Anxiety and worry are emotions everyone feels at some point. Approximately 40 million American adults (over the age of 18) have anxiety disorders.
Feelings of anxiety can trigger other symptoms, such as:
- muscle tension
- difficulty concentrating
- increased heart rate
- uncontrollable shaking or trembling
Tremors caused by anxiety aren’t dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable. Sometimes losing control of your body when you’re having anxiety can quickly escalate into other symptoms.
This article will explore the connection between shaking and anxiety, and leave you with some ideas for how to treat this symptom.
Panic disorder and anxiety that leads to attacks have some things in common, but they’re not the same condition. Both conditions can lead to physical symptoms that feel out of your control, including trembling and “the shakes.”
If you have generalized anxiety disorder, ordinary situations may make you feel intensely fearful. You may find it hard to concentrate. You may also experience your mind going “blank” as the fear and worry from your thoughts take over. In addition, headaches, muscle aches, and other pains you can’t explain may accompany your anxious thoughts.
Panic attacks don’t always have a clear cause. When you have panic attacks due to a certain trigger, it’s called an expected panic attack. That means they’re somewhat predictable. The symptoms of a panic attack can be seen and identified by someone else, while the symptoms of anxiety take place mostly in your mind, and may be harder to spot.
When you’re having severe anxiety, it can cause physical symptoms. Perceived stress, danger, and high levels of emotion usually set off anxiety. Anxiety can lead to a panic attack, but it doesn’t always. Similarly, having a panic attack doesn’t mean that you have an anxiety condition.
When your body is subjected to stress, it goes into fight-or-flight mode. Stress hormones flood your body and speed up your heart rate, blood pressure, and your breathing.
Your body prepares to deal with the stressor, interpreting the anxiousness as a signal that you’ll need to stand your ground or escape from danger. Your muscles become primed to act, leading to a trembling sensation, twitching, or shaking. Tremors caused by anxiety are called psychogenic tremors.
Other symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder include:
- difficulty concentrating on anything besides anxious thoughts
- fatigue and muscle ache
- headache or migraine
- nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- rapid breathing
- excessive sweating
- feeling tense, irritable, and “on edge”
Once you’ve accepted that you’re having a panic or anxiety attack, fighting against your symptoms might make them last longer.
The most effective strategy to stop trembling from panic or anxiety is to guide your body back to a relaxed state. Certain techniques can help you calm down.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. This technique focuses on contracting, then releasing different muscle groups. It can be done in tandem with deep breathing. The goal in practicing this technique is to get your body to relax. This can stop you from trembling.
- Yoga poses. The child’s pose and sunrise salutations can help you regulate your breathing and bring calm back to your body. Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms.
- Mindfulness exercises. Exercises that incorporate meditation can also help stop you from shaking. Mindfulness mediations to guide you through 5 to 10 minutes of awareness and relaxation. These can be found on apps, such as Headspace, and online.
Practicing these techniques when you’re not in a state of panic or anxiety will make them more effective when you need to use them.
Long-term solutions for people with anxiety or panic disorder can include medication and help from a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. Several methods of therapy can help you identify the triggers of your anxious thoughts and feelings. Those include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- talk therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EDMR)
If you frequently experience anxiety or panic attacks, you should speak to your doctor about medication treatment options. Those include:
- Benzodiazepines. These are drugs that help relax your mind and calm your body. Alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and clonazepam (Konini) are examples of this class of drug used for short-term anxiety and panic relief. Both prescribers and patients should be aware that benzodiazepines are associated with a risk for tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). This is one class of drug that might be prescribed for long-term treatment. Escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), and paroxetine (Paxil) are examples of this type of drug usually prescribed to treat depression and anxiety.
- Monamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs are used to treat panic disorder, but can work for anxiety, too. Dicarboxamide (Marplan) and tranylcypromine (Parnate) are examples of this type of medication.
Alternative treatments, like herbal teas and supplements, can cut down on anxiety and panic attacks for some people. More research needs to be done on herbal treatments to determine if they’re effective.
Remember that herbal remedies aren’t necessarily better for your body than traditional medication. Herbals have properties that cause side effects and interactions just like medication does.
Physical symptoms that feel out of your control can be frightening and make your anxiety feel even worse. The good news is that anxiety and panic can be helped with medication, therapy, and a proper diagnosis.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing anxiety-induced trembling or shaking.