stressed man at a desk

Anxiety can cause muscles to twitch, and this includes stressing over this very situation.

It’s common for a person, who’s been experiencing twitching muscles, to notice an increase in frequency and/or a “spreading” of the fasciculations in relation to increased anxiety over this.

How is it that anxiety, even if it’s about finances or workplace security, can cause muscles to twitch?

“Persons with anxiety or panic attacks have higher levels of excitatory neurochemicals such as epinephrine and norepinephrine,” explains neurologist Dr. Mary Dombovy, vice president, Unity Neurosciences, medical director of the Unity Spine Center in Rochester, N.Y.

“In essence they are having a ‘misdirected’ fight or flight response.  These neurochemicals cause the feeling of anxiety, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and tremors or twitching.

“When one is in this state, they are also hyperalert, and external stimuli such as a sudden noise may cause a startle response.”

The fight or flight response is the body’s way of preparing for … a fight or flight … to a perceived danger.

We inherited this reaction from our primitive ancestors, who needed this response to survive in the harsh wilderness with wild animals.

In a modern world, we continue to perceive threats that trigger this survival response, except the threats aren’t dangerous and thus don’t require a fight or flight, such as being stuck in a traffic jam, trapped in a stressful business meeting or stressing about mounting debt.

The body doesn’t distinguish between facing a wild animal and balancing the checkbook.

Stress causes the increased heart rate and blood pressure, and the muscle twitching. The fasciculations are the body’s way of revving up for the fight or flight.

Anxiety over this will almost always intensify the twitching. Stress management is key to subduing this annoying reaction to a perceived threat. The best way to battle stress is with regular rigorous exercise.

mary dombovy, md

Dr. Dombovy completed her neurology residency at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.