Anxiety is generally an internal warning of a potential threat that helps your body to prepare for danger. The threat will trigger the nervous system that, in turn, sets off a fight or flight response. This means that multiple chemicals are poured into your blood to change how your body operates in readiness for your response to the threat. Your blood flow is primarily shifted to the muscles while your heart and respiratory rates increase.
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Though these body responses are normal, there are times when they spin out of control and result in an anxiety disorder. Several symptoms are associated with different anxiety disorder types, including phobias, generalized anxiety, and panic disorders. At least 35% of people have been shown to experience an anxiety attack at least once in their lives following psychological or psychogenic issues. Even so, if you have more than two anxiety episodes in a month, this might indicate an anxiety disorder.
1. Anxiety Symptoms
In an anxiety disorder, you will experience intense symptoms of emotional distress such as worry, racing thoughts, and rumination.
The physical symptoms associated with the condition include:
- Fast heartbeat
- Upset tummies
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tightness
Tingling in your feet and hands can be particularly unnerving, more so when you are already anxious.
2. How Does Tingling Feel?
There are several ways in which you can experience the tingling associated with anxiety disorders. For most people, the symptom is described as pins and needles that are prickling. Others experience a complete sensation loss in any part of their bodies. You might also report a mild burning sensation or prickling that causes your hairs to stand up and tingle.
Though the tingling can affect all body parts, it often affects the feet, arms, legs, and hands. The sensation does not necessarily spread out from these parts. Some people report tingling along the back of their necks, tips of their tongues, face, and scalp. In other people, numbness affects one or both sides of their bodies, but it follows no specific pattern. When experiencing numb hands and feet, anxiety disorders should be among the first issues you consider as their cause.
3. How Long Does It Last?
Most of the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders will subside within a few minutes. The tingling in hands and feet caused by anxiety will, for instance, mostly persist for half an hour though it lasts for longer than this in some people. After the tingling, most patients report intense physical and emotional fatigue. Most patients with anxiety disorders cannot predict how long the attack will last or when it will start. This uncertainty will slowly start locking them in fear and isolation, thus worsening their emotional and physical symptoms.
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4. What Causes Constant Tingling In Limbs?
Though tingling in the feet and hands is common, it is often transient. Constant tingling in hands and feet might, however, point to a problem other than anxiety. Some of the typical issues that cause constant tingling include:
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Vitamin deficiency
- Autoimmune diseases
- Kidney failure
- Nerve inflammation
- Pinched nerve
- Toxin exposure
You can also experience constant limb tingling when you are pregnant or taking medications like those used to manage hypertension, seizures, and cardiac conditions. When battling constant tingling in hands and feet, anxiety should not be among the first conditions you consider.
5. The Causes of Tingling In the Hands and Feet
Thus far, you have noticed there is an association between tingling in hands and feet and anxiety. Tingling in people with anxiety is attributed to two leading reasons; a flight or fight response and hyperventilation.
Here are the tidbits on what happens in these two instances to cause tingling:
1. A Fight or Flight Response
You probably have heard about the fight or flight response which is your body’s survival instinct. This is triggered when you face a perceived threat. One of the main things that happen to prepare your body for a response to danger is the rushing of blood to the parts of your body that you will use to flee or fight. This means that more blood goes to the heart, thigh, shoulders, and chest to help you run or fight. The head will also get a blood rush to guarantee you think clearly.
All the blood rushing to the seemingly vital organs for your response to danger is coming from somewhere else. These include your extremities like the toes, feet, fingers, and hands. With less oxygen in these parts resulting from minimal blood, the areas go temporarily numb and tingle.
When you are anxious, your breathing rate will often increase and become irregular. While this might not last for a long time, it decreases the carbon dioxide levels in your blood. This is because, in hyperventilation, you breathe out more than you breathe in and thus remove too much carbon dioxide.
As a response to the drop in carbon dioxide levels that makes your blood more alkaline, blood vessels constrict, and the body diverts blood flow to what it deems non-essential areas like your extremities. The constriction also makes it hard for blood to reach your extremities, where the blood vessels are naturally quite narrow.
The direction of blood flow away from extremities leaves these areas numb and tingling. If you hyperventilate for a long time, blood loss to your extremities continues, and blood also starts draining from your brain. This might cause a loss of consciousness.
Note that an anxiety disorder often increases your sensitivity to emotional and physical reactions. As such, most people with the condition usually start noticing tingling and numbness even for perfectly ordinary reasons like sitting for extended periods. Even so, most patients will often associate these symptoms with something serious, a response that worsens their anxiety.
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6. Management Options for Tingling
If an anxiety disorder manifests itself as tingling in your hands and feet, several management approaches will help you cope with the symptom.
Here are a few of those approaches:
1. Start Moving
Engaging in regular physical activity goes a long way in improving the physical and emotional issues associated with anxiety disorders. This is because movement ensures that blood reaches the extremities to relieve tingling while helping you calm down when feeling suddenly anxious. It also helps you return to normal breathing that, in turn, relieves tingling. Though you, in some cases, might not be as ready for an intense workout, consider taking a brisk walk, light jog, or simple stretches. Something as seemingly minor as dancing can also relieve the tingling associated with anxiety disorders.
2. Breathing Exercises
Diaphragmatic (belly) breathing or other deep breathing exercises help manage anxiety and the signs associated with it. This is because the belly breaths ensure you take in a lot of oxygen to dilute the high levels of carbon dioxide linked to hyperventilating.
If you are not conversant with belly breathing, here are some tips for practicing it:
- Lean forward with your elbows placed on your knees
- Breathe slowly and naturally
With these steps, you will automatically draw breaths into your belly. Though hard at first, constant practice will help you get used to the breathing technique. Try resting your hand on your tummy when belly breathing. If you feel its expansion, this means that you are doing the exercise right. Other than relieving an anxiety attack, belly breathing can also help you avoid the attacks. In this case, try the exercise when you feel like the fight or flight response is taking over.
3. Engage in Relaxing Activities
When working on tasks that make you anxious, you can try distracting yourself with something you find enjoyable so that it takes your mind off anything that contributes to your anxiety. This works even when the break is only for 10-15 minutes because it helps you reset your thoughts. You can handle the task later when you feel more productive and better equipped to work on it.
Some of the calming activities that work for most people include:
- Watching soothing videos
- Listening to music
- Calling loved ones
- Taking a favorite beverage
- Spending time in nature
The tingling in your hands and feet often disappears as your immediate anxiety dissipates.
4. Try to Avoid Worrying
Though avoiding worry is easier said than done, when worrying about numb hands and feet, anxiety often worsens. If your anxiety attack often comes with tingling, try tracking these sensations. This way, you can start some grounding exercises or other coping approaches when you recognize the feelings that give way to tingling. Keeping a log of the patterns of your tingling sensations might help you anticipate them and worry less about them. This, in turn, minimizes your anxiety attacks.
5. Simplify Your Life
In most patients who experience tingling with an anxiety attack, the attack follows an experience that leaves them overwhelmed. Simplifying your life as much as you can by negating the stressors in it can help you cope with anxiety. This can mean working less, scheduling your day better, decluttering your home, or avoiding the purchase of things you do not need.
7. When Do You Need To See a Doctor for Tingling?
For tingling in hands and feet anxiety, treatment is not always necessary because this symptom is not always a serious health issue. Even so, it can be a symptom of something that should worry you. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if the tingling worsens over time, has no clear cause, keeps recurring, or happens when making movements like writing or typing. Conditions like hypothyroidism and diabetes sometimes cause anxiety. These should be appropriately treated after screening so that the symptoms of anxiety you have will end.
It is particularly crucial to talk to your doctor if the tingling happens suddenly or following a traumatic head injury. Emergency assistance is necessary if the tingling happens in combination with disorientation, muscle weakness, sudden headaches, dizziness, and speech issues.
8. Common Treatments for Anxiety Disorders
The best option for you to relieve the tingling you experience with an anxiety disorder is to address its cause or triggers. This might mean visiting a mental health specialist to recommend the best treatment approach for you after undergoing tests to rule out other issues.
Psychotherapy is often the first treatment option. Here, you undergo counseling that will help you learn the way emotions affect your behavior. It also includes recognizing the triggers of your anxiety attacks such as illicit drug use, alcoholism, lack of sleep, and poor nutrition. Psychotherapy sometimes includes some coping strategies to minimize the impact of an anxiety disorder on your life. The most common strategy is cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The common drugs used include:
These are usually taken for a few months before you see the results. Moreover, their doses are reduced over time before you can quit taking the drug so that you do not get withdrawal symptoms.
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From the aspects covered above, you now have all the essential information on what causes the tingling when you are having an anxiety attack and how best to deal with it. Some people assume that anxiety attacks and the symptoms associated with it are nothing to worry about. Even so, constant attacks will significantly impact your relationships, work, and mood. Moreover, the attacks often leave patients with suicidal thoughts and thoughts of harming others.
The first step when dealing with an anxiety disorder is, however, to get the right diagnosis. This way, you can tailor the management approaches to benefit you. Though many clinics exist for the same, get one with qualified mental health specialists and the best diagnostic approaches. EZCare Clinic is among your best options in this respect with its advanced diagnostic and management approaches for anxiety disorders. Book your appointment with us or call us directly.