When you get anxious, your heart may start to race, worst case scenarios may run through your mind, and you can find yourself unable to sleep or sleeping too much.
These are some of the more commonly known symptoms of anxiety.
But you may also find yourself with muscle twitches. These may occur anywhere on your body — from your eyes to your feet.
Learn why anxiety may cause your muscles to twitch and how to treat and prevent it.
Anxiety twitching is a potential symptom of anxiety. Not everyone who has anxiety experiences anxiety twitching as a symptom.
Twitching is when a muscle, or group of muscles, moves without you trying to move it. This could be a small movement or a larger, jerking motion.
Anxiety twitching can affect any muscles in the body and any number of muscles at a time. It may last for a few seconds or much longer.
In some people, anxiety twitching can happen off and on indefinitely.
Eye muscles are commonly affected by anxiety twitching.
Anxiety twitching often gets worse when you’re trying to go to sleep, but usually stops while you’re sleeping.
It also often gets worse as your anxiety gets worse. However, it may take some time for anxiety twitching to go away after you get less anxious.
Anxiety causes your nervous system to release neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that your body uses to send messages between neurons, or between neurons and muscles.
Some types of neurotransmitters will “tell” your muscles to move. When you have anxiety, neurotransmitters may be released even when there’s no clear reason for them to be released. This is what can cause anxiety twitching.
Another reason anxiety can cause muscle twitching is because it can cause you to hyperventilate. Muscle twitching is one symptom of hyperventilation.
If your twitching happens long-term or interferes with your daily life, your doctor may be able to help. To diagnose your condition, they’ll first take a medical history, which will include:
- questions about your symptoms
- when symptoms started
- details about the twitching
If you’re also experiencing anxiety with the twitching, be sure to tell your doctor. That might be enough for them to diagnose you with twitching related to anxiety. However, they might still do tests to rule out other conditions.
These tests may include:
- blood tests to look for electrolyte problems or thyroid issues
- an electromyogram (EMG), which looks at how well your muscles work
- a CT scan or MRI of your brain or spine
- a nerve conduction test, to see if your nerves are working correctly
If you have anxiety and other potential causes of twitching can be ruled out, your doctor will likely be able to diagnose you with anxiety twitching.
Treating anxiety is the best way to treat anxiety twitching.
If a doctor thinks your twitching is caused by anxiety, they may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist. They can do a more in-depth diagnosis of your anxiety and help you find the best treatment option.
Treatments for anxiety may include:
- psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing negative thought patterns and reactions
- medications, such as antidepressants (which can also treat anxiety) or anti-anxiety medications
In most cases, the twitching itself doesn’t need treatment. However, home remedies and preventive measures may be able to help.
One way you can help prevent anxiety twitching is to help prevent anxiety in the first place.
Other preventive measures prevent the twitching itself, while some measures help prevent both anxiety and twitching more generally.
To help stop anxiety twitching:
- Eat a healthy diet. Having the right amount of salt and micronutrients makes your muscles less likely to twitch. A healthy diet can also help reduce anxiety.
- Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Avoid energy drinks or caffeine. They can make both twitching and anxiety worse.
- Get regular exercise. It helps reduce anxiety and tones your muscles, which makes them less likely to twitch.
- Drink water. Dehydration can lead to mild anxiety and make muscles twitch.
- Reduce stress as much as possible.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Try relaxation methods like progressive muscle relaxation. To do this, tense, then relax your muscles one group at a time, making your way from your toes to your head (or vice versa).
- Ignore the twitching. This can be hard, but worrying about it can lead to more anxiety. That can then make the twitching worse.
Muscle twitching caused by anxiety can be worrisome, but it’s usually a harmless symptom. In fact, trying to ignore the twitching is one way to reduce your anxiety, which can reduce the twitching.
Anxiety twitching usually gets worse as your anxiety increases, but may take some time to subside once you reduce your anxiety.
If either the anxiety or the twitching interferes with your daily life, talk to a doctor about treatment options.