Anxiety affects everyone differently. One symptom of anxiety that may initially cause concern is anxiety tremors, also known as anxiety shaking. Anxiety tremors can be uncomfortable and add to a person’s overall distress. Several ways to reduce tremors include practicing mindfulness techniques and progressive muscle relaxation, and speaking with your therapist about other ways to reduce anxiety and manage tremors.
Anxiety & Shaking
Anxiety can cause many different physical symptoms. You may experience differences in your heart rate, shaking when nervous, sweating, and nausea.1 There are several different types of anxiety for which anxiety tremors are common such as stage fright, social anxiety disorder and the fear of public speaking.2
Can Anxiety Cause Tremors?
During anxiety, the body goes into flight or fight mode. One of the symptoms of the flight or fight mode is the increase of blood pressure. Along with this, the adrenaline in the body increases, which causes the heart to accelerate and the muscles to shake and tremor.
“Anxiety evolved to help us cope with a perceived threat by getting the body ready for ‘flight or fight.’ Adrenalin is the body’s chemical messenger that is released when the brain detects potential threat. Adrenalin’s effect on muscles is to increase the tension in them to get them ready for fleeing or fighting. We believe it is this increased muscle tension that underlies shaking.” – Rick Zinbarg, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Psychology Department, Northwestern University
Symptoms Related to Anxiety Shaking
There are several other symptoms caused by anxiety, including dizziness, sweating, and irritability. These occur due to the way the brain relays the information to other parts of the body.
Symptoms related to anxiety shaking include:3
- Fear that something bad is going to happen
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- Muscle tension
How to Stop Anxiety Tremors
Anxiety tremors are uncomfortable, but you can use coping techniques to reduce their effects on you. Some of these tips can be used while in the moment. Others, such as exercise, are more effective as preventive measures for the shaking.
Dr. Zinbard recommends, “Actually, we believe that it is efforts to avoid or suppress our feelings of anxiety that paradoxically causes anxiety to increase or be maintained relative to when we are accepting of our anxious feelings. Thus, my main recommendation is to accept the feelings rather than trying to stop them. Mindfulness meditation provides some useful exercises for learning to accept what is including unpleasant feelings and to let go of trying to control such experiences.”
Here are nine ways to stop anxiety shaking:
- Progressive muscle relaxation: this can be used while having the shakes. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tightening and releasing the muscles. This usually starts at the head or feet and works its way down or up respectively. When experiencing shakes, the tightening and release of the muscles helps alleviate the shaking.
- Yoga: yoga helps with anxiety shaking in two ways. First, it teaches you to stay in the moment. Yoga also stretches out the muscles, causing them to loosen, which works out the adrenaline.
- Stretching: stretching loosens the muscles, reducing anxiety. Even when working, being able to stretch your arms above your head, stretch your neck, or stretch your back can help.
- Mindfulness: practicing mindfulness by staying in the moment throughout your day will help keep the anxiety away.
- Exercise: whether you are in the moment of having anxiety tremors, or it is just a regular part of your routine, exercise helps reduce anxiety. It increases the body’s natural endorphins (i.e., the chemicals that make us happy). By increasing these chemicals, our bodies will feel better and be more responsive to being relaxed.4
- Eating healthy: well-balanced diets high in vegetables, nuts, high quality meats, and fish are more likely to help reduce anxiety. While diet helps, it should be combined with other coping skills of reducing anxiety to be fully effective.
- Reducing/avoiding caffeine, alcohol or nicotine: caffeine, alcohol and nicotine have been known to increase anxiety.5 Reducing or eliminating your daily intake of these substances may be the best way to decrease anxiety.
Treatment For Anxiety
Treatment for anxiety ranges from self-care to therapy and medication.6 There are a number of apps for anxiety including CBT focused apps to help you reframe negative, anxious thoughts, to mindfulness and meditation apps like Headspace or Calm that help you breathe through your anxiety.
Therapies used to treat anxiety shaking include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), exposure therapy, mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).7
The goal of different kinds of therapy is to teach coping mechanisms that allow you to function better in your daily life and help you calm your anxiety on your own. CBT, for example, teaches people how to change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to increased anxiety. By changing fearful thoughts (cognitive) and actions (behavior), you’re practicing cognitive restructuring which can reduce anxiety.8
If you’re ready to find a therapist, consider starting your search on an online therapist directory.
Medications for anxiety include anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants, beta-blockers, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
There are also several over-the-counter products that can be effective, such as chamomile, kava, and melatonin, although further studies are needed to say how effective they are.9
Recognizing anxiety tremors is the first step in getting treatment. Once you decide what kind of treatment is best for you, you will be able to follow up with your doctor and therapist. Anxiety tremors can be scary at first, but once you realize what they are, you will be able to use your coping skills and/or medication to help reduce how often you experience them.