Physical Symptoms

Anxiety And Shaking

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated November 25th, 2020

Anxiety And Shaking

Shaking is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety, and one of the clearest ways to tell that you're nervous. There are confident public speakers - men and women used to being in front of an audience - whose hands will shake violently during their presentations because it is a part of anxiety and nervousness that is very hard to control.

It is also a common issue in anxiety disorders. This article will explore the causes and solutions to anxious shaking.

Temporary and Problematic Shaking

Once in a while, you're going to find yourself nervous—you may be on a first date, you may have an important test, or you may be giving a speech or a presentation. It is only natural to feel nervous in these times, and unfortunately, there is little that you can do to control the shaking. 

But there are many people that shake all the time, at random times of day, even when nothing is there to trigger it. There are people who shake at work, at home, and every time they have a panic attack. This may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Why the Body Shakes During Anxiety

Shaking is a result of an activated fight or flight system - an evolutionary tool that's meant to keep you safe in times of danger. During intense anxiety, your body is flooded with a hormone called epinephrine (adrenaline). That hormone activates your nerves and muscles, giving them the energy they need to fight, flee, or react. 

When Your Shaking is a Problem

Without anxiety, you wouldn't have any idea what you should be afraid of, and if you were faced with danger you'd have a much harder time running away or protecting yourself.

That's why during regular events, like taking the SATs, getting in a fight, or asking someone to marry you, you naturally get nervous. You're faced with a situation that is scary, exciting, or dangerous to you, and so it is natural to feel anxious. You need that to make good decisions and stay safe.

The problem is not the anxiety itself, and it's not the shaking. As much as it would be nice not to shake, it is a natural and healthy response. The problem is when you cannot control your anxiety even when you are not facing those kinds of situations. When that occurs, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Effects of Anxiety Disorders

An anxiety disorder occurs when you experience anxiety without any of these types of triggering situations. Those with an anxiety disorder might find themselves shaking without being confronted with a dangerous situation. For example:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder Shaking may occur all the time or because of nervous thoughts.
  • Panic Disorder Shaking may occur before, during, and after a panic attack.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Shaking may occur in response to hearing loud noises.

Other Factors That Affect Shaking

It's possible you're shaking for other reasons. Diabetes and Parkinson's disease are both linked to shaking and tremors. Dehydration and hypoglycemia are two very common causes of shaking.

How to Stop Shaking

You simply need to wait for it to pass and try to control your anxiety in the process. In the meantime, there are a few simple things you can try:

  • Jogging or running Using your muscles by jogging or running may help releive some of your stress and pent-up energy. 
  • Deep Breaths Breathing slow can be helpful for shaking as well. Deep, full, slow breaths can be calming to anxiety and may reduce hyperventilation.

Some people have trained themselves to shake less. Drinking water and eating healthier may help too. Some people shake worse when their body needs more nutrients or hydration. 

Strategies to Reduce Anxiety

If you find yourself shaking often, you need to get help. There are many avenues that you can choose to control your anxiety.

  • Lifestyle modification Eating healthier, exercising, spending time with more positive people, and finding more time to yourself to relax is very important for controlling anxiety. Even if you decide to go with other treatments, a complete lifestyle change can make dealing with anxiety easier.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) CBT is the most effective therapy currently available for controlling anxiety disorders. It deals specifically with how to recover from some of the faulty thought processes that lead to anxiety and is a great tool for controlling daily.
  • Medications Ideally you should avoid medications since they don't treat anxiety directly. But they are useful for short term control if therapy and lifestyle changes aren't enough. There are also natural medicines like kava that may be beneficial.

The best way to find an effective treatment, however, is to base it off of your anxiety symptoms. Your symptoms are what define your anxiety, and ultimately give you the tools you need to stop it.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question

Question:

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

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

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.

Ask Doctor a Question

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