Anxiety is a response that is normally triggered due to worry, sense of danger, stress, fear, or any kind of uncomfortable situation, and the physical sensations from anxiety tend to be rather unpleasant. But besides the discomfort, most times people overlook them and don’t give them a lot of thought while they are experiencing it since they are more focused on the current situation that is causing the anxiety.
However, for people with an anxiety disorder like for example, someone who suffers constant anxiety or panic attacks, these sensations tend to be much more unpleasant, to the point where they become overly sensitive to them. This starts to cause fear and worry towards these sensations, which leads to more anxiety, and more anxiety means more worry and fear, which again produces even more anxiety, and so on.
Tingling in hands and feet anxiety is one of the most commons physical symptoms during high anxiety situations, and you will be learning why this tingling sensation happens, how this symptom happens, and learn some tricks or methods that will help you feel better during these unpleasant moments.
What is Tingling in Hands and Feet?
Tingling in hands and feet is a sensation or symptom that is best described as a numbness mix with pins or needles in your hands and feet. The tingling sensation can also be on other parts of the body, like arms, legs, and lips. It can also be described as a burning sensation, skin-crawling, or itching. There are many ways it can be explained, however, if you felt them you know exactly how it’s like.
The good news is that these sensations even though they are very uncomfortable, they are also completely pain free. People with recurring high levels of anxiety dislike it so much because it is kind of a weird feeling. Since they are highly sensitive to these sensations, it makes it feel much weirder and uncomfortable.
There is actually a medical term for this tingling, which is called Paresthesia. There can be different reasons why someone could have Paresthesia, however, we are going to focus only on the tingling sensations related to anxiety.
Why does the tingling happen?
When you start to feel anxious, there is a survival mechanism that is activated, called the fight or flight response, and its main goal is to help you to stay alive. Of course, these days there are no tigers or similar threats as once did, so even though this survival mechanism was very important back then, it hasn’t evolved according to our current times. For example, back then a threat was a tiger, so it made sense to have a mechanism that would help us fight or run in a more effective way, but now a threat might be a tight deadline at work, or maybe speaking in front of an audience, so here fighting or running more effectively won’t help you.
What happens in your body that produces the tingling?
One important thing that happens in your body is that there is an increase in your blood pressure, which means your heart rate goes up and you start breathing faster, which means a bigger intake of oxygen and hyperventilation. At the same time, your blood flow is being redirected to the most important parts of your body that are better suited to fight. The flight or fight response leaves everything that is not important for immediate survival on hold.
Since there is less blood on the extremities and because commonly there is hyperventilation, both of these are what makes you feel tingling in your hands and feet. And because you’re anxiety is very high and there is no real threat, you tend to give a lot of attention to these sensations which cause you to feel even more anxious, so you get more hyperventilated, and since your body thinks there is a real threat, it keeps redirecting blood to the parts of your body that will help you to fight or run. As you can see when the threat is a tiger this is very useful, but when the threat is doing a public presentation this isn’t very helpful.
Is tingling in hands and feet Dangerous?
No, the tingling sensations from anxiety are a normal reaction of the fight or flight response so it is not dangerous. Once you are able to cool down the anxiety, these sensations will pass. That is why it is always important to remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with you and don’t let these sensations give you more fear and anxiety, because this will only make things worse for you, and for no reason.
How to cope with these sensations?
An important thing to remember is that, as stated before, these sensations are completely normal when you are in a high state of anxiety or going through a panic or anxiety attack, so you have nothing to worry about because as your anxiety goes down, so will the tingling sensations due to to the fact that your fight or flight response is deactivated, meaning that the blood will start flowing again as it normally does.
Always have this in mind, because one of the biggest reasons you get more anxious is because of the fear and worry of these sensations thinking that there might be something wrong with you. Knowing this should help you be a bit more relaxed and less worried about this. So keep saying to yourself “this is normal, it’s just a feeling and nothing more. It is what it is and this too shall pass”. Something along those lines, but you can phrase it in any way that works better for you.
Another important strategy that will help you is the acceptance of these sensations. You know how uncomfortable they are and nobody likes how they feel, however, they are completely natural and to get better it doesn’t mean you will be able to eliminate them or the absence of these sensations. Getting better means learning to live with them without letting it affect you. So it’s a matter of desensitizing on how it affects you every time they are present. You will feel them during your life, everybody does, but for most people even though it’s present they don’t put much thought or attention to it, so it doesn’t affect them. The idea is to rather than rejecting or fighting it, accepting and welcome it. Always remember that this is just your body that is trying to protect you.
If anxiety is too high and you feel is constantly rising along with the uncomfortable sensations, then instead of fighting and pushing those sensations aside start demanding more of it. Yes, exactly as it sounds. You might be thinking, “Ohh no way I’m not doing that, I don’t want to feel worse”. The good news is that if you start demanding more of it, then internally it creates a conflict because if you are asking more of this sensations it means that there is no threat, so what happens it that the fight or flight response stops and instead of having more of these sensations they actually start decreasing. It’s counter-intuitive, however, the more you fight it, the worse it gets. That is why acceptance and then demanding more of it will actually help you and it will decrease the anxiety rather than increasing it. So start practicing this, even if you don’t mean it first. You can also check this article that goes through a 5 step process to stop a panic attack, which explains all this in more detail.
Tingling sensations due to high anxiety is completely normal, which means that there is nothing wrong with you. Always remember and look back so you can notice that every time the anxiety or the panic attack ceases, so do the tingling in your hands and feet or different parts of your body. It’s just the fight or flight response that is acting because it thinks there is a real threat so it wants to protect you.
And the best way to cope with it is understanding you are fine, accept it and if it gets really bad demanding more of it. It’s a counter-intuitive process so it will probably be hard at first, but keep on trying.
Should I seek out help with a specialist?
If you are having recurrent panic attacks or severe anxiety, and you are under a lot of stress, then it’s always a good idea to look for help and get in touch with a professional who specializes in this kind of anxiety or panic disorder, who can help you to work out a treatment that can help you with your generalized anxiety disorder.
What are the most common panic attack symptoms?
The most common mental or physical symptoms due to severe anxiety are tingling or numbness in different parts of the body, and abnormal sensation, sensory symptoms, increased blood flow, muscle tension, dizziness, rapid breathing, nausea, depersonalization, jelly legs, tight throat, palpitations, and tight throat.