Anxiety is a natural response to a threat you perceive. It starts with a physiological reaction in your brain that affects the rest of your body.
When you perceive a stressor, your body goes through changes, and you may experience mental and physical symptoms.
These symptoms of anxiety can include:
- breathing fast
- chest pain or pressure
- difficulty sleeping
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- feeling hot or cold
- difficulty focusing
- muscular weakness
- thoughts of impending doom
Yes. In some rare cases, anxiety symptoms may lead to a rise in body temperature. This is sometimes referred to as psychogenic fever, or a fever caused by psychological reasons.
The average body temperature for human adults typically ranges between 96°F and 98°F (35.6° and 36.7°C). But many factors can cause temperature changes, including hormones, time of the day, and activity level.
So, it’s not unusual for your body temperature to fluctuate up or down by around 1°F (-17°C) throughout the day.
Repeated stress or isolated highly stressful events could make that fluctuation more significant, though.
The above-mentioned review found that some people who were exposed to a one-off anxiety-inducing situation developed a fever as high as 106°F (41°C).
Other people experiencing stress for long periods of time developed low-grade fevers that lasted months to years. Their temperatures ranged from 99° to 100°F (37° to 38°C).
Psychogenic fever seems to be a physiological response to emotional disturbance. There’s currently no evidence to suggest that this type of fever has co-occurring physical causes, such as infection or inflammation.
In fact, the review indicated that if your fever is due to physical causes, you can relieve it by taking common fever reducers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
This isn’t the case for fever caused by anxiety or stress. But medications that treat anxiety symptoms, including diazepam (Valium) and buspirone (Buspar), may work on psychogenic fever.
Only a health professional can accurately explore your treatment options and the benefits and side effects of anxiety medications.
What about panic attacks?
Panic attacks are intense fear responses that some people living with anxiety experience.
As a type of anxiety episode, it’s possible that your body temperature may also rise during a panic attack.
Anxiety is an intense fight, flight, or freeze stress response when you face a threat, real or perceived. This is a natural process that aims to protect you from danger.
During the stress response, your body releases stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, to prepare you to fight or escape the stressor.
These stress hormones have an impact on the rest of your body, causing:
- increasing heart rate
- narrowing blood vessels
- breathing rapidly
- sweating quickly
Narrowing of your blood vessels could result in a fast rise in your body temperature. You may experience this rise as hot flashes or even chills. To cool down, your body may start sweating and you may feel the need to breathe faster.
The physical effects of anxiety typically diminish or go away when you address the underlying cause of the anxiety.
If you live with an anxiety disorder, though, you may continually experience symptoms, including a rise in body temperature.
But it’s possible to manage anxiety symptoms, and doing so could help you find relief if you live with a frequent low-grade fever. It’s highly advisable that you discuss your symptoms with a health professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
The following are a few things you can do to cope with the physical symptoms of anxiety.
If you regularly experience anxiety, consider discussing your symptoms with a health professional. Among many things, they could recommend medications to help manage your symptoms.
Medications that might help relieve anxiety and reduce physical symptoms include:
- benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium)
- buspirone (Buspar)
- paroxetine (Paxil)
- phenobarbital (Solfoton, Luminal)
Relaxation techniques, such as box breathing and mindful meditation, can help shift your focus away from anxious thoughts.
Taking deep, slow breaths whenever you feel your anxiety rise can help slow down your heart rate and calm your body and mind.
Exercise and physical activity could help you manage stress.
Even a short walk around the block can provide relief, especially if you can focus on your breathing.
If you like running, a good run may distract your body into thinking you’re fleeing from your stressor. And, as an added benefit, your body releases feel-good chemicals in your brain. After you stop working out, your body may switch from an alert state to a rest and relax state.
Yoga may also be an effective activity to manage chronic anxiety. You can use it as a form of exercise and meditation practice.
Exploring the root cause of your anxiety can better help you manage its symptoms. A therapist can support you in this process.
Finding a therapist who has experience treating anxiety can help you develop coping skills that may offer temporary and long-term relief.
Anxiety symptoms can be both mental and physical. Although rare, physical symptoms of anxiety could include a rise in your body temperature or a fever.
A few studies and case reports showed that after experiencing a highly stressful event, some people experience a rise in body temperature. Some of them may even experience an anxiety-related fever as high as 106°F (41°C). Ongoing stress may also cause low-grade fevers that last for months.
This type of fever typically doesn’t respond to regular fever reducers. Instead, anxiety medications may offer relief. Only a health professional can discuss the pros and cons of taking these medications.
Regular relaxation practices, like meditation, breathing, and physical activity, can also help you manage symptoms of anxiety.