Related Medical Issues

Stop Swollen Lymph Nodes Caused by Anxiety

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated November 25th, 2020

Stop Swollen Lymph Nodes Caused by Anxiety

Anxiety can cause a lot of extremely unusual symptoms. Many of these symptoms are similar to those of real medical conditions, which is why they can go unnoticed or contribute to further anxiety. Of course, because they are related to real medical conditions, you should always see a doctor. That is especially true if the symptom you’re struggling with is swollen lymph nodes.

Swollen lymph nodes are more commonly the result of medical conditions, such as infections. There are also more serious conditions that may be related to swollen lymph nodes. Talk to a doctor if you’re concerned. But it should be noted that in rare cases, anxiety may cause a feeling of having swollen lymph nodes or swollen glands, and for those with health anxiety, this sensation can be incredibly frightening.

Interestingly, it's unclear if anxiety or stress actually causes swollen lymph nodes. What is clear, however, is that anxiety cause people to feel as though they have swollen lymph nodes, and this may lead to further anxiety about your overall health.

Does Anxiety Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Swollen lymph nodes are one of the most controversial symptoms of anxiety. It does appear that swollen lymph nodes can be caused by anxiety, but the reason isn't clear, because there isn't a medical connection between lymph nodes and stress.

The reality is that in many cases it's not that simple. Lymph nodes themselves cannot swell as a result of stress, because their swelling generally only occurs to fight off an infection. Yet there is no denying that some people with severe stress and anxiety do report swollen lymph nodes. So what is happening?

  • Health Anxiety Your lymph nodes often vary in size and shape. When you're feeling anxious, it's not uncommon for your lymph nodes to feel bigger than they really are. That's because some types of anxiety can cause a feeling of over-sensitization - when you touch your lymph nodes, they feel bigger than they are.
  • Possible Mild Infection Stress also weakens the immune system. Your body is always fighting germs and bacteria. It's possible that because of stress, you are a bit more prone to mild infections and your body is fighting them off. These infections may not be dangerous or present with other symptoms.
  • Muscle Tension Anxiety and stress can also cause a considerable amount of muscle tension in your neck. Many people feel they have a lump in their throat, while others feel the pressure more on the sides of their neck towards their lymph nodes. A common anxiety symptom is neck pressure that they feel when they swallow, so it's possible that your glands only feel swollen, when instead the neck is swollen.

In addition, it is possible that your lymph nodes are swelling for reasons that are still unclear. Anxiety causes a lot of strange reactions in the body, and many people experience anxiety differently. While the neck is the most common place to find swollen lymph nodes, it may also occur in other areas, such as:

  • Armpits
  • Abdomen
  • Groin

It's a bit less common for these swollen glands to be anxiety related, but it's still possible for the reasons listed above. Remember - only a medical professional can rule out other health conditions, and and because swollen lymph nodes are linked to serious illnesses, it is important to always see a doctor if you are concerned. Their training allows them to identify swollen lymph nodes well. Yet, if your doctor has ruled out a medical condition, note that it is still possible for anxiety to cause sensations that indicate these lymph nodes are swollen as well.

How to Diagnose and Manage Anxiety Related Swollen Lymph Nodes

Only a medical professional can diagnose any lymph node problems. Always see a doctor if your lymph nodes appear swollen for more than a week or two or are accompanied by any signs of illness.

However, when anxiety is causing your lymph nodes to feel swollen because other issues have been ruled out, you can treat them in the comfort of your own home. You can't treat the lymph nodes themselves, however. Instead, you need to find a way to get your anxiety under control so that it doesn't cause your lymph nodes to swell.

Anxiety Solutions for Lymph Nodes

There are few rapid anxiety solutions. Anxiety is a long term issue, and so you will need to find treatments that decrease not only the amount of anxiety you experience, but also how you experience it. Luckily, there are a few quick ways to manage anxiety:

  • Running/Exercise - Exercise releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters meant to reduce pain. These same neurotransmitters also lead to a better mood. Exercise also tires muscles, and depletes anxiety, so the tension in your neck and shoulders should go away.
  • Drink Water - Dehydration may cause lymph nodes to swell, and may also cause anxiety. Drinking water is a safe way to ensure that your anxiety and swollen lymph nodes are not related to any other condition.
  • Reel in Breathing - Severe anxiety and panic can make your breathing go out of control. It's not just rapid breathing - many with anxiety attacks also breathe in too much air because their anxiety makes them feel they can't get a deep breath. Slowing down your breathing and breathing in from the stomach rather than trying to expand the chest can help dramatically. Please see this page for more information

You may also want to include more general anxiety and stress reduction strategies. These include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Deep Breathing
  • Visualization
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Yet again, these are all designed to reduce your stress in the short term. You'll still need to find an effective solution for controlling your anxiety in the long term and reducing any health anxiety you may have.

For that, you should strongly consider cognitive behavioral therapy, which is known to be very effective for reducing anxiety. Medications are also very helpful, and there are self-help techniques out there that others have found success with. Anxiety is a manageable condition, provided you take the first step to seek treatment.

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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