Physical Symptoms

How Anxiety Affects Your Hands

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated November 25th, 2020

How Anxiety Affects Your Hands

While anxiety has a mental component, it affects almost every part of your body. From head to toe, the physical symptoms of anxiety can be significantly disruptive, and in many cases, they can lead to fearing anxiety even more.

One of the most notable areas where the signs of anxiety are prevalent are the hands and fingers. Hands are affected by anxiety in a variety of ways, and in some cases, these issues can be significant enough that they lead to considerable distress and possibly even mild impairment.

Hands Are Affected in Different Ways

Every anxiety disorder is different. Panic disorder can have vastly different physical signs and symptoms than generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, despite all of them falling under the anxiety disorder category.

The following represent many of the different ways that hands can be affected by anxiety. Note that anxiety and stress are powerful conditions, and it's possible that your affected hand symptoms are not listed below:

  • Shaking - The most common hand symptom of anxiety is a restless shaking. This shaking has an obvious cause. When you suffer from anxiety, your body rushes with adrenaline - a hormone that gives your body a tremendous amount of energy, which - when unused - leads to physical agitation. That causes your hands and legs to shake, often visibly.
  • Tingling/Burning/Numbness - Another symptom of anxiety that is more common with panic disorder is a tingling sensation in the hands and fingers. This sensation is largely due to an anxiety symptom is known as "hyperventilation" - the act of breathing too quickly or breathing out too much carbon dioxide. Without carbon dioxide, the body restricts blood flow to the extremities, which results in the same feelings as when your hands fall asleep.
  • Trouble Moving - Hyper-awareness is also a problem with anxiety disorders. Most of your body's movements are automatic. But when you have anxiety, you may accidentally make those automatic movements more difficult. This can make it feel as though your hands and fingers aren't doing what you want them to, and it's especially noticeable when typing.
  • Restlessness - Sometimes anxiety can cause your hands to simply feel restless. Some people feel they need to put something in their hands; others feel they need to do something in their hands. The physical restlessness of anxiety is well known, and it can manifest in many different ways.
  • Cramping - Finally, while less common, some people find that their hands exhibit signs of cramping. This is likely due to the combination of muscle tension and dehydration that is common in those with anxiety.

Symptoms affecting the hands are not unusual for people with anxiety. Having any of these symptoms is a good sign that you may benefit from treating your anxiety directly. 

Temporary Relief from Affected Hands

The key way to temporarily relieve any hand problems is to target the symptom directly. Sometimes, all you need to do is take a break - move your hands around so that they feel calmer. There is no immediate way to stop shaking hands without burning off adrenaline, but if they're causing you anxiety then your best bet is to get up and move around so that you burn off some of the excess energy and improve blood flow to your extremities.

Those that are hyperventilating need to gain control of their breathing. Slow down your breathing dramatically. Don't worry about expanding your chest or trying to get a deep breath - remember, even though hyperventilation may cause you to feel like you need more air, it's actually a lack of carbon dioxide that leads to hyperventilation. So take slow breaths, hold at the peak, and help your body regain its carbon dioxide levels.

None of these are permanent treatment. If you want to truly treat your anxiety and along with it your related hand symptoms, then you also need to make sure that you learn to manage your anxiety in the long-term. 

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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