Muscle weakness is one of the most frightening anxiety symptoms. Muscle weakness is the first sign of numerous health problems, and persistent weakness can lead to severe stress and health concerns, which only serve to make anxiety worse.
Numerous anxiety problems can cause muscle weakness. You should visit a doctor if you're concerned, but rest assured that your muscles may feel tired, fatigued, tingly or numb for completely natural, anxiety related reasons.
Is Your Muscle Weakness Anxiety?
The way you breathe, the way you walk, and the way you think with anxiety can all cause muscle weakness or tiredness.
Our free 7-minute anxiety test can see if your muscle weakness is anxiety related, compare your anxiety score with others, and help you learn more about your symptoms.
Anxiety Causes Muscle Weakness
The biggest problem with all anxiety symptoms is that they can create more anxiety. You should always discuss your problems with a doctor first. Let them rule out any underlying issues so that you can focus on your anxiety without worrying as much about what your muscle weakness means.
Yet it's extremely common for anxiety to cause muscle weakness. It's especially common if you have other anxiety symptoms that relate to the potential causes of muscle weakness. Before reading onward, take my free 7-minute anxiety test to get a better idea of these symptoms.
Muscle weakness is generally subjective. While some people do have problems standing or sitting, few are "testing" the muscle to see if the muscle is actually weaker. There are several different issues that lead to this perceived feeling of weakness. They include
- Hyperventilation When you breathe too quickly, or take in too much air, you hyperventilate. Hyperventilation is extremely common for those with anxiety, indicating that this is much more than a minor problem. Hyperventilation causes muscle weakness by reducing blood flow to the extremities. It's not dangerous, but it can cause your muscles to feel weak, tingly, or light, along with many other symptoms.
- Reduced Anxiety Blood Flow Anxiety itself also reduces blood flow to your muscles, albeit to a bit less of a degree. Anxiety rushes blood to your heart as part of the fight or flight response. This can cause your muscles to feel as though they've lost all of their energy, and make it a bit more difficult for you to go about your normal tasks.
- Muscle Tension and Fatigue Anxiety also leads to both muscle tension and muscle fatigue. This is due to the way stress tenses your muscles and tires your body. This can tire your muscles to such a degree that it feels as though they have less strength than they did previously.
- Perceived Weakness Finally, anxiety tends to make you over-sensitive to your body. This, in turn, takes away the "natural" movements of your body. Everything that you did unconsciously, like walking, now becomes something you're thinking mentally, and when you take something unconscious and move it conscious, it often becomes more difficult to do. This can make your muscles feel weak despite no apparent weakness.
These are all the potential causes of muscle weakness from anxiety. There may be other links as well - anxiety can affect many different aspects of your body. Some people may feel more lightheaded as though they're going to faint and this can cause a feeling of muscle weakness as well. Others may not eat or drink enough as a result of their anxiety, causing actual muscle weakness.
The Best Ways to Control Anxiety Muscle Weakness
Muscle weakness is a tricky issue. On the one hand, when it's caused by anxiety it's not dangerous, and in some cases, your muscles are not even weak. It's merely a perception that they're weak. On the other hand, living with muscle weakness can be stressful, and often increases the amount of anxiety you feel.
There are several strategies you can use to decrease the feeling of having weak muscles. These include:
- Walking Often your muscles aren't actually weak. They're simply feeling weak. So go for a walk, and essentially show your brain that your muscles are fine. Walking is good for blood flow and keeps your muscles active, which - while it won't cure muscle weakness altogether - is useful for overcoming some of the stress. If you can't walk, moving as much as possible can help as well.
- Breathing Slow, concentrated breaths will reduce the effects of hyperventilation. Make sure that you're not breathing too quickly or too deeply. Breathe in a very slow, very controlled manner. Each breath should take as long as 15 seconds from the time you start breathing in until the time you start breathing out, and you should hold your breath for a few seconds somewhere in the middle to regain some of the carbon dioxide you've lost through hyperventilation.
- Mental Distractions Remember, part of the goal is simply not to focus on your muscles as much because that level of focus can make them feel weaker than they are. Distracting yourself through mental exercises, phone calls, or anything you can to take your mind off your individual muscles and how they feel can be highly advantageous.
These strategies aren't going to reduce all muscle weakness, however, because some muscle weakness is simply due to the adrenaline coursing through your veins, and others are due to a genuine tiredness that your muscles feel after they deal with extreme tension for a significant amount of time. These experiences do not have a quick fix. Water and rest are the best way to improve them.
Your next steps require that you spend some time learning how to control your anxiety. Only if you get your anxiety under control can you hope to stop this feeling of muscle weakness.
I've helped thousands of those with intense muscle weakness learn how to control that weakness and stop their anxiety forever. I start them all off with my free 7-minute anxiety test. The goal of the test is to provide a very effective way of understanding anxiety in order to provide better solutions for curing anxiety forever.
Start the test here for free right now.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Dec 16, 2017.