Physical Symptoms
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How Anxiety Can Make Your Legs Feel Like Jelly

Jenna Jarrold, MS, LAC, NCC
How Anxiety Can Make Your Legs Feel Like Jelly

Anxiety, despite what many think, actually does have a “useful” purpose. While anxiety comes with many difficult symptoms, it also signals to your body when you should be afraid (when your "fight/flight" response should be activated). This physiological reaction occurs when a harmful event, attack, or threat is perceived.

Unfortunately, many people experience life with their fight or flight system constantly activated.  For these individuals, the physiological reaction occurs regardless of whether something actually triggers it or not.  This is hard, as the fight or flight response is quite strenuous on the body.  One of the symptoms that many complain about is weak legs, or "jelly legs."

With jelly legs, standing can feel unusual and may be accompanied by dizziness or balance issues.  The dizziness and/or balance problems may be related to the inherent leg weakness, or be an additional symptom of the overall anxiety. 

What Creates the Jelly Leg Feeling?

There are several factors that may contribute to the feeling of jelly legs. One of the most common is a result of the adrenaline produced in response to the physiological response of “fight or flight.”

When adrenaline rushes through the body, blood goes to the places that your body feels need it most. That means that your blood is rushing to your heart, your brain, and possibly various muscles, and to do that it rushes out of your legs and makes them feel more like jelly.

Other Causes of Jelly Leg

The sensation of “jelly legs” may also be attributed to the muscle weakness that occurs when the body is flooded with adrenaline. Adrenaline causes the muscles to be in a constant state of tension, and eventually, they will become weak. Also, anxiety can cause changes to one’s breathing that can result in weakened muscles and changes in blood pressure.

How to Tell the Difference Between Anxiety Weak Legs and Something More Serious?

Many people suffering from jelly legs worry they are experiencing a more serious physical problem. While weak legs can be a scary feeling (in that it may feel difficult to stand), jelly legs are fairly common. Nonetheless, it is always appropriate to speak to a medical professional if there is a concern. A doctor can diagnose or rule out any potential underlying health issues. Yet, certain factors may help in determining if the jelly legs are a result of anxiety, or a more significant, underlying condition: 

The problem with anxiety and jelly legs (along with the other difficult symptoms of anxiety) is in the difficulty determining the cause of the symptoms. Nevertheless, there are some general differences between anxiety and a more serious, underlying health condition that could help one recognize whether or not his or her experience is anxiety related.

How to Cure and Prevent Jelly Legs

Anxiety, while at times overwhelming, is treatable.  There are ways to manage anxiety in the moment as well as long term treatment options.

Some tools and skills to help manage anxiety in the moment include:

These aren't long term solutions, but in the moment, using these skills may help decrease the intensity of the anxiety and alleviate some of the challenging symptoms, including weak legs. 

Long-term treatment options may include:

There are various approaches to managing anxiety long-term.  Some of these approaches may help decrease one’s vulnerability to anxiety altogether, or lessen the intensity of the anxiety when it is experienced.  

Generally, the best place to start is by thoroughly researching anxiety and getting an idea of which symptoms are effecting you and how.

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