Anxiety can cause a lot of extremely unusual symptoms. 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.
Your Swollen Lymph Nodes = Anxiety?
Swollen lymph nodes are usually a sign that you're fighting off infection. But it is possible for you to have swollen lymph nodes with anxiety, especially if you're suffering from anxiety attacks.
In order to understand how your swollen lymph nodes may relate to anxiety, I strongly recommend you take my 7 minute anxiety test right now. Presence of some other symptoms would indicate that that it is indeed anxiety.
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 are caused by anxiety, but the reason isn't clear, because there isn't a medical connection between lymph nodes and stress.
The first step to see if you have anxiety is to take my 7 minute anxiety test. It's free, and I developed it specifically to help you see whether or not you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
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 a very large number of 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 to you than they really are. That's because some types of anxiety can cause a feel 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 very 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 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 very 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 very 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:
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 there is no harm in getting a doctor's thoughts on your swollen lymph nodes. Yet it is still possible for anxiety to cause sensations that indicate these lymph nodes are swollen as well.
How to Diagnose and Cure Anxiety Related Swollen Lymph Nodes
Only a medical professional can diagnose any lymph node problems. If you're concerned that your lymph nodes are a health issue, and not an anxiety issue, then you should see a doctor. Always see a doctor if your lymph nodes appear swollen for more than a week or two or are accompanied by any signs of a severe illness.
However, when anxiety is causing your lymph nodes to feel swollen, 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 very 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 control 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, 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.
You may also want to include more general anxiety and stress reduction strategies. These include:
- Deep Breathing
- 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.
I've helped thousands of people in the past that were suffering from swollen lymph nodes as a result of their anxiety. I tell all of them that before any treatment can take place, it's crucial that you take my free 7 minute anxiety test. The goal is to understand exactly how your anxiety is affecting you and why. Only by gaining that understanding can you hope to cure it forever.
If you haven't yet, take the anxiety test now.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.