Physical Symptoms

How Anxiety Causes Sensations in the Fingers

  • Anxiety can affect the entire body, and that includes your fingers.
  • Finger symptoms may include pain, numbness/tingling, and spasms.
  • Many finger-related symptoms point to adrenaline or hyperventilation as the likely cause.
  • Anxiety can make someone more sensitive to “normal” finger sensations.
  • There are no finger-specific treatments, but there are ways to reduce hyperventilation and discomfort.
Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated March 1, 2021

How Anxiety Causes Sensations in the Fingers

Anxiety is the type of condition that is felt from head to toe. Literally. It's a condition that is characterized by many unusual sensations that in some cases are obviously the result of anxiety, and in other cases can cause fear as though something is unusually wrong.

Finger symptoms are somewhat of an in-between problem. Many of the symptoms of anxiety that affect the fingers are not what people typically think of when they think of anxiety, but because so few terrible diseases occur in the fingers, the symptoms only cause more anxiety when combined with other symptoms.

Never Your Only Symptom

One thing that is known about the finger symptoms of anxiety is that they're certainly not the only symptom. Many finger symptoms are the result of other issues that relate to anxiety, such as hyperventilation.

Finger symptoms come in many different shapes and sizes. But the most common symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Tingling/Numbness/Burning
  • Moving Issues/Spasms

People have reported other symptoms as a result of anxiety, such as "nerve firing" where the person's nerves in their finger feel like they're activated for no reason, but the three above are the most common.

Finger Pain

Finger pain is one of the most common complaints, but it's also one of the most complex. Beyond a few medical issues (such as arthritis), it is unusual to experience pain in the fingers (although anxiety can cause so many different sensations that it's certainly not unlikely for pain to occur). But what anxiety does cause is an oversensitivity to pain.

Indeed, anxiety - especially anxiety attacks - can create what's known as "hypersensitivity." This is when your mind is so in touch with the way your body feels that it notices every single sensation your body experiences and focuses on it to the point where the sensation appears to be amplified.

Hypersensitivity is actually one of the main reasons that those with health anxiety and panic attacks have trouble curing it without help - it's very difficult to turn off that sensitivity. You simply notice everything, and noticing everything causes more anxiety and makes the symptoms worse.

So bring that back to finger pain, there is a very good chance that what you're experiencing is actually normal finger pain. People get finger pain all the time from typing, playing sports, etc. But most people pay almost no attention to it because the pain is normal. Unfortunately, if you're hypersensitive, you always notice the pain, think about the pain, and amplify the pain. It's the nature of the condition.

Tingling, Numbness, and Burning

Another common issue is a tingling sensation in the fingers, often the same way your foot or leg feels when it's waking up after falling asleep. Some people experience more of a numbness, while others experience more of a burning sensation. This is normal - the sensation is experienced differently by different people.

Hypersensitivity can play a role here too, but there are usually two reasons that this occurs:

  • Adrenaline This is a less common reason, but still possible. When you have anxiety your body is going into fight or flight mode, and that means that adrenaline is coursing through your veins all the time. One of the effects of this system is to take blood away from unimportant areas and move it quickly through the heart. This can cause your fingers to be a bit colder, and may lead to tingling sensations.
  • Hyperventilation More common is hyperventilation, although this tends to affect those with panic attacks more than any other type of anxiety. Hyperventilation is an extremely common panic symptom, where a person breathes out too much carbon dioxide. Your body actually needs Co2, and so hyperventilation (breathing too fast or taking deeper breaths than you need to) can cause several symptoms, one of which is dilating your blood vessels and causing your fingers to tingle.

This type of finger problem is actually very common. Unfortunately, since many of those with anxiety attacks also develop health anxiety, they often worry they have some terrible disease like multiple sclerosis or diabetes, rather than the far more common panic attacks.

Moving Issues/Spasms

For some, the issue is a bit stranger. It's not necessarily a discomfort or a pain or a tingling. It's a feeling as though your finger is having spasms, or not moving exactly as you expect it to.

Spasms are the easiest to explain. Muscle spasms are the result of your muscles experiencing tension, which comes when you are under stress. Your muscles spasms are the result of nerves that fire at unusual rates due to the hormones involved in stress and the way they bother the nerve endings. At any moment your fingers can twitch or spasm, which can be disturbing but not otherwise dangerous.

Some people also find that their fingers don't move as easily as well, or feel almost foreign to them. This is another strange symptom of severe anxiety - normally natural processes start to feel unnatural, because the mind is so attuned to each movement that they are no longer as automatic as they used to be.

How to Overcome Finger Symptoms From Anxiety

Because all of these symptoms have different causes, the only way to cure all of them is to control your anxiety. Anxiety is the "disease" that leads to the development of these types of symptoms, and so overcoming that anxiety is the only way to stop them all. There are individual treatments:

  • Pain Normal painkillers and stretching are usually enough to reduce pain in the fingers and hands. Pain is still pain like any other, even when it comes from anxiety, so the same tools you would use to stop any type of pain generally work with your fingers.
  • Tingling Adrenaline can be reduced by waiting it out or going for a run. Hyperventilation can be solved by trying to breathe slowly so that you can regain your carbon dioxide levels. Take slow, controlled breaths breathing in for 5 seconds, holding for 2 seconds, and breathing out for at least 7 seconds. Fight the urge to take deeper breaths or breathe too quickly.
  • Movement If you're finding that your fingers don't feel like they're moving the way you expect, you might need to distract yourself so that you're not focusing too much on the way your fingers feel. A good strategy is simply to call someone. Talking to someone on the phone is very distracting and can help you focus less on each individual movement that you make.

These are some basic strategies you can use to try to manage your finger issues, but in general the only true cure is going to be to stop the anxiety that's causing them.  


Anxiety can cause finger issues through muscle tension, hyperventilation, and heightened awareness. Breathing slowly, taking pain killers, and exercising the fingers can help in some situations, but because it is an anxiety issue, treatment for anxiety will be more important.

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

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You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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