Anxiety can cause physical symptoms, such as shaking, but there are ways to manage it.

You may think of your anxiety as something that only affects your brain, but for many people, anxiety presents with physical symptoms as well.

One of these is shaking. If you experienced your knees knocking or your hands trembling when anxiety grabs you, you might know how disconcerting this can be.

Anxiety disorders can include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, phobias, separation anxiety, and agoraphobia. Shaking associates with all of them, though not everyone with an anxiety disorder develops shaking.

The cause of anxiety shaking is your body entering a fight, flight, or freeze mode when you experience stress. When this happens, your heart rate may increase and your blood pressure can climb.

The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol flood your system. Your muscles tense as all of this happens, then they release as the stressor fades, giving you the shakes.

Anxiety shaking usually lasts until the stress response ends, which can be a few seconds or a few minutes.

When a person experiences anxiety, they may experience a physical reaction to their stress. This physical reaction can lead to anxiety shaking. Sometimes anxiety shaking is part of a panic attack and sometimes the symptoms are less severe.

When a person experiences anxiety shaking, they may experience any combination of the following symptoms:

  • trembling hands
  • shaking muscles
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling lightheaded or developing tunnel vision like you might faint
  • clamminess
  • nausea

Mindfulness

A small 2022 study revealed that mindfulness practice can help reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety. Apps like Headspace or Calm are popular ways to access mindfulness plans and track your progress.

The purpose of mindfulness is to remain in the present moment and accept the thoughts that pass through your mind without any judgment. This practice can help you regulate your emotions, such as feelings of anxiety, which can help prevent anxiety shaking symptoms.

Breathing exercises

Another small 2022 study found that breathing exercises, with a focus on breathing deeply into the diaphragm to increase oxygen flow, can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Since one symptom of anxiety can be hyperventilation, focusing on your breath may help ward off more uncontrollable breathing, as well as help prevent your body from entering fight, flight, or freeze mode and developing the shakes.

Yoga

A different small 2022 study found that yoga, when practiced consistently over time, may help people with anxiety relax and experience fewer stress responses to their anxiety triggers. There are both free and paid apps that can help you begin a yoga practice, or, if COVID-19 protocols allow it in your area, you can find a local studio.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT can be very helpful in treating anxiety, according to a 2022 research review. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing thought patterns through exposure and learning to manage automatic responses.

If a certain anxiety trigger leads to the anxiety shakes for you, learning to rewire your brain to respond differently to that trigger might eliminate the symptom entirely.

Creative arts therapy

A 2021 review found that creative arts therapies, including art therapy, music therapy, dance and movement therapy, and bibliotherapy, help reduce anxiety symptoms in similar ways to CBT.

However, in creative art therapy, you create something a work of art, a musical composition, choreography that may help your brain focus more on that process than on your anxiety trigger.

Equine therapy

Equine therapy, done through horseback riding, can help reduce symptoms of social anxiety and social phobia, according to one small 2021 study performed in South Korea.

Because social anxiety and phobias often trigger shaking, if you have access to equine therapy, the benefits to you both physically and mentally could be significant.

Antidepressants

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be a very effective treatment option for anxiety. In fact, SSRIs tend to be the most common class of antidepressants that doctors prescribe to treat anxiety and depression due to their limited side effects and their overall effectiveness in reducing symptoms.

While medication generally goes hand-in-hand with psychotherapy, using medication to reduce and moderate symptoms first may help people reach a point where they may be willing and able to access therapy.

If your anxiety disorder whether it’s generalized anxiety, social anxiety, phobia, or panic disorder leaves you shaking as a symptom, it can be helpful to understand why your body responds to your triggers that way.

Your body enters its fight, flight, or freeze response, during which your muscles tense then relax suddenly, leaving you shaky. It can also leave you feeling like your heart rate increases or like you might faint.

Treatment exists, whether it’s through self-care practices, therapy, medication, or a combination of the three, to manage your anxiety symptoms, such as shaking. Whichever treatment plan you choose, try to remember that you’re not alone and you can get better.

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