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The Connection Between Anxiety and Body Temperature

Daniel Sher, MA, Clin Psychology
The Connection Between Anxiety and Body Temperature

There is more to anxiety than just nervous thoughts. Anxiety causes significant physical symptoms. For example, some of these symptoms (such as a pounding heart and tensed muscles) are triggered by the activation of your fight or flight system. Others are triggered by how you behave in response to your anxiety (for example, trying to take faster breaths when you feel like you're hyperventilating, thus making the hyperventilation worse).

Some anxiety is normal and natural. Fearfulness can help keep you safe from harm. But when your fight or flight system is activated inappropriately, even when you haven't been confronted with a realistically threatening situation, that's when you may be suffering from a diagnosable anxiety problem. One of the symptoms that may accompany anxiety conditions is a rapid change in body temperature (although if you experience this symptom, that’s not necessarily enough to say that you have an anxiety disorder, as compared to an appropriate anxiety response). 

Rapid Hot and Cold and Anxiety

Anxiety is linked to body temperature changes in multiple ways, and in some cases, it's possible for a normal change in body temperature to trigger significant anxiety. 

These hot and cold sensations can be frustrating, and when they occur when you're trying to go to sleep or otherwise be comfortable, they can be very disruptive. There are many issues that lead to hot and cold sensations in the case of anxiety. These include:

Other issues can lead to changes in how anxiety affects your body temperature as well. Anxiety can lead to goosebumps, which may cool the body. Hyperventilation can also lead to body cooling. Anxiousness may also cause you to move too much, in the case of agitated pacing back and forth, for example. This may heat up your body further.

Preventing Anxiety Body Temperature Alterations

There are only some aspects of body temperature that you can control. Rapid cold chills, for example, are a specific part of your fight or flight response. They can't be directly controlled, but generally, they don't need to be since they tend to fade fairly quickly after the anxiety has faded.

But when you find that you're getting too hot or cold, and it's lasting for a long period of time, there are several things you can do:

You may even want to drink water as well, which can help control your body temperature from the inside instead of just focusing on the outside. Some people find that showers also help.

The Only Way to Cure Body Temperature Changes

Still, the most important thing to realize is that when anxiety is causing these changes to your body temperature, the only thing that is likely to stop them completely is something that addresses your underlying anxiety. That's why I highly recommend you seek out an anxiety treatment that focuses on your symptoms and addresses your individual needs.

Article Resources
  1. Marazziti, Donatella, Angela Di Muro, and Paolo Castrogiovanni. Psychological stress and body temperature changes in humans. Physiology & behavior 52.2 (1992): 393-395.
  2. Petruzzello, Steven J., Daniel M. Landers, and Walter Salazar. Exercise and anxiety reduction: Examination of temperature as an explanation for affective change. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology (1993). 
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