation, which makes people lose some feeling in these areas. Anxiety may also cause people to experience hot or cold, especially when they come into contact with things that differ in temperature.
Many people also develop a sensitivity to pain and discomfort, and others experience a positive touch in a negative way, such as when you hold hands with someone. In some cases this is caused by actual changes in your body related to touch. In others it may simply be caused by feeling frustrated and irritable as a result of anxiety.
How Anxiety Affects Hearing
Anxiety may also cause sensory problems related to hearing. There is some evidence that anxiety can cause auditory hallucinations, although these are fairly uncommon and are usually a loud pop more than anything.
However, anxiety can make harmless issues like tinnitus worse. It can also make it more difficult to pay attention to what’s going on around you, due primarily to distractions but also the way anxiety overwhelms the mind. It can also make the noises you hear more grating, although this is less physical and more mental.
How Anxiety Affects Vision
Vision is often affected by anxiety. The adrenaline released by anxiety dilates the pupils, and when the pupils are dilated you may experience any number of symptoms:
- Brighter lights and light flashes.
- Blurry vision.
- Tunnel vision.
There is also some evidence that anxiety can cause eye snow and double vision, though these haven’t yet been researched. Anxiety stresses the eyes considerably, so you may also experience visual symptoms caused by eye fatigue.
How Anxiety Affects Taste
Taste can also be affected by anxiety, although it’s not clear how. There is some evidence that stress changes taste buds, so it’s likely that your mind is simply interpreting taste in strange ways.
Interestingly, some people report a metallic taste, others a salty taste, and others a lack of various types of tastes. It should also be noted that anxiety can cause excess salivation and acid reflux – both of which may also causes changes to your tastes. Anxiety may also cause you to become more sensitive to certain types of tastes.
How Anxiety Affects Smell
Finally, there’s also the sense of smell. Anxiety isn’t necessarily known to change the way you smell – although it certainly might. However, anxiety can cause several issues that can lead to a change in the smells you’re noticing:
- Sweating and Gas First and foremost, anxiety can alter how much you sweat, whether or not you’re experiencing indigestion, and so on. These naturally create their own smells that you then pick up on. The smells are there (meaning that your mind isn’t changing smells – the smells exist) but they are caused by anxiety indirectly.
- Sensitivity Anxiety also tends to make people more sensitive to bad smells. They may focus on them more or notice them more often. That gives the impression that there are more negative smells, when in reality the person is simply noticing them.
- Mucus Anxiety can also lead to a buildup of mucus. Mucus itself can have a smell, and it can also prevent smell in some cases.
From a different article:
2. Stress-response hyperstimulation
When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi-emergency readiness and stimulated state, since stress hormones are stimulants. A body that becomes stress-response hyperstimulated can exhibit super sensitive senses and nervous system hyper reactivity. Both factors can cause nervous system and sensory hypersensitivity.
Since the nervous system is THE system that is responsible for sending and receiving information, including sensory information, when the nervous system becomes hyperstimulated, it can become highly sensitive and reactive to stimulus, including sounds, movements, sensations, and smells.
Having a hyper reactive nervous system is a common consequence of stress-response hyperstimulation. As stimulation increases, so does the nervous system’s sensitivity and reactivity.
While this symptom can be bothersome, it’s not harmful. It’s just an indication of persistently elevated stress, and often, anxiety. (Not harmful? A rather bizarre assertion!)