Have you ever noticed that your body is shaking for no apparent reason, especially during times of stress or anxiety? This phenomenon is known as a tremor, and it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as anxiety.
In this article, we'll explore:
- What a tremor is
- Whether anxiety is related to tremors
- Other causes of tremors
- Symptoms of tremors
- The different types of tremors
- How to treat tremors
What Is a Tremor?
Tremors are involuntary muscle contractions of a part of the body. Tremor is a common movement disorder that can affect any part of the body, but it is most commonly seen in the hands, arms, head, face, or voice.
The nervous system plays a key role in the production of tremors - they are typically caused by abnormal activity in certain areas of the brain that control movement. they may also be due to medications or substance abuse.
Is Anxiety Linked to Tremors?
Yes, anxiety can be linked to tremors in some cases. Anxiety is a normal response to stress, and it can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including tremors. Extreme stress or anxiety can cause tremors, or it can make existing tremors worse.
Anxiety-related tremors may occur when a person is under extreme stress or when they are experiencing a panic attack. These tremors may be more noticeable when the person is trying to perform a specific task, and they may be accompanied by other physical symptoms such as sweating, shortness of breath, and a feeling of tightness in the chest.
Other Causes of Tremors
Tremors can be caused by a variety of factors. Some common causes of tremors include:
- Neurological disorders: Certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis, can cause a movement disorder like tremors.
- Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as low blood sugar and overactive thyroid, can cause tremors.
- Medications: Some medications, such as certain antidepressants and stimulants, can cause tremors as a side effect.
- Alcohol withdrawal: Tremors can be a symptom of alcohol withdrawal.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): TBI can cause tremors due to damage to the brain's control centers for movement. This damage can result in abnormal nervous system functioning.
What Are the Symptoms of Tremors?
The symptoms of tremors can vary depending on the type of tremor and the underlying cause. Some common symptoms of tremors include:
- Rhythmic shaking of the hands, arms, head, face, or voice. This is the most common symptom and may range from mild to severe.
- Difficulty with fine motor takes like using utensils, writing, and tying shoelaces.
- Difficulty speaking or singing due to slurred speed and slowness of movements.
- Stiffness: Tremors may be accompanied by stiffness or rigidity in the affected body part.
- Difficulty with balance: Tremors may make it difficult for a person to maintain their balance, especially when standing or walking.
In addition to these physical symptoms, tremors can also have a significant impact on a person's daily life and well-being. For example, tremors can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks, such as writing, eating, or getting dressed. They can also interfere with social activities and relationships, as tremors may be perceived as a sign of weakness or instability.
If anxiety is causing your tremors, you may also experience some of the common symptoms of anxiety.
Different Types of Tremors
There are several different types of tremors, each with its own set of causes and characteristics. Let's take a look at some of the most common types of tremors that can be caused by anxiety:
Essential tremor (previously called "benign essential tremor") is the most common form of tremor, affecting about 10% of the population. It is a neurological disorder that causes rhythmic shaking of the hands and arms, and it can also affect the head, face, and voice.
People with essential tremor often inherit the disorder and are typically over the age of 40. It can be made worse by caffeine and certain medications. While essential tremor is not caused by anxiety, it can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety.
The cause of essential tremor is not fully understood, but it is thought to involve abnormalities in certain areas of the brain that control movement.
Essential tremor is usually diagnosed based on the presence of specific symptoms, such as tremors that occur when the affected limb is at rest and improve when the limb is in use. A healthcare professional may also order imaging tests, such as an MRI, to rule out other potential causes of the tremor.
A resting tremor is a type of tremor that occurs when the affected body part is at rest, such as when a person is sitting with their hands in their lap. Resting tremors can be a symptom of Parkinson's disease, but they can also occur in people who are experiencing extreme stress or anxiety.
Resting tremors are typically characterized by a rhythmic shaking or trembling of the affected body part. They may be mild or severe, and they may become more noticeable when a person is under stress or when they are trying to perform a specific task. Resting tremors can be disruptive and can make it difficult for a person to complete certain tasks, such as writing or holding a cup.
Psychogenic tremor, also known as functional tremor, is a type of tremor that is caused by psychological factors rather than a neurological or medical condition. Psychogenic tremors can affect any part of the body, but they most often affect the hands, head, and voice. They may be accompanied by other psychological symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.
Psychogenic tremors can be difficult to diagnose because they often resemble other types of tremors, such as essential tremor or Parkinson's disease.
Physiologic tremor is a type of tremor that is a normal and harmless part of the body's physiology. Physiologic tremors are very common and can affect any part of the body, but they most often affect the hands. They may be more noticeable when a person is under stress, when they are fatigued, or when they are performing a specific task.
Physiologic tremor is usually small and is not typically disruptive or noticeable to others. It is not typically a cause for concern and does not usually require treatment.
Cerebellar tremor is a type of tremor that is caused by damage or dysfunction in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that plays a key role in movement and coordination. The cerebellum is located at the back of the brain and is responsible for coordinating voluntary movements, such as those involved in walking and reaching.
Cerebellar tremors typically affect the hands, arms, and legs and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty with balance and coordination, slurred speech, and problems with eye movements. The tremors may be mild at first and may become more severe over time.
Cerebellar tremors can be caused by a variety of factors, including head injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and brain tumors.
Action tremors are a type of tremor that occur during movement or when a person is trying to perform a specific task. Action tremors can affect any part of the body, but they most often affect the hands and arms. There are various sub-types of action tremor, including:
- Postural Tremor: A type of tremor that affects different parts of the body, including the hands, arms, head, and legs. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including anxiety, low blood sugar, and certain medications. Postural tremor occurs when a person is holding a position against gravity, such as when they are holding their arms outstretched.
- Intention Tremor: A type of tremor that occurs when a person is trying to perform a specific task or reach for an object. Intention tremor is caused by damage or dysfunction in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that plays a key role in movement and coordination.
- Kinetic Tremor: These may be more noticeable when a person is performing a fine motor task, such as writing or using utensils. A kinetic tremor may also be more noticeable when a person is under stress or when they are fatigued.
- Isometric Tremor: A type of tremor that occurs during voluntary muscle contractions. It is called an isometric tremor because it occurs when the muscle is contracting but not moving (i.e., isometric contraction).
- Task-Specific Tremor: It is called task-specific because the tremor is specific to certain activities or tasks, and does not occur at other times. Task-specific tremors can occur in any part of the body, but are most commonly seen in the hands and arms.
How to Treat Anxiety Tremors
It's important to note that tremors can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, so it's always a good idea to see a healthcare professional if you are experiencing tremors. They can help determine the cause of the tremor and provide the appropriate treatment.
To treat tremors caused by anxiety, you need to manage symptoms of anxiety. This may involve:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Relaxation Techniques
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on helping people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety. CBT can be an effective treatment for anxiety tremors, as it can help a person learn coping strategies to manage their anxiety and reduce their tremors.
During CBT, a person will work with a therapist to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their anxiety. The therapist may help the person learn relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, to help reduce their anxiety and tremors.
The therapist may also help the person identify and change behaviors that contribute to their anxiety, such as avoiding certain situations or activities.
Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to help reduce anxiety tremors. These techniques involve practices that help a person relax their mind and body, and they can be useful in helping to reduce the intensity and frequency of tremors. Some relaxation techniques that may be helpful in reducing anxiety tremors include:
- Deep breathing: This involves taking slow, deep breaths in through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth. Deep breathing can help relax the body and calm the mind.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body to help reduce tension and promote relaxation.
- Meditation: This involves focusing the mind on a specific object, thought, or activity to help quiet the mind and relax the body.
- Yoga: This involves a series of physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation practices that can help relax the mind and body.
- Massage: Massage can help relax the muscles and promote a sense of relaxation and calm.
In some cases, medication may be necessary to help manage the anxiety. Beta-blockers, which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, can also be effective in reducing the severity of anxiety-induced tremors.
Other Tremor Treatment Methods
There are other treatment methods that focusing on addressing tremors directly, including lifestyle changes, deep brain stimulation, and assistive devices.
There are several lifestyle changes that you can make to help reduce tremors. These include:
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol: Caffeine and alcohol can both worsen tremors, so it may be helpful to limit or eliminate these substances from your diet.
- Eating a healthy diet: A healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in processed and sugary foods may help improve overall health and potentially reduce tremors.
- Getting enough sleep: Adequate sleep is important for overall health and can help reduce tremors.
- Exercising regularly: Regular exercise can improve muscle control and coordination, which may help reduce tremors.
It is important to note that these lifestyle changes may not completely eliminate tremors, but they can potentially help reduce their severity.
Deep Brain Stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment that involves the implantation of electrodes into specific areas of the brain. The electrodes are connected to a device called a pulse generator, which is implanted in the chest and sends electrical signals to the brain to help control tremors and other symptoms of neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, and dystonia.
DBS is typically recommended for people who have not responded well to other treatments, such as medications or physical therapy, or for those who experience significant side effects from these treatments. It is a complex and invasive procedure that carries some risks, including infection, bleeding, and problems with the electrodes or pulse generator.
Before undergoing DBS, a person will undergo a thorough evaluation to determine if they are a good candidate for the procedure. This may include imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans, to identify the specific areas of the brain that will be targeted with the electrodes.
Assistive devices are tools or devices that can help individuals with tremors perform daily activities more easily. Some examples of assistive devices that can be helpful for individuals with tremors include:
- Special utensils: There are a variety of special utensils, such as weighted utensils or utensils with built-in hand grips, that can help individuals with tremors hold and use utensils more easily.
- Writing aids: There are a variety of writing aids, such as special pens or pencils with built-in hand grips, that can help individuals with tremors write more easily.
- Electronic devices: There are electronic devices, such as computers and smartphones, that have built-in features to help individuals with tremors use them more easily. For example, many devices have voice recognition software that allows individuals to control the device using their voice, rather than a mouse or keyboard.
- Adaptive clothing: There are adaptive clothing options, such as clothing with Velcro closures or special buttons, that can be easier for individuals with tremors to use.
Final Note on Tremors
Tremors are involuntary, rhythmic muscle movements that can affect any part of the body. While anxiety can sometimes cause tremors, there are many other potential causes such as neurological disorders, medication side effects, and certain medical conditions.
Symptoms of tremors may include shaking hands, trembling voice, and difficulty with fine motor tasks. There are several different types of tremors, including essential tremor, Parkinson's disease tremor, and cerebellar tremor.
Treatment options for tremors may include medications, stress relief techniques, and in some cases, surgery. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of tremors and the best course of treatment.