My hands are shaking

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I am 17 years old and live in Canada. My problem started 3 years ago. Normally, I am a very confident person. However, when I am under pressure my hands tend to shake noticeably. Please note that I also begin to have shortness of breath when I shake. I get very embarrassed when this happens and focus more on my shaking hands rather than the presentation. Many people in class tend to laugh at me when this occurs which doesn’t make things better. My hands especially shake when I am holding something in my hand or doing things that require precision like in chemistry class when pouring chemicals. I now go into every presentation worrying whether my hands will shake or not, up to the point where I am beginning to fear presentations. For example, I took music class in high school which I thought hen nervouswould be fun. I chose to play the trumpet. When the class plays together or when I practice by myself, I am fine. However, when I have to do a solo in front of the class or during the music playing test my hands begin to shake. As mentioned before, I am very confident in my presentations and my work and I have excellent academic records. However this condition is slowly damaging my confidence and preventing me from doing the best I can do or being the best I can be socially and academically. My shaking also happens when I am about to get in a fight with someone (My legs shake in this situation as well). I am not a cowardly person nor do I have low self-esteem. I am brave and think highly of my self. My dream ever since I was a child was to become a dentist. But as you know it requires lots of work with precision, pressure and around other people. This job also requires a steady hand. I don’t want to have to give up this dream because of my shaky hands. I told my parents about this and they told me that I just need to practice and I will be fine but that doesn’t seem to work. I never took a music class after that one. I am not a smoker nor am I taking any drugs and I don’t see why this is happening. Please help me out!!!! Other people get nervous too but this doesn’t happen to them. I am starting to lose hope and confidence in myself as well as in my dream. The school year is starting soon and I want to get rid of the problem before that. I feel like I have to mention that ever since I was little my parents have had high expectations of my brothers and I, so I have always tried hard to impress them and not disappoint them. This goes the same for my teachers. I thought this might be the cause but if I think of it that way the problem won’t be solved. What really causes this and how can I stop it? IS THERE SOME SORT OF MEDICINE TO STOP THIS??? Please help me!!!!

A: Thank you for taking the time to write is and ask about this condition. I think you would be surprised to know that many people struggle with this or similar reactions.

While therapy and medicine are certainly valuable approaches to dealing with this anxiety-based reaction, I believe there may be a more direct method to try initially. It this doesn’t work you may want to begin therapy or get a medical evaluation. But the first place I would begin is with biofeedback.

Biofeedback (short for biological feedback) uses a machine to give you visual or auditory feedback from areas of your body that are typically not under our conscious control. The list of conditions that biofeedback has been used for is extensive, not the least of which is shaking, sweating, blood pressure, heart rate, and many others.

The concept is simple enough in that by using instruments that note slight changes in subtle features of the skin or muscles (as an example) you can consciously train yourself to reduce anxiety and manage your condition. I would recommend working with a person certified in biofeedback. Here is a link to their association. I would encourage you to find someone in your area and try this treatment. Typically the learning curve is fairly brief, and you may be able to get some direct control over your general anxiety, and your hands.

My sincerest hope is that you will be able to conquer this anxiety and go on to pursue the profession of your dreams.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Sep 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). My hands are shaking. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/09/04/my-hands-are-shaking/