While muscle twitching is linked to several known health conditions — including a pinched spinal nerve, Isaacs’ syndrome, or ALS — it can also commonly be caused by anxiety disorder. Twitching (which is just a small muscle contraction) is actually a common symptom experienced by people who live with anxiety. It’s so common, in fact, that anxiety and twitching often go hand in hand.
Read on to learn more about the relationship between anxiety and twitching, what the causes might be, and how to prevent or treat anxiety twitching.
The Relationship Between Anxiety and Twitching
Anxiety can impact the body in many ways. When it causes muscle twitches, it can be frightening, especially for people whose anxiety might stem (partially or largely) from fear of health concerns.
“After you’ve been assured by a medical professional that the twitch is caused by anxiety, the next step would be to find out how your thoughts and emotions may be contributing. Anxious thoughts of impending crisis let your body know that it needs to be on high alert. Uncontrolled body movements could be a result of this messaging.”Talkspace therapist Dr. Karmen Smith, LCSW, DD
Even though anxiety might initially cause muscle twitching, these symptoms don’t always appear solely when stress levels are high. Some people might experience a muscle twitch even when they don’t feel anxious at all. Ongoing feelings of stress and anxiety can change the way your body functions.
Twitching anxiety is a common symptom, but it’s generally not the only sign someone with anxiety will have. Other symptoms may include sweating, rapid breathing, and a sense of impending doom. Treating anxiety can help you manage all of your symptoms, including muscle twitching.
Potential Causes of Muscle Twitching
We’re able to move because the brain sends the body nerve impulses that tell our muscles to move and contract. When we experience high levels of stress and anxiety, our nerve energy changes. This can cause the brain to send nerve impulses even when we don’t need to move, causing an involuntary muscle contraction.
A muscle twitch can also occur when adrenaline levels are high. As adrenaline surges through the body, it sends more energy to the muscles. Muscles might react to this change in energy by contracting.
While anxiety alone can cause twitching, additional factors (besides some of the health conditions we already mentioned) might contribute to it as well. For example, lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies, and caffeine intake all might make your muscles twitch from time to time.
If you’ve been struggling with anxiety twitching, it’s smart to evaluate and, if necessary, address the potential causes.
Why does anxiety cause muscle twitching?
Feeling anxious can lead to muscle tension in the body. This reflex is designed to protect the body from injury. Holding tension in your muscles can disrupt body signals and create changes in nerve energy.
Anxiety can also cause symptoms like rapid breathing, which can result in calcium levels in the blood plummeting. This can result in a range of nervous system symptoms, including muscle spasms and twitching. Twitching anxiety is essentially a sign that your body might be out of balance.
Ways to Help Prevent Muscle Twitching from Anxiety
Fortunately, if your anxiety is causing you (probably harmless, but likely annoying) muscle twitching, there are several effective, easy-to-implement self-help techniques you can start using today.
Our bodies use magnesium for both nerve transmission and muscle contractions. Low magnesium levels can interfere with these functions, causing symptoms like twitching. Not only can magnesium supplements help with symptoms like anxiety twitching, but they may also improve other anxiety symptoms.
Enhance your sleep hygiene
When the body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, it produces more cortisol. This can intensify anxiety and might be a cause of muscle spasms or twitches. Improving your sleep hygiene can help your body get the rest it needs and keep it balanced.
Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Sleep in a dark, quiet room without any distractions. While it’s okay to take short naps during the day if you’re tired, you should avoid sleeping longer than 20 minutes. Any more than that can disrupt your sleep that night.
Do deep breathing exercises
Breathing exercises for anxiety are one of the best ways to reduce body twitches. These help to lower your stress levels during anxiety flare-ups. Deep breathing can trigger relaxation responses in the body, helping you calm down quickly. You can simply focus on taking deep breaths or try specific exercises like the 4-5-6 method or the 4-7-8 technique.
Limit caffeine intake
You don’t have to give up caffeine entirely if you’re struggling with anxiety symptoms, but you might want to reduce your total intake. While caffeine itself doesn’t cause anxiety, it can potentially make symptoms more severe. Monitor your caffeine consumption to make sure that it’s not fueling your anxiety symptoms. One simple trick is to avoid drinking caffeine later in the afternoon or evening.
Many people with anxiety keep their feelings bottled up. If you write down what you’re going through though, you might be able to work through your feelings and lower your stress level before it causes muscle twitches. Keeping a journal can also make it easier to track your symptoms and identify potential anxiety triggers.
Use muscle relaxation techniques
You can loosen up tense muscles with a good stretch or by trying progressive muscle relaxation. This relaxation technique is designed to ease symptoms of anxiety and can be a great way to treat anxiety twitching.
While you’re inhaling, try contracting the muscles in one part of your body, then slowly release the tension as you exhale. Continue to tense and relax all the muscles in your body, working from one end of the body to the other (like from head to toes). This can be a really effective way to relieve muscle tension and restore balance in your body.
Treatment Options for Twitching from Anxiety
Wondering how to treat anxiety and its symptoms like twitching? There are so many effective treatments for anxiety, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), other types of therapy for anxiety, and anxiety medication. Mental health professionals might recommend that people with anxiety make lifestyle changes aimed at reducing stress in their life. Some of the common, effective tactics can include:
- Eating healthy
- Working out
- Using mantras
- Seeking therapy
- Staying hydrated
- Spending time in nature
- Making sleep a priority
- Taking care of your health — not putting off annual healthcare appointments
Since there are other health conditions that can cause them, if you’re suddenly experiencing a muscle spasm or twitch, it’s a good idea to discuss things with your healthcare provider. You may be advised to undergo tests to rule out other mental health conditions.
No matter what’s causing your muscle twitching, it’s important to find an effective way to manage anxiety. Talkspace is an online therapy platform where you can get the help you need. Talkspace therapists can provide you with the right tools and knowledge, so you can relieve symptoms like anxiety body twitches. Learning to manage your anxiety can do so much to improve your quality of life.
Reviewed On: July 8, 2022