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Can Anxiety Cause Muscle Weakness?

Can anxiety make you feel weak
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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When you become anxious, you may get various physical anxiety symptoms [1*] pounding heart, rapid breathing, trembling, or shaking — as your level of anxiety builds up. And when your stress level drops, you can experience fatigue and weakness in your whole body.

Experiencing muscle weakness can be very scary and can worsen your current anxiety. Severe tension or worry can make you feel overwhelmed with distress.

Naturally, functioning on a daily basis can become very difficult if this symptom becomes prolonged. Moreover, doing physical activities can feel like an impossible task.

How are anxiety and weakness interrelated? Let us dive into more detailed information on this matter.

MEDvidi doctors are here for you. Contact us to get a diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan for anxiety disorder.

How to Know Your Weakness Is from Anxiety?

Muscle weakness is not a common anxiety symptom. However, it can happen when you are overly anxious, nervous, tense, stressed, or in conjunction with other panic attack symptoms. It can also arise sometimes without any triggering events. A research study [2*] has also established a link between muscular dystrophy (progressive muscle weakness) with stress disorders like anxiety.

Additionally, it may be present with varying severity — from hardly perceptible to extremely severe. This can interfere with daily activities.

When caused by anxiety, one or more muscles may feel weak, numb, heavy, or worn out to the extent that it becomes impossible to relax, loosen, or move a group of muscles. You may also feel exhausted as muscles do not support your weight or body movements. Specifically, muscles in the hands, arms, neck, chest, stomach, and back are more affected by anxiety. This muscle weakness due to anxiety may mimic symptoms of other severe illnesses like multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Parkinson’s Disease.

Only a doctor can diagnose anxiety disorders. Start with a free mental health assessment and book an appointment.

Anxiety and Exhaustion: What Can Cause Such a Consequence

Numerous factors can cause muscle weakness associated with anxiety. It may result in both a “feeling” of muscle weakness and real muscle weakening. Here are the most typical reasons for anxiety to cause muscle weakness symptoms:

  1. Fight or flight response. During this stress response, several physiological, psychological, and emotional changes happen. These may be high blood pressure, fast breathing, hyperactive nervous system, etc. This can make you feel like the energy has been drained from your muscles.
  2. Hyperventilation and hypoventilation. Hyperventilation is characterized by taking quicker or deeper breaths. Meanwhile, hypoventilation is holding your breath or slow breathing. Both breathing patterns reduce blood flow to the brain. A reduction in CO2 can make you feel faint and lightheaded, and your muscles feel tired, heavy, and weak to an extreme degree.
  3. Low blood sugar. Stress and anxiety can deplete your body of its energy resources and cause a reduction in blood sugar [3*] . This condition can cause lightheadedness, fatigue, and heavy muscles.
  4. Muscle tension and fatigue. Feeling tired and anxious can make your muscles stiff and your body tired. As a result, your muscles may get so exhausted that you may experience a loss of strength.
  5. Sleep deprivation. Anxiety can also interfere with the normal sleep cycle and cause symptoms such as dizziness, tiredness, and weak and exhausted muscles.
  6. Perceived weakness. Sometimes a person with anxiety disorder becomes too focused on it and its symptoms. They can think they experience muscle weakness or pain, while it is just in their heads. They can become too sensitive to the perception of what is happening to their bodies. Or they can overestimate the severity of the feelings in their muscles.

Want to know the root causes of your anxiety symptoms? Consult a mental health professional online.

Can anxiety cause weakness

How to Overcome Fatigue from Anxiety

If you are not genuinely and reasonably tired, you can try these self-help strategies to reduce the feeling of having weak muscles:

  1. Take a walk or do stretching/yoga [4*] to show your brain that your muscles are doing alright.
  2. Restore your breathing with the help of breathing exercises and get rid of hyperventilation/hypoventilation.
  3. Switch your focus from your muscles to something else with the help of mental exercises, time outside, music, talking on the phone, or meditation.

If none of the above reduces your feeling of muscle weakness, anxiety treatment guided by a mental health expert will help. You may be offered any of the following options or their combination:

  1. Medications for anxiety. Consider consulting a doctor if your muscle weakness negatively influences your everyday life and you feel out of control. If necessary, they will evaluate your symptoms and prescribe medication for your anxiety [5*] . Our mental health specialists are certified and can prescribe the right meds to ease your anxiety symptoms.
  2. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Therapy will help you to deal with the initial cause of your muscle weakness — anxiety. A personalized treatment plan will help you achieve your therapy goals quicker with your therapist.

Bottom Line

Can anxiety cause weakness in your muscles? Yes, it can, especially during intense anxiety periods and chronic anxiety. Try to determine the causes so you can deal with the symptom effectively and get rid of them.

You can prevent muscle weakness from anxiety if you follow your treatment plan. Licensed mental health specialists at MEDvidi are ready to provide you with high-quality care. We understand how much difficulty your mental health issues may bring into your life and are here to offer high-quality treatment.

Sign up and request help by booking an appointment with a doctor. Start your anxiety treatment online today!


5 sources
  1. Physical symptoms in primary care. Predictors of psychiatric disorders and functional impairment. (1994)
    Source link
  2. The link between stress disorders and autonomic dysfunction in muscular dystrophy. (2014)
    Source link
  3. The prevalence of impaired glucose regulation in anxiety disorder patients and the relationship with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis activity. (2019)
    Source link
  4. Effect of yoga training on reaction time, respiratory endurance and muscle strength. (1992)
    Source link
  5. Pharmacotherapy of Anxiety Disorders: Current and Emerging Treatment Options. (2020)
    Source link
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.