Anxiety can be paralyzing. Often living with anxiety is like living without the ability to live for yourself. Your emotions are a deer in headlights, unable to move or get out of the way of the impending anxiety.
Anxiety can also be paralyzing physically. At least, there are symptoms that can make you feel like you're becoming paralyzed. In this article, we'll explore the physical and emotional paralysis of anxiety.
Are You Paralyzed From Anxiety?
Anxiety can make it hard for you to move your body. It can also paralyze you emotionally. If you're feeling paralyzed from anxiety, your anxiety is likely severe. Take our free 7 minute anxiety test to score your anxiety symptoms, compare it to others, and see what you can do to treat it.
Starting With Emotional Paralysis
Let's start with the idea of emotional paralysis, because this is something that everyone with anxiety deals with. If you haven't taken my free 7 minute anxiety test yet, make sure you also do so now.
Anxiety is caused by your body reacting to fear, even though a fear isn't present. In fact, you don't even need to have fearful thoughts to have anxiety. Anxiety itself is the activation of the fight or flight response - a response that your body uses to react to danger - and there are many people that experience these symptoms all the time, despite no irrational fears causing the anxiety to occur.
It's for this reason that anxiety is often considered a form of paralysis. It's not that it is a physical paralysis but a mental one, where an individual is unable to move forward or psychologically stop their anxiety from occurring. It's one of the reasons anxiety needs treatment - anxiety tends to fuel itself, and it becomes nearly impossible to step out of the way.
Many people refer to anxiety as paralyzing because no matter how hard they try, they don't feel they can do anything about their symptoms. It's important to note that anxiety treatments are effective, but it's something you need to commit to for a considerable amount of time.
Physical Paralysis-Like Symptoms
What's perhaps even more impressive about anxiety is that it can cause physical symptoms that resemble paralysis. The most common in facial paralysis, but there are those that feel they're struggling to move even their arms, legs, and more.
The latter of that is still fairly rare, but it does happen.
There are two reasons that this occurs. The first is hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is the act of breathing out too much carbon dioxide, so that your body responds by slowing down blood flow to certain areas of your body. This is what causes it to feel as though certain body parts can't move. They may start to tingle or feeling numb, causing you to feel as though your muscles aren't working.
The second issue is a bit more complex. Nearly every movement your body makes is automatic. Your mind sends signals down your nerves for how to move, and you move them. When you walk, even if you are thinking about walking, you generally don't focus on literally each muscle movement one at a time. Walking - like all movements - are unconscious and controlled by your mind.
When someone suffers from anxiety, they can focus so heavily on the way their body feels that they actually make these movements conscious. Essentially, your movements aren't controlled automatically anymore, and you have to think about each and every muscle you need to move in order to get them active. That's considerably harder than it sounds, and so in the end you may find that a particular muscle or area of your body isn't moving the way you expect it to.
These issues are never permanent and not something you need to concern yourself with too much, but they do make it feel as though something is wrong with your muscles or body, and that can increase your anxiety in the future.
Control Anxiety to Stop This Type of Paralysis
Remember, anxiety really is something you can beat. But you need to make sure you're committed to treatments and willing to do what it takes to combat your anxiety once and for all.
Take my anxiety test to find out more about how to beat your anxiety symptoms, and learn how your anxiety compares to others.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.