Anxiety can produce many unusual and distressing physical sensations. In some cases, these sensations are merely irritating. In other cases, these sensations can actually cause a great deal of stress.
One of the symptoms of anxiety caught somewhere in between is muscle spasms. Muscle spasms can be irritating to some, incredibly distressing to others, and are a common symptom of anxiety that can be both severe and mild depending on the person.
Are You Experiencing Spasms?
Strange spasms and twitches can be a very clear sign of more severe anxiety. If you haven't yet, take our free 7 minute anxiety test to score your anxiety severity, and receive your personalized anxiety profile.
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Spasms Occur at Any Time
Spasms are a complicated sign of anxiety. Unlike many other anxiety symptoms, they appear to occur even when you do not have any anxiety at all. That's actually one of the reasons that some people get more anxiety when they have spasms - it surprises them and makes them feel as though something must be wrong with their nerves or muscles.
Spasms can occur with any type of anxiety, but are more common in severe anxiety than intense anxiety. Click here to take my anxiety test and see where your anxiety ranks and how to cure it.
Causes of Spasms
Spasms are involuntary muscle movements, sometimes referred to as "twitches." Cramps are also a type of muscle spasm, but generally when people talk about spasms with anxiety, they're talking about something that makes their body twitch uncontrollably.
Spasms can affect any part of the body, including:
Many people have experienced spasms at night after a considerable amount of walking, exercise, or when they're about to dream. These types of spasms are unrelated to anxiety, but those with anxiety are more prone to believing that their spasms are anxiety related. It's important to keep that in mind: some spasms occur naturally with no cause at all, or because of dehydration or exercise. Not all natural spasms relate to anxiety, but many people with anxiety think that their spasms are anxiety or health related.
The exact mechanism that causes spasms is not entirely known. Possible causes of anxiety spasms include:
- Adrenaline Adrenaline excites the nerves, and is released in large amounts when you experience stress and anxiety. It's likely that adrenaline is activating the muscles which, in turn, causes the muscles to fire at random times.
- Nerve Excitation Similarly, it's likely that anxiety creates some type of nerve stimulation. What that stimulation may be is not entirely clear, especially since twitching may occur when the person does not experience any anxiety, but it's possible that the nerves or brain experience changes in nutrition, hydration, or chemical rate in a way that causes them to react.
- Muscle Stress or Tension Anxiety also puts a great deal of stress on the muscles themselves. It's one of the reasons that muscle pain is a common anxiety symptom. Since overexertion of muscles can lead to twitching, it's possible that this causes a muscle to randomly twitch uncontrollably.
Even though the causes of this type of twitching is not entirely known, and even though it can affect any part of the body (often the fingers and arms are the most effective, but even eyelids have been known to twitch), anxiety causing these issues is entirely normal.
How to Control the Twitching
The twitching can often be very disruptive - sometimes beyond "annoying" - and many people find that the spasms cause them further stress about their health or their anxiety.
Controlling these twitches isn't easy, because your nerves are automatic and when they fire they cannot be stopped. Controlling your entire nervous system could actually be dangerous if it were possible, because you need to make sure that your nervous system works automatically in order to keep yourself alive.
But there are some ways to potentially decrease the frequency and severity of these spasms. Ideas include:
- Get Up and Move Exercise and movement, even though it causes spasms in some cases, can also reduce some of the energy that is sent to your muscles that may be causing these types of spasms. Strongly consider getting up, moving around, and shaking the spasms out to see if that helps.
- Hydrate, Electrolytes, Magnesium There are several mild health issues that can lead to spasms, and what's interesting is that there is some evidence that anxiety can contribute to all of them. For reasons that are unclear, anxiety may reduce hydration, electrolyte, and magnesium levels in the body. All 3 of those have been shown to create spasms, so making sure you're getting enough of those can be helpful.
- Warm Bath Warm baths act as a natural muscle relaxant, so if your muscles are creating your spasms it may help. A long, warm bath softens the skin and the muscles, and should give you the opportunity to reduce some of your anxiety as well.
But since spasms will always continue to occur if you still suffer from anxiety, you're going to need to make sure that you're also committed to controlling your anxiety forever.
I've worked with hundreds of people suffering from regular spasms and helped them all control their anxiety. Start with my free anxiety test today. Use it to get a better idea of how your anxiety works and what you can do to cure it.
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Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.