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Feeling Shaky: A Common Sign of Anxiety

Faiq Shaikh, M.D.
Feeling Shaky: A Common Sign of Anxiety

At its core, anxiety is essentially long-term stress. Every day you live with anxiety is a day that you're placing stress on your body, and both anxiety and stress create fairly common symptoms that can hurt your confidence in social situations and make it difficult to complete everyday tasks.

Feeling shaky is a common symptom of anxiety, and one that most people have experienced at some point in their life. It's sometimes possible for shaking to be the only symptom or one of the first symptoms people notice when they're feeling nervous. There are ways to reduce the shakiness, but unfortunately, surging adrenaline makes it hard to control completely.

Shakiness is Something You Need to Deal With in Advance

The reality of feeling shaky is that the best way to stop it is with prevention. There are techniques that can reduce anxiety at the moment, but once anxiety hits it's harder to control than if you never experienced that anxiety in the first place.

So while this article explores anxiety shaking, it helps to remember that anxiety itself is what needs to be controlled the most and with the right treatment the shakiness can go away. 

Why Do We Feel Shaky?

During periods of intense nervousness or anxiety, adrenaline/epinephrine is being pumped into the body as the "Fight or Flight" system is activated. It's the reason that we shake before a big test, or when confronted with a dangerous situation. Your body is essentially preparing to run.

When you suffer from anxiety disorders, your fight/flight system is acting out on its own. You're receiving these rushes of energy, and your body starts to shake as a result. But because you're neither fleeing nor fighting, your body simply continues to shake, and that can cause significant distress for those that are trying to maintain their calm.

Are There Different Types of Triggers?

There are different types of triggers. Or, in a way, different types of shaking. Yet all of them may be due to anxiety. Shaking may be caused by:

There are physical causes of shaking, but these tend to be less common. Also, during periods of stress, the body may deplete important resources, like water or magnesium. Sometimes the body shakes as a result of this nutrient loss. Only a doctor can confirm that you are feeling shaky because of anxiety and not because of some health problem. 

What to Do if You're Shaking

Many people want to stop feeling shaky during periods of anxiety. Feeling shaky makes it hard to show your confidence, and can cause you to feel uncomfortable in many of life's situations.

Controlling short term shakiness is harder than controlling anxiety in the long term. That's because once you start shaking, your anxiety is already activated. The only way to stop shaking with certainty is to get out of the anxiety-causing situation, and often that's not possible. You can't simply walk out of a first date because you're nervous, and unless you get comfortable, that shakiness will probably stay until the date is over.

But that doesn't mean that it's impossible. Here are some tips to control short term shaking, and afterward we'll review some of the ways to control long term anxiety:

Again, once you start feeling shaky, it's often hard to control it, because the adrenaline has already been released. You can also try to prevent feeling shaky at these types of events by desensitizing yourself to the fear. For example, if you get anxiety during public speaking, try to schedule public speaking events more often. Eventually they'll get boring to you, and you won't shake as much by the time an event matters.

Controlling Long Term Shaking and Anxiety

Shaking caused by anxiety disorders need to be stopped at the source. There are medications and treatments aimed at just stopping the shaking, but these are simply not going to be effective, because every time you have anxiety you run the risk of shaking.

So your goal needs to involve finding some way to stop anxiety permanently. You may not be able to control all shaking from short-term stresses - and you don't want to, because in general some minor degree of anxiety is actually very healthy - but you do want to be able to reduce the random shaking that you experience from anxiety and panic attacks.

In order to do this, you need to get at the heart of your anxiety. There is more than one type of anxiety, so there is also more than one type of treatment. The most common treatments include:

As with most mental health treatments, each person responds differently to each treatment option, and no one method will work for everyone. But anxiety is a 100% manageable condition when you find the right help, and if you are struggling with shakiness - or any anxiety symptom - it is worth it to try multiple treatments to see which one works for you.

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