In this article, I’ll help you better understand anxiety and twitching. I’ll tell you the story of the very first time I experienced this symptom. I’ll also share what I learned about twitching following that experience, as well as tips on how you can better manage twitching.
In fact, once I learned exactly why these symptoms were occurring, I was able to start better managing them on my own.
It was another regular day at home in Cape Town, South Africa and I had just sat down to have lunch with my mom…
I still remember the food I was eating, and where we bought it from. This just goes to show how our brain holds onto information when something is terrifying or traumatic.
In case you are wondering, it was a sweet chili wrap from Kauai. It’s a really good food place that I ate at all the time!
Okay, so on this particular day, while I was trying to enjoy my lunch, my finger suddenly started to twitch. I had never experienced anything like this before so I was really confused! It quickly turned to fear because it felt like I had no control over my hand.
I held my hand out and watched my finger twitching and moving on its own. While I was trying to figure this out, I then noticed a twitch in my wrist too.
Let me just say here that I was never the type of person to go “Okay, this seems weird, but let’s be logical about what it could be.”
Nope, my brain skipped over that part and went straight to “WHAT IS HAPPENING, SOMETHING IS WRONG, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT THIS IS RIGHT NOW!”
My mom said she’s sure it’s fine and I continued to eat my wrap, no longer paying attention to my food as my finger and wrist continued to twitch and my brain continued to run wild with horrifying thoughts.
At the time, my mom also had a massive medical book that had pretty much every single disease and illness in it that you can think of. I had the bright idea that I was going to look up my symptom in there.
I remember the absolute pit in my stomach as I went in search of it. I was actually so shocked at what a physical reaction I was having and I hadn’t even looked it up yet.
My heart raced, I felt sick, my vision was even blurry, I was terrified at what I would find.
My biggest fear, ALS, right in front of my eyes…
My symptoms came up alongside a degenerative disease I was familiar with because I had read stories and heard of people who had it…
Motor Neuron Disease, also known as ALS.
It was one that absolutely terrified me.
If I thought I was scared before, well… I thought I was going to pass out when I saw this, I could not believe my eyes.
I don’t even remember what I did at this point, I must have mentioned something to my mom, but she didn’t seem too worried.
I just remember being in a bubble of fear. I felt completely isolated and as if I was losing my mind.
I didn’t believe I wasn’t ill, how could I? My symptoms were right there on paper alongside one of my biggest fears.
I don’t remember for certain if my finger twitch went away or if I was still dealing with it when the next twitch started.
What I do remember is I started experiencing twitching in my shoulder (which is apparently a common area for ALS to start, imagine my horror), my arm, and my leg.
I alternated somewhere between a state of complete panic and feeling resigned to the fact I was probably ill or dying.
I felt like I had zero control and this was a hard thing for me to accept, the queen of needing to control everything.
It’s an awful, hopeless place to be.
No one really understands if they haven’t been through it. Saying health anxiety is hell is putting it mildly. Just being alive feels hard. Existing means you are constantly aware of everything.
Every sensation, every twitch, every single symptom…
You get to a point where your sanity is hanging on by a thread.
I’d try to explain it, but was often met with blank stares or “You should see a doctor” or “It’s nothing, you’re just a hypochondriac.”
I felt all alone, and I was.
Depression and health anxiety go hand in hand
Depression had always been something that liked to creep into my life every now and then and you bet it started to make itself comfortable now.
I lived my days on autopilot. I went through the motions, but it was all a haze as my mind could not stop worrying and obsessing.
I wish I could give you a short timeline on how long I dealt with muscle twitches, but the sad fact is that they became my reality for years.
I’m not looking for pity, I know just how many other people have suffered or are suffering right now.
The muscle twitches were either on and off in one area or all over, or they would last for ages.
When I was in my twenties, I had a wrist twitch that lasted for MONTHS in the same spot and it was all day.
I’d read my book or watch a show and physically press down on the twitch to try to make it stop while trying to occupy my mind elsewhere.
I was so damn tired.
More anxiety symptoms followed
It was one symptom after another…
I still had major degenerative disease fears, so I would fixate on the symptoms that I thought were working alongside my muscle twitches as part of my “muscle illness.”
Every time I slipped up with my speech or couldn’t remember something, or my legs felt all jelly-like, I’d feel that familiar knot in my stomach and I’d start spiraling.
It’s pretty much impossible to enjoy life when all you’re thinking is “I must be dying” 24/7.
I spent far too many hours on Google and it only made me panic more.
I had endured these awful twitches for years, so in good moments, when my mind was being logical, I’d think that it surely can’t be ALS as it would have progressed by now…
I’d do really strange things… and worried about MS
I’d pick up objects just to be sure I could grip them and wasn’t losing the use of my muscles (although muscle weakness is common with anxiety).
I’d also read aloud from books when I was on my own to be sure I was able to talk properly, because I’d often stumble over my words or sound like I am slurring and of course this was further cause for me to panic over degenerative issues.
MS became my new worry.
I had all the top symptoms after all, including dizziness, constant fatigue, muscle spasms, vision issues and weird tingling/numb/prickling skin sensations.
Living with health anxiety is hell, but I didn’t know how to just stop worrying.
I would peruse online forums hoping to find some kind of connection from another person who may be experiencing the same thing.
The problem with doing this, however, is that you just don’t know what you could stumble on. If I came across anyone sharing how their symptoms did turn out to be a serious illness, complete panic would once again take over and I’d be back in my dark spiral!
Learning muscle twitches can be caused by anxiety
A glimmer of hope…
One day I came across this guy who shared his story with muscle twitches. He had been to countless doctors and neurologists, had had endless tests and he wanted to share what he had learned.
Just reading his story, and knowing someone else had endured that terrible, all-consuming fear, immediately brought a level of comfort; I actually wasn’t alone.
Of course we don’t wish our symptoms on our worst enemy, yet it really does help to know someone else gets it.
There were two things he mentioned that stood out to me and I still remember them to this day…
The first thing he mentioned was how he had been told that often, with ALS, because the muscle is effectively dying, the muscle twitches may not even be seen or felt, they’re pretty much happening “behind the scenes.” I didn’t Google this, I simply took his word based on what a neurologist had told him and this immediately made me feel a bit better.
My muscle twitches were very obvious and noticeable.
Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, simply sharing my experience and what I have read and learned along the way. Always check with your doctor for professional help.
The other thing he mentioned was Benign Fasciculation Syndrome; a condition that is harmless, but causes widespread muscle twitching in individuals.
One of the main contributing factors is anxiety and chronic stress.
Other factors may include:
- High-intensity exercise
- Too much caffeine or alcohol
- Lack of sleep
What an absolute relief reading about this, I had no idea this was even a thing!
I took screenshots of this story and read it every single day.
Everytime I experienced a twitch and my mind dared to venture to that dark place, I’d pull it up and read it over and I’d feel some relief all over again.
This is what I try so hard to achieve with everything I share; to not only provide validation, but to also help you experience that deep comfort that only comes from reading someone’s story, someone going through the exact same thing.
Your messages mean more to me than you know and they inspire me to continue sharing with you every single day.
I fully relate to crying when you finally see your symptoms explained, when you finally feel less alone after struggling for so long.
Sometimes that can be all you need.
I have received countless messages from people telling me that simply knowing someone else experiences the exact same anxiety symptoms as them is the validation they needed to start moving forward after being stuck for so long.
Let’s break down why these anxiety symptoms happen
When your brain thinks you are in danger and activates the stress response, many changes take place in the body to make your body faster and stronger, or to help you think more clearly if you were in true danger.
Our brain doesn’t always know the difference between a real threat and a perceived one
So, something as small as feeling a little anxious while waiting in line can send the same signals to your brain that would be sent if you were, say, face to face with a massive bear.
When your nervous system is permanently stimulated, your body is pretty much on the verge of fight or flight all day long and so you are going to experience chronic symptoms as a result, not just during a panic attack.
I delve into the why in my first book, Help! Why am I so Anxious?!
I also share loads more info on my podcast.
How to stop anxiety muscle twitching
Okay, so maybe you understand a little better now, but are desperate for some relief from those constant jumping muscles.
Before I explain a little more about what can help, I want to mention that our brain is so incredibly powerful and when we put our attention on something it will only intensify.
Because I didn’t understand anxiety and was so absolutely terrified of the twitches, I put all of my attention there and so they only got worse.
If you close your eyes and picture sucking on something really sour, like a lemon, you may feel your mouth pucker and start to produce more saliva. You’re literally just imagining it yet your body is responding. Do you see how powerful your mind is?
The first thing that helped me to stop obsessing quite as badly as I was, was knowing that muscle twitches really were a common symptom and that other people experienced them too.
Here are a few tips that helped me and that may help you too…
Relax your muscles
When we are anxious we tend to tense our muscles up all day, often without even realizing it.
Not only can chronically tight muscles lead to pain (I have sometimes had the worst pain, especially in my neck and shoulders), but it can also result in twitching and spasms.
Try to become consciously aware of relaxing and releasing tight muscles throughout the day, even setting reminders on your phone if you have to. Release your tight shoulders that are hunched up around your ears, release that tension in your belly, your jaw or anywhere else that feels especially tense.
Gentle massage or stretching can help to release tension too. I love Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube.
Magnesium is truly my savior supplement when it comes to managing my anxiety and tight muscles that constantly twitch, vibrate and spasm.
Some people have mentioned that it doesn’t work for them, but be sure you are taking the right form for anxiety; the glycinate form NOT citrate when taking it orally.
Learn all about magnesium for anxiety.
Also, applying magnesium topically may be quicker and more effective if you are primarily taking it for your muscles. Look for a magnesium gel or spray or try soaking in a bath with Epsom salts.
Limit these anxiety food and lifestyle triggers
As mentioned earlier on, there are certain triggers that may increase muscle twitches so try to be aware of this.
I went through a period where I did intense core workouts every day and I’d get visible jumping in my stomach and then panic… not realizing that exercise can contribute. It’s harmless, just uncomfortable and annoying, not to mention terrifying when you don’t understand what’s happening.
I also went through a panic phase with eye twitching. I’d run to the mirror thinking it was a vein or something, I am not even sure, and then I’d panic as I watched it twitching intensely. Lack of sleep is a big trigger here and during my worst anxiety I wasn’t getting much sleep at all.
Caffeine and alcohol are triggers too, but stress alone can cause eye twitching and all-over body twitching.
I haven’t had caffeine in years and stick to herbal teas such as chamomile and spearmint to help me feel relaxed.
I really hope this has brought you some kind of relief if muscle twitches, and all the fears that go along with it, have been ruling your life. I truly know the agony of a mind that tortures you with thoughts of deadly illnesses and imminent death. Getting out of bed each day is such an incredible challenge when you know it’s going to be another day of worrying and obsessing.
I see you and I validate your experience.
If I could break free from such crippling anxiety then you absolutely can too, but you need to take it one teeny tiny step at a time.
Google is a massive trigger and one that will keep you stuck and constantly spiraling, this is me talking from years of being down the google rabbit hole.
I wrote my Anxiety A to Z Encyclopedia for this reason. I hope it will be your new google, helping you find that relief and comfort without the horror of google, while still helping you to learn and understand.
You are always safe here and never, ever alone.
Do you experience muscle twitching from anxiety? What are your other health anxiety symptoms you have experienced? PS. Join our community wherever you enjoy being active!