5 non verbal communication cues that show if someone is anxious

If you suspect that your friend or coworker is struggling with anxiety, they might express it in various ways.  While they might tell you verbally, you can also tell by their body language or behavior. Although everyone is different, there are common nonverbal communication cues you might pick up on, including the following five.

1. They are shaking and seem jittery

You might notice that your colleague seems jittery, or maybe they appear to be shaking. Commonly, those with anxiety will tap their feet, sit with a clenched fist or will sometimes have a hard time sitting still.

In some cases, you might notice that they seem to be trembling, when in a situation that causes them to be anxious.

Or, if you can’t see it, you might be able to hear it in their voice when they are speaking. Shaking is common as it is apart of the fight or flight response. While it isn’t always noticeable by others, if you know someone well, you might be able to see the shakiness in their hands or legs.

2. They are struggling to concentrate

Another sign of anxiety is the difficulty to concentrate or focus.

Sometimes this might happen when they are performing a task that causes anxiety, or even beforehand. For example, if your coworker is anxious over a performance review, or presentation, you might notice that they are struggling to concentrate hours before their meeting.

3. They appear to be sweating

Sweating is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety and can range in severity. In some cases, this might be visible to you. If you notice that your coworker is sweating, followed by other symptoms, they might be facing anxiety, or they might feel stressed by the situation they are in.

Oftentimes, if they are anxious about their appearance, the excessive sweating can make them sweat more. For those who struggle with anxiety, sweating is a vicious cycle and shouldn’t be pointed out by others as it can and will most likely make the situation worse for them.

4. They seem to be irritable or on edge 

When in a situation where anxiety is running high, your co-worker might seem irritable, or on edge. Oftentimes, those who deal with anxiety, struggle to sleep or face a sense of nervousness and adrenaline. When this is the case, your friend or colleague might come across snappy, or irritable.

While this can be a verbal cue, you might notice a change in their mood or in their behavior, too. If you see that your coworker is pacing, seems restless or jumpy, anxiety might be the root of the cause. 

5. They might avoid participating 

If your coworker or friend seems to be avoiding a situation, it might be because of nerves or anxiety.

While it might be hard to spot the first time, if they continuously back out of a specific event or situation, you might notice that they are avoiding a stressor due to anxious thoughts or worry. 

This is called Avoidance Coping, which is commonly an attempt to escape from a situation or stressor.

How you can help

When someone you know is struggling with anxiety, they might not come out and say it to you directly. Sometimes this comes from a place of embarrassment, or the conversation itself can trigger their anxious thoughts. However, it is helpful to let your colleague know that they can talk to you about their anxiety if ever needed.

Since anxiety can be tricky to understand, we suggest checking out a few other articles that address the topic, head on: Yale researchers say this is the key to help reduce stress and anxiety, 5 tips for overcoming social anxiety, or New study reveals the secret to dealing with anxiety.