Suffering from anxiety can be a serious challenge. It can also lead to some incredibly unusual and troubling symptoms. One of the stranger issues caused by anxiety is tingling hands.
That tingling feeling often leads to further anxiety, because it makes people worry that something is wrong with their head or nervous system. It's a fair worry, because tingling hands can be caused by nerve issues, vitamin deficiencies, liver disease and more. Yet it can also be caused by anxiety.
Tingling Hands = Anxiety?
Tingling hands is a very real anxiety symptom. It can also be caused by something more serious, such as diabetes or carpel tunnel syndrome, or it can be caused by anxiety and stress.
Much of it depends on your other symptoms and what your doctor says. I developed a free 7 minute anxiety test to give you an idea of whether your tingling hands may be anxiety related.
Tingling hand can be a frightening anxiety symptom. Some people experience tremendous fear that something is wrong with their heart or brain. Others worry about something less serious, but still a very real problem, like carpel tunnel - especially if you work in retail or with computers/typing.
But tingling hands can genuinely be an anxiety symptom. One thing that's true though - tingling hands almost always comes with other anxiety symptoms. So if you haven't taken my free anxiety test yet, take it now.
What Causes Tingling Hands?
First, it's important to remember that even the "tingling hands" experience may be different for different people. Some might call it crawling hands, others may see it more as hand numbness. There are even those whose hands become somewhat in pain.
The more serious you feel it is, the more you should consider seeing a doctor. Despite the likelihood that tingling hands is caused by anxiety, only a doctor can diagnose you for certain, and it's always a good idea to rule out more serious conditions.
When other issues have been ruled out and anxiety becomes the likely culprit, that's when you need treatment. But what causes tingling hands? The answer is almost always hyperventilation.
Understanding Hyperventilation in Those With Anxiety
Hyperventilation is one of the least understood anxiety issues. It occurs when you breathe out too much carbon dioxide. While your body does need oxygen and generally breathes out CO2, your body needs a healthy amount of CO2 as well. When you hyperventilate, those balances are thrown off.
Most people think of hyperventilation as "breathing too quickly," and indeed that's definitely a potential cause. When you have an anxiety attack/panic attack, you'll often find that you're breathing incredibly fast, and that may cause you to hyperventilate.
But hyperventilation may also occur for other reasons, including:
- Thinking About Breathing When you think about your breathing, your breathing is no longer in your body's natural control. That may cause you to take in or breathe our more air than your body would naturally, leading to hyperventilation.
- Taking Deeper Breaths During an anxiety attack, you may feel like you're not getting enough air, and that may cause you to try to take deeper breaths. Unfortunately, in many cases you did already have enough air and that sensation was misleading, so your response makes your hyperventilation worse.
- Poor Breathing Training Another unusual situation that seems to occur in those with anxiety is that their breathing simply changes. They start to breathe in more from their chest and a bit faster. In those cases, hyperventilation occurs more slowly, until some symptoms occur. Then the person usually thinks about their breathing or tries to take deeper breaths as a result.
Anxiety can often lead to hyperventilation, and when it does it can cause a number of different symptoms, including tingling sensations in the hands.
Other Causes of Tingling Hands
Hyperventilation is the most common reason that tingling hands occur in those with anxiety, but it's not the only reason. Stress itself can have an unusual effect on hands, and so it's possible that stress causes hand sensations in unknown ways.
Also, tingling hands can occur every day for reasons that are not health related. For example, if you are sitting on your hands a certain way or pressing on a nerve it can make your hand start to tingle, and if you have anxiety, you may think about and worry about that tingling more than someone that doesn't have anxiety. It's not unusual for anxiety to cause normal sensations to feel much worse.
Anxiety Over Health
Many types of anxiety can actually cause health anxiety, which is one of the reasons that tingling hands can feel so frightening. Panic attacks, for example, can make people over-sensitive to their own physical sensations, and when they experience some of these symptoms - like tingling hands - they experience this wave of anxiety that feels uncontrollable.
Anxiety can create your tingling hands, and it can make you react very strongly when you experience them. Anyone that says living with anxiety is easy has likely never tried it before.
How to Stop Tingling Hands From Anxiety
Since tingling hands is most commonly caused by hyperventilation, you should start by gaining control of your breathing. Take slower breaths is a start. Also, try not to breathe in through your chest as much. It may feel like you're not getting a full breath, but remember that hyperventilation causes the feeling of needing more air, even though the opposite is true.
You should also start walking. Make sure that you're getting good blood flow. As the muscles work, your breathing will often become a bit healthier, and your hyperventilation should decrease. Once you've got your tingling hands under control, it's time to work on the anxiety itself.
When I've helped people in the past, I tell them that they absolutely need to start with the free anxiety test I developed. I call it the 7 minute anxiety test, because not only does it take just 7 minutes, but in many ways it's a test to see if you have anxiety, how it affects you, and more.
If you haven't yet, take the test now.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.