Movement problems are very common in anxiety. Anxiety and stress cause many different changes in the body, and one of the symptoms of these changes is known as "tremor."
Tremor technically refers to any type of shaking or involuntary rhythmic muscle movement. There is actually more than one type of tremor with anxiety, and often anxiety amplifies other conditions that may lead to problems with tremor as well.
Tremors = Anxiety?
There are so many different types of tremors and causes of shaking in the world that only a doctor can truly diagnose the cause of your tremor. Nevertheless, it's a very common anxiety symptom and occurs in nearly every type of anxiety disorder.
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Types and Causes of Tremors
Tremor anxiety symptoms can be very disruptive, and cause a considerable amount of stress. In some cases the shaking is fairly mild. Normal "anxiety shakes" are an extremely common symptom. If you haven't taken my free 7 minute anxiety test yet, it's the best place to start.
Most people complain of general anxiety shaking. This type of tremor is extremely common, and may occur even in those without an anxiety disorder. Other people experience other unusual symptoms of muscle twitching, such as:
- Arm or leg spasms.
- Longer/slower shakes than usual.
All of these can be caused by anxiety, and all of these are considered tremors. The causes of them may differ as well. Most anxiety tremors are caused by:
The most common link between anxiety and tremors is adrenaline. Anxiety is the activation of your fight or flight response to danger, even when no danger is present. The response triggers a rush of adrenaline, which feeds your body with energy and prepares you to run or fight. It also constricts your blood vessels and feeds your nerves.
All of these cause your body to start shaking, aka tremors. Most often this shaking is temporary as long as you are experiencing anxiety, although it may last a little while longer as you recover from your anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety and stress also causes muscle tension. Muscle tension puts a great deal of strain on your muscles and in some cases this type of tension can lead to unusual muscle movements. Muscle twitching may occur when the muscle is exhausted from stress, leading to a tremor or tremor-like experience.
Although not entirely common, some theorize that anxiety can actually create vitamin deficiencies, particularly with magnesium. During times of significant stress, the body uses up magnesium and other minerals.
Magnesium, especially, plays a role in nerve function. It's possible that those with anxiety are more prone to low levels of magnesium, possibly leading to nerve twitching and muscle tremors.
Thinking of Tremors
It's also possible that the mere act of thinking of tremors can actually cause tremors. Some people experience a profound need to move or muscle twitches because they think about their movements or their muscles. Muscles that become too conscious (in other words, muscles that you focus on too much) can have unusual feelings and sensations that may contribute to feelings of tremor.
Finally, dehydration can cause tremor. Generally dehydration is not an anxiety symptom, but anxiety can cause you to sweat more which may exacerbate dehydration, and dehydration itself may lead to an increase in anxiety symptoms, creating a link between the two conditions.
How to Control the Tremor From Anxiety
It's always a good idea to see a doctor if you find that your tremor feels too pronounced. It's possible that you may be suffering from a concurrent disorder, but even though it's likely you are completely healthy the fear that something else is wrong in the back of your mind can be troubling.
Ideally, you need to make sure that you are addressing these fears as best you can, and seeing a doctor will help. Remember that anxiety has a tendency to make you fear the worst, so don't let your health worries run wild. You should also drink some water and ensure that you are getting proper vitamins to rule out any simple causes of excess tremor.
Because most tremor is caused by an increase in adrenaline, there is often little you can do until the adrenaline runs out. You can try to use up the adrenaline by jogging in place or exercising, but that may not work for everyone.
Instead, make sure that you are starting to address your anxiety directly. I've worked with thousands of those with muscle tremors and point them all in the direction of my free anxiety test. The test looks at your symptoms and uses them to help you find the right treatment.
Graham, James DP. Static tremor in anxiety states. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 8.3-4 (1945): 57-60.
Tyrer, P. J., and Alyson J. Bond. Diurnal variation in physiological tremor. Electroencephalography and clinical neurophysiology 37.1 (1974): 35-40.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.