How to Stop Shaking from Anxiety: Anxiety Tremors and How to Treat Them

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

Nearly one third of adults in the US suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways. It can be minor to completely debilitating. Some anxiety is displayed through physical symptoms that can be embarrassing and difficult to deal with. Anxiety tremors are one of these symptoms.

Your Brain on Anxiety

Anxiety can be a healthy response everyone experiences from time to time. When it’s constant or felt in unnecessary situations, it can become a problem. 

Anxiety is your fight or flight response that is used as a protective mechanism when you perceive danger. It serves a very important purpose and protects you when necessary. 

Anxiety disorders are when your fight or flight response is stuck in the “on” position. Your mind and body remain on high alert for hours, days, weeks, or even months at a time when you face no real threat. 

How Your Brain Reacts to Stress

Processing and controlling emotions largely takes place within your limbic system. The limbic system is a part of the brain made up of four parts of your brain: 

  • Amygdala
  • Hippocampus
  • Hypothalamus
  • Thalamus 

The amygdala helps regulate emotions and is responsible for processing stimuli and determining if there is a threat. If the amygdala identifies a threat, it sends signals to the hypothalamus instructing it to activate the sympathetic nervous system. This part of your nervous system is what tells you to “go.” It releases the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline).

When these hormones are released, it makes you alert and prepared to fight or flee. This is a helpful response when there is an actual threat. Someone with anxiety has an overactive limbic system, making them feel like they’re fighting for their lives in ordinary, benign situations. It can feel like you’re running from a bear when really you’re just hanging out with your friends.

a model of a brain with prominent amygdala which helps regulate emotions

How Anxiety Causes Physical Symptoms

The limbic system is an old system intended to keep you safe when your life is in danger. In our more modern world, we don’t often encounter threats and danger in the same way or as frequently as humans used to. 

Nonetheless those with anxiety live in constant “go mode”. When your brain is at high alert, so is your body. 

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include: 

  • Sweating 
  • Muscle tension
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Feeling awake and alert
  • Shaking

While anxiety evolved as a protective mechanism, now, many people who struggle with anxiety disorders experience a hyper-alert state in response to everyday life.

physical symptoms of anxiety can include: sweating, muscle tension, increased heart rate and blood pressure, feeling awake and alert, shaking

The issue with this is two-fold:

  1.  We are regularly inundated with little stressors from work, family, social life, and finances that do not require such an extreme response 
  2. It is not healthy for our minds or bodies to be in an anxious state repeatedly or for prolonged periods of time.

What Are Anxiety Tremors?

Shaking from anxiety is caused by adrenaline. It’s what makes you move in the face of danger by heightening your senses and improving reaction time.

All that energy has to go somewhere, and for some people, its outlet is through tremors in the hands or the body. While the person experiencing the shaking and tremors caused by anxiety can feel them intensely, they may not be both visible to others. 

Anxiety can also exacerbate other tremor disorders. An essential tremor is a neurological tremor condition that leads to involuntary shaking and can be further aggravated by anxiety. 

Psychogenic tremors, or anxiety tremors, are harmless but can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Knowing how to calm yourself down and relax your body and mind can help manage these. 

a woman experiencing anxiety tremors, with hands tightly bound in fists

How to Stop Shaking From Anxiety

To stop any anxiety shaking or trembling, you really just need to treat the root of the problem—the anxiety. Thankfully, anxiety is very treatable. 

Therapy and Medication

Therapy for anxiety is very effective in helping treat and manage anxiety. Typically, therapists will use different types of talk therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help clients identify the thoughts and feelings that contribute to their anxiety. Clients can learn how to manage triggers and calm themselves when anxious.

Medication is another part of treatment for some people with anxiety disorders. Your therapist and/or doctor can help you find the right one that helps you regulate your emotions with  minimal to no side effects.

Relaxation Techniques

Treating anxiety is all about learning to get yourself out of high alert and calm your body and mind. Breathwork can help calm you, ground you, and allow you to focus on something other than the stressor.

Journaling, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and guided imagery are other mindfulness and relaxation activities that work for many people. 

Lifestyle factors can also help or contribute to anxiety. Daily exercise, good sleep habits, kicking nicotine, and limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake can all help to keep anxiety at bay. 

close up of a woman feeling at peace after anxiety treatment

Treat Anxiety at Inner Balance

If you are battling anxiety, mild or severe, you are not alone. Many others are silently fighting the same battle, and many others are getting treated and you can too.

If you are ready to take control of your life back from the hands of anxiety, the experience and thoughtful team at Inner Balance Counseling can help guide and support you on your journey

Reach out. Show up. Feel better.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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