When we’re anxious, our bodies go into fight, flight, or freeze response to regulate our temperature, which may result in chills.
Chills affect us all at different points in our lives. Often, this is our body’s response to being cold. But you might not know that chills can also be a symptom of anxiety. Physiological reactions to anxiety can cause your blood to flow less efficiently and, therefore, leave you with chills.
If you have chills from anxiety, you can begin to feel shaky and start to shiver. Because of these symptoms, you may think you have no control over your body when anxious.
If you experience chills as a symptom of anxiety, you’re not alone. There are strategies to help you manage this symptom.
Yes, anxiety produces various
If you have anxiety chills, you may experience:
- cold flashes
How does this happen? When you’re anxious, your body’s regulation of temperature might promote and prevent heat loss simultaneously — the sensation results in chills or sweating, according to one review.
The body can often heat up during many types of anxiety but may feel chilly only during panic or specific phobias.
Anxiety chills might occur during specific types of anxiety, such as flying phobia and panic attack symptoms, but not other forms of anxiety.
Your brain also jumps into the fight, flight, or freeze response to protect you. For example, if you suddenly become drenched in sweat and then shiver when you’re anxious, your brain is trying to regulate what is happening within your body.
“It’s possible that anxiety chills could be misinterpreted sensations occurring along with physical fight or flight sensations of anxiety (e.g., feeling keyed up, hyperarousal, etc), in which physical tension and feeling ‘shaky’ leads one to think they are experiencing chills,” says Matthew Boland, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Reno, Nevada, and a member of Psych Central’s Medical Affairs Team.
“This is consistent with the idea that those who experience anxiety often have difficulty accurately interpreting physical sensations in the body,” adds Boland.
Physical symptoms associated with anxiety are often missed in primary care settings or misdiagnosed as other conditions. In some cases, anxiety occurs with other medical conditions, making it difficult to distinguish between a mental health condition or a physical one.
Some common physical symptoms of anxiety are:
- keyed up and on edge
- abdominal pain
- chest pain
According to the chart below, panic attacks, anxiety, and COVID-19 share some symptoms.
Managing the physical symptoms of anxiety could lead you to a healthier life. Several strategies have been effective in relieving anxiety.
Pharmological treatment for anxiety
Several types of medications have helped treat anxiety. Typical medications used in
- anxiolytics (e.g., buspirone)
- tricyclic antidepressants
- MAO inhibitors (MAOI)
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
If you’re considering medication for the treatment of anxiety, consider talking with a doctor about your symptoms. Also, it’s important to remember that medication isn’t suitable for everyone. You may respond to medication differently than another person.
Therapy is another option in the treatment of anxiety. Therapy for anxiety may include:
Though this list isn’t extensive, these therapy methods are
Using coping skills at home
You can use several strategies at home to help reduce anxiety. When you are experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety, it can be noticeable to others and you may feel embarrassed.
Some helpful strategies for managing physical symptoms of anxiety:
- deep breathing exercises
- practicing progressive muscle relaxation
- using imagery techniques
- practicing yoga
- seeking out positive supports
- mindfulness meditation
Medication, therapy, and using coping skills, alone or in combination, can help you find relief from the effects of anxiety. Learning and applying coping skills gets easier the more that you practice them.
If you are overwhelmed by anxiety or panic attacks that cause physical symptoms, you’re not alone. Speaking with a therapist can help. You can find a therapist here.
Consider checking out your local NAMI chapter to find resources near you.
For more information on anxiety and its physical symptoms:
- National Alliance for Mental Illness
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America
- The Tribe Wellness Community
The Psych Central anxiety hub can help you manage your symptoms. You don’t have to go through anxiety alone.