You're feeling anxiety – maybe even a panic attack. You're sweating. You're getting hot and cold symptoms. Someone puts their hand to your head and tells you that you're burning up.
Now you're confused. You've always worried that something was wrong – that anxiety was not anxiety at all, but that you're sick and the doctors haven't figured it out yet. Now it appears to be confirmed, since you've developed a fever. But now you're left wondering – can anxiety cause fever?
Is Anxiety Creating a Fever?
Anxiety has a known effect on your body temperature, and during an anxiety attack you can feel yourself burning up. If you have severe anxiety, take our anxiety test to score your symptoms, compare it to others, and learn more about your personal anxiety.
See a Doctor – Never Assume Anxiety
If you've checked your temperature and you see that you have a fever, or you simply feel ill, see your doctor. Only a doctor can diagnose the cause of a fever and ensure that you're in good health. Even though anxiety causes a lot of different physical problems, anxiety is also generally harmless and a health issue is not. Never be afraid to visit a doctor if you're concerned.
But if your doctor has ruled out all of these issues or you know you suffer from anxiety, you need to seek help. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test here to find out more about treatment options.
Anxiety and Fever: A Complicated Relationship
The reality is that anxiety does not generally cause a fever. That's not to say it can't – many people report a low grade fever as a result of their anxiety, and stress does have a known impact on the body's ability to fight infections, so it wouldn't be a surprise to find out that stress has, in fact, caused a mild fever in your body.
But as far as whether or not that temperature is noteworthy, it is very, very rare for stress to cause anything other than a 99.0 F temperature, and body temperature can fluctuate throughout the day. During an intense panic attack, some people have been found to show a 99.5 fahrenheit temperature, but medical science is pretty mixed on this issue.
So yes, anxiety can in theory cause a fever, but it is not common. Usually when someone reports a fever from anxiety, they're reporting the "feeling" of having a fever without actually testing it. And anxiety does cause fever-symptoms:
- The feeling of having swollen glands (although they're not usually swollen).
- Extreme hot and cold sensations and fluctuations.
- Nausea, weakness, and general ill feeling.
All of the symptoms of a fever are there, but without the actual fever. Since few people actually check their temperature during a panic attack, most people that think they have a fever are doing so because they've experienced physical symptoms that resemble a fever.
If you do see a very mild fever that goes away when your anxiety is over, there's no need to panic. You may be one of the few that does develop a fever as a result of your anxiety attack. But it is not that common, which is why anyone that reports a fever – especially if it is over 99.5, or lasts for a long time – should contact a doctor and get the medical attention they need.
Other Potential Links Between Fever and Anxiety
Fever occurs when you're fighting an infection. Those with anxiety are more prone to reacting quickly to any changes in their physical health. It's possible that you are experiencing anxiety because you sense the illness, infection, or symptoms of a fever in ways that other people wouldn't notice until their illness became more pronounced.
Those with allergies, for example, may develop sinusitis (a mild infection) and generate a mild fever as a result. There are ample reasons you may have a mild fever, and while seeking treatment is always important, some of these reasons are harmless. If you're also someone that suffers from anxiety, it's not uncommon to worry that the fever is something more, or that it's linked to your anxiety symptoms. Rest assured that it often won't be, and it's simply a separate issue that needs its own attention.
What Should You Do If You Have a Fever?
If you notice that you have a mild fever, you have two options. The best choice is always to contact your doctor. If that doesn't work, wait for your anxiety to calm down and check your temperature again. If it's really related to an anxiety attack, then it should be gone by the time your anxiety has decreased. If not, it is likely you are fighting off a different infection and may benefit from antibiotics or other medicinal treatments.
If you are someone that is simply experiencing the symptoms of a fever without the fever itself (hot flashes, etc.) then rest assured you are not alone. Many people that suffer from anxiety attacks have bouts of physical symptoms that feel exactly like fighting a fever. Your best bet is to respond to your anxiety attacks directly.
First, take hold of your breathing to make sure that you're not hyperventilating. Hyperventilation drastically increases some of the symptoms that mimic a fever, and can increase your anxiety as well. If you're feeling ill, get up and walk around a bit too. Sometimes taking yourself out of your situation is valuable for controlling the anxiety.
Finally, commit to a long term treatment. I've helped thousands of people with fever-like symptoms treat their anxiety. Start off with my free anxiety test to get recommended options.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.