Can anxiety cause muscle twitching?

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In this blog we will address the question “Can anxiety cause muscle twitching?” and if so, how you can manage it.

We will also discuss what anxiety is, the symptoms of anxiety, causes and possible treatments for anxiety. 

Can anxiety cause muscle twitching?

Yes, anxiety can cause muscle twitching. 

In fact, muscle twitching has been observed as one of the less common symptoms of anxiety and though not everyone one has these symptoms when they have been affected by anxiety, it is a potential symptom.

Twitching involves movements that are small or at times larger involuntary jerking motions of the muscles. It can affect any muscle in the body and can last a few seconds or longer. 

In an individual with anxiety, this can happen regularly, whenever they are stressed or anxious, or not at all. One example of muscle twitch that is more commonly observed is eye-twitching when stressed or anxious. 

For an individual with anxiety who experiences muscle twitching as a symptoms in can occur in various ways:

  • It can involve one muscle or one group of muscles or more groups. 
  • When the muscles are relaxed, the twitching continues
  • The twitching is observed or reported as pulses, throbs, spasms, tremor, or uncontrollable vibration. 
  • The twitching can be slow, sporadic, can come and go, or it can be persistent like a tremor or vibration. 
  • It can last a few seconds or it can last longer, for hours and at times for days.

Oftentimes, the twitching can lead to more anxiety and aggravation of anxious thoughts because it can be a terrifying experience for an individual who is not aware of this particular symptom. 

What causes anxiety twitching?

The most obvious explanation for anxiety twitching is that it is a result of stress response. 

Anxiety and panic has a direct link to fear or stress and this, evolutionarily speaking, leads to individual behavioural and physiological changes as a way to prepare the individual to either fight or take flight- this is the stress response. 

Because the brain is wired to respond to threats, real or imagined, with either fight or flight, the brain signals other parts of the body to respond by increasing blood flow to the muscles to prepare them to fight or run. 

The brain can also signal the body to tighten the muscles to become more resilient to harm. Along with this it is also possible that there is a heightened electrical activity in the nervous system for quick response and there is also an increase in the blood sugar level. 

So, as a result what we have is a body with muscles that is full of energy due to adrenaline in the body, increased nerve energy, increased sugar levels, and increased pressure. A combination of all of these can lead to the muscle to twitch, tremor, and vibrate.

Now, another reason why muscles twitch even if there is no immediate threat, could be because of  Stress-response hyperstimulation.

In this case, there is no immediate stress or danger however, because the individual is frequently under stress, pressure, and distress, the body cannot recover into a state of relaxation. 

So the body remains in a semi-alert state due to higher levels of cortisol in the body- a stress hormone that triggers the stress response. 

So the body is in a state of hyperstimulation which can lead to active stress responses even when the mechanism has not been triggered. So, the person could be in a state of lying down, however if they are under psychological stress it is possible that the response will be triggered without much reason and as a result lead to anxiety symptoms including muscle twitching. 

How to manage the Muscle Twitching?

Here are a few things you can do to manage muscle twitching:

  • Exercise since one of the causes is excess energy due to adrenaline, expel the energy with exercise such as running, cardio, yoga etc.
  • Make sure you follow a healthy diet that meets all nutrient demands of your body.
  • Get good sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants including coffee and caffeine. 
  • Avoid stress, cut out, remove, or reduce any object or cause of stress in your life.
  • Engage in meditation and mindfulness exercises to get yourself relaxed.
  • Stop thinking about the twitching since it is possible that if you’re worried about your muscles twitching, your muscles may be more likely to twitch. 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety refers to the body’s natural response to stress and it involves a fear or apprehension of a possible threat. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as 

“…an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

According to this definition, anxiety involves emotions, thoughts, and physiological reactions to a stressor or a state of stress. 

It is a normal response that many people have as a mechanism developed to help people survive and it is what triggers our flight or fight response in the face of danger.

However, when there is no apparent threat and this state of apprehension is caused by triggers that are inappropriate to the anxious response or this state persists for more than six months, it could be possible that the anxiety has developed into a disorder or that in its indication of a negative state of well-being. 

Anxiety that is persistent is a key part of several anxiety disorders identified by the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders. 

The various types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder where the disorder is characterised by recurring panic attacks at unexpected times and individuals usually live in fear of the next panic attack.
  • Specific phobia Disorder where the individual has inappropriate and excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity
  • Social anxiety disorder where individual experiences anxiety symptoms related to the extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations
  • General Anxiety disorder where the individual has a pervasive pattern of excessive, irrational, and inappropriate worry or tension regarding various aspects of their lives. 

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Here are the commonly reported symptoms of general anxiety:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling keyed up
  • Excess perspiration
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Nightmares or sleep terrors
  • Anxious thoughts and worry
  • Intrusive thoughts about a possible or imagined threat. 

For an individual to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, these symptoms along with others should be persistent for at least a specific amount of time and should cause dysfunction in all areas of their lives. 

What causes anxiety?

When it comes to the causes of anxiety disorders, possible links have been made. These probable causes include:

  • Stress from work, relationships, family issues
  • Genetics vulnerability
  • Family history
  • Childhood experiences
  • Life experiences
  • Medical factors such as a medical condition that causes the stress or effects of a medication. 
  • Brain chemistry and structure. 
  • Withdrawal from a substance
  • Trauma 
  • Loss and death

What are the treatments available for anxiety?

If your symptoms are debilitating or severe to the point where it is getting in the way of your day to day life, the most advisable thing you can do is to seek treatment from a mental health professional.

Various treatment options for anxiety include:

Cognitive behavioural therapy

In terms of Cognitive behavioural therapies your therapist will teach you how to regulate your negative and irrational thoughts when you come across triggers. 

As you engage in therapy you will start learning to alter your thoughts, develop an awareness of how you feel, and as a consequence the way you react in situations where you are faced with a real or imagined trigger. 

Rational Emotive Behavioural therapy

REBT is an action-oriented type of CBT that addresses unhealthy or irrational beliefs and attitudes that influence thoughts,  emotions, and behaviours. 

It follows the ABC model of developing an awareness about the processes that influenced the development of the phobia such as the activating event, the beliefs that were developed as a result and the consequences of those beliefs. 

It uses a method known as “disputing” to assist individuals develop realistic and healthy beliefs and as a consequence develop the ability to rationalise their thoughts and their emotional and behavioural responses as well. 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 

MBSR is an evidence-based program that involves mindfulness training to help people who are suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues. 

MBSR could be helpful in helping individuals deal with their phobia as it has been found to be effective in tackling anxiety issues in most cases. 

The program involves teaching and training individuals to develop skills to cope with the anxiety or to reduce the intensity of the anxiety. 

Pharmacological treatment

If your anxiety is extremely severe your doctor may prescribe you antidepressants or an anti-anxiety medication to assist your treatment, your panic, and other physical symptoms.

These medications will most probably be prescribed to you in the case that you have been diagnosed with the disorder, meaning that the anxiety has now affected your life significantly. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have addressed the question “Can anxiety cause a pulse in the stomach?” and if so, how you can manage it.

We have also discussed what anxiety is, the symptoms of anxiety, causes and possible treatments for anxiety. 

FAQ related to “Can anxiety cause a pulse in the stomach?” 

Can anxiety cause involuntary movements?

Yes, involuntary movements such as Muscle twitching, including muscle spasms, twitches, cramps, pulsing, throbbing, tremors, and involuntary muscle movements are common symptoms of anxiety.

Why do my nerves twitch all over my body?

Nerve twitches can be a  symptom of mental health issues that manifest physically, especially in the case of stress and anxiety.

How do you know you have anxiety?

It is possible that you have anxiety if you experience the following symptoms for at least two weeks to a month and it causes severe dysfunction in your personal life, relationships, and occupation. These symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling keyed up
  • Excess perspiration
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Nightmares or sleep terrors
  • Anxious thoughts and worry
  • Intrusive thoughts about a possible or imagined threat. 

Can anxiety disorders be cured?

Anxiety disorders like all mental illnesses are not curable, meaning that anxiety won’t go away indefinitely. 

However, symptoms can be managed with therapy and medication to the point that an individual is no longer affected by the symptoms. 

References

Felman. A. What to know about anxiety. Medicalnewstoday. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454#what-is-anxiety

Hersh.E. What Causes Anxiety Twitching and How to Treat It. Healthline Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety-twitching

Abraham.M. Can Muscle Twitching Be Caused By Anxiety? ClamClinic. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/signs/muscle-twitching

Folk.J. Muscle Twitching Anxiety Symptoms. Anxiety Centre. Retrieved on 3rd February 2022. https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-disorders/symptoms/muscle-twitching/

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