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Anxiety Causes Neurological Symptoms

Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC
Anxiety Causes Neurological Symptoms

For many with anxiety, there is sometimes a fear that their anxiety isn't anxiety. They fear that the doctors are missing something and that they are actually suffering from a dangerous and possibly even fatal position that is affecting their heart or brain.

There are two reasons fear persists for those with anxiety. First, anxiety causes fear-based thoughts, which inherently cause fear itself.  Second, anxiety, in some cases, can lead to heart and brain symptoms that can mimic actual physical conditions, diseases, and illnesses. In this article, we'll explore some of the many neurological symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety Severity and Neurological Symptoms

The severity of one’s anxiety plays a key role in the development of symptoms that can sometimes look nearly identical to neurological problems. Millions of people with anxiety have physical symptoms that resemble neurological diseases such as:

The symptoms of these neurological diseases can be so similar to those of anxiety that doctors sometimes need to run various tests to rule out the presence of a serious illness. Because anxiety truly does cause physical symptoms, medical advice is often needed to discern whether a person’s brain and nerves are healthy.

Examples of Neurological Symptoms From Anxiety

It could be argued that anxiety itself is a neurological symptom. After all, anxiety can change neurotransmitter levels in the brain causing them to send unusual signals to the rest of your body. And although anxiety causes no known neurological damage, it still creates symptoms such as:

These symptoms of anxiety may vary in severity and prevalence depending on the person, but often mirror what those with an actual neurological disorder may experience.

How to Tell the Difference Between Anxiety and Neurological Disorders

Unfortunately, there is simply no way to tell the difference between suffering from anxiety and suffering from a more serious neurological disorder. The symptoms can look extremely similar, and while some may have some minor differences (for example, de-realization is temporary, while a neurological disorder may be permanent or more long-lasting), the reality is there are often no differences.

This is why it is important to always see a doctor. Even though anxiety is extremely common, a doctor is the only way to accurately determine if a person does/does not have an underlying neurological disorder.  Once a doctor rules out any neurological problems, it is important to begin to take steps towards controlling the anxiety. Unmanaged anxiety will lead to continued neurological symptoms, and ultimately, more anxiety. 

In the extremely rare event that a person does have a neurological disorder, controlling anxiety is still important. Anxiety plays a significant role in not only happiness and overall wellbeing, but also in the success of medical treatments. If there is any reason to think that you have anxiety and not a neurological disorder, openly seeking help is incredibly important.

Article Resources
  1. Walters, Allan. Psychogenic regional pain alias hysterical pain. Brain 84.1 (1961): 1-18.
  2. Rolak, Loren A., and John O. Fleming. The differential diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The neurologist 13.2 (2007): 57-72. 
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