Anxiety affects people differently and can cause different symptoms, from nervousness and shaking to muscle tension. Anxiety can cause tremors and even worsen an already existing tremor. If you already have an existing disorder like essential tremor or ET, anxiety can worsen the symptoms even though it may not be the causative agent of ET.
There has also been a proven fact that some people with essential tenor may experience anxiety in situations where the tremor is more obvious, for instance, when they are in a social setting or giving a presentation.
There are several ways to reduce these tremors, including staying far away from stress and anxiety. The most helpful way is to practice mindfulness and muscle relaxation techniques and speak with your therapist about ideal ways to reduce anxiety and manage shakiness and essential tremors.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, fear, and dread. It usually ranges from mild to severe and can cause some physical symptoms. If you're feeling anxious, your heartbeat may increase, and your hands or another part of your body may shake. You may also experience sweating and nausea.
Tremors are usually common with anxiety, and they occur when a person has stage fright, social anxiety disorder, or is dealing with the fear of public speaking.
How the Body Reacts in an Anxious State
When a person is in a stressful state or feeling anxious, the body immediately goes into a fight or flight response (and prepares for dangerous situations). Epinephrine (adrenaline) is released and increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. Norepinephrine is the second hormone released, and it plays a role in the physical manifestation of anxiety.
However, anxiety can also occur in situations that are not dangerous. Examples include social anxiety disorder (SAD), a condition that makes people nervous in social gatherings. It can also cause shaky hands and trembling as well as other symptoms.
Norepinephrine, another stress hormone, is also released and involved in the manifestation of these physical symptoms of anxiety.
When you’re feeling anxious, your muscles may become tenser since anxiety primes your body to react to an environmental “danger.” Your muscles may also twitch, shake, or tremble. Tremors that are caused by anxiety are known as psychogenic tremors.
If you have essential tremors, anxiety isn’t the direct cause. But, ET patients can experience an increase in the severity of their tremors due to feelings of anxiousness and stress.
If experiencing hand tremors and anxiety, it's best to seek the advice of a doctor. Though a tremor is temporary and stress-related, a persistent tremor while doing certain movements may indicate an underlying condition or essential tremor (ET).
Can Anxiety Cause Tremors?
During anxiety, the body goes into a fight or flight mode, leading to increased blood pressure. Because a person is anxious, adrenaline is released, and this causes the heartbeat to increase and the muscles to shake and tremor.
Continuous tremors are often a sign that something else is wrong. If you have persistent shaky hands, you may have essential tremors.
In essence, anxiety can cause tremors and increase the incidence of essential tremors.
Essential Tremor and Anxiety
Anxiety has a huge effect on essential tremor, as most people usually have an anxiety disorder in conjunction with essential tremor. Here are some types of anxiety disorders people with essential tremor may experience:
Panic disorder: This is the most extreme of all anxiety disorders, and it can happen with or without a trigger. People who experience panic disorder feel intense fear or anxiety. Some symptoms include heart palpitations, feelings of doom, shortness of breath, and many more.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD): People with SAD have high fear and nervousness in social gatherings and situations. They tend to avoid large gatherings as a result.
Generalized anxiety disorder: This is consistent and out-of-proportion worry about situations, events, and activities. It usually appears in conjunction with depression or another disorder.
Agoraphobia:People with this anxiety disorder suffer from fear or avoidance of places or situations they do not control.
For people with essential tremor, the condition can cause one or more anxiety disorders, making the shaking from essential tremor even more severe.
Triggers for Anxiety
Anxiety can be triggered by literally anything. A stressor can be temporary and situational, like being stuck in traffic on your way to work, or long-term, like worrying about your inability to get a job for a long period.
Patients with essential tremor may develop anxiety as they worry about their health. It can be a short-term and temporary stressor for some or long-term for others. Possible situations that could make those with essential tremor develop anxiety include the following:
Worrying about the effectiveness of treatment
Worrying if the symptoms will worsen with time
Thinking about how others perceive their tremors in public
Other anxiety triggers may include performing specific actions or tasks that are now difficult to accomplish with an essential tremor, like eating, holding a cup, drinking water, or trying to thread a needle.
How To Reduce Symptoms of Essential Tremor and Anxiety
Tremors from anxiety and essential tremor can be discomforting, but you can use a few coping mechanisms to improve your quality of life. If you are dealing with anxiety and essential tremor, here are a few things you can do.
Therapy and Medication
The two primary treatments for tremors are medication and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is especially for anxiety tremors and is also known as psychological counseling or talk therapy. One of the most effective forms of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy. It involves identifying triggers and teaching specific skills to patients so that they return to the activities they once stayed away from because of anxiety. CBT also provides support as you deal with essential tremor.
Sometimes, a doctor may recommend anti-anxiety medications to help patients deal with chronic anxiety. Some anti-anxiety medications may improve the symptoms of essential tremor. Examples are beta blockers and benzodiazepines, common anti-anxiety prescriptions that help with essential tremor symptoms.
Exercise is a powerful way to get all your muscles moving. It helps to relieve stress, improves one’s mood, and promotes general body health. When you exercise, endorphins (natural chemicals in the body) increase causing you to feel happy and more relaxed.
Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine are known to worsen anxiety. Nicotine and caffeine can also worsen essential tremor. So, quit smoking, and reduce or eliminate the intake of any of these substances to decrease anxiety and tremors.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a practice for when experiencing the shakes. It involves tightening and releasing your muscles as you experience tremors. You can start from your head or feet and work down or up.
Employing Relaxation Techniques
You can use relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to reduce essential tremor and anxiety. Just like meditation, yoga teaches you to stay in the moment and avoid anxiety. You can also stretch your muscles via yoga to loosen and reduce anxiety. You can practice stretching all day by simply stretching your arms above your head as your work or stretching your neck or back.
Eat Healthily and Sleep Well
Getting enough rest is a very important step in managing anxiety. It helps your body and brain function at optimal levels. Also, eat a balanced diet of fruits, nuts, carbs, meat, and fish. If you’re not sleeping well, be sure to see your doctor.
As patients struggle with essential tremor, it can trigger anxiety and worsen an already existing anxiety disorder. However, with a proper treatment plan and with help from a therapist, your condition can be managed effectively.
You can manage essential tremor with medications and devices like the Steadiwear weighted hand gloves. It’s a perfect alternative, especially for someone who has used medications and is left with some negative side effects. Though essential tremor has no cure, you can manage it with lifestyle changes, hand and wrist exercises, and Steadi-Two.
If you’re dealing with essential tremor and also struggling with an anxiety disorder, it’s best to seek your doctor's advice for proper diagnosis and supportive care.