Change in Body Temperature Caused By Anxiety
The Change in Body Temperature Anxiety Symptom:
Your body’s temperature seems to fluctuate somewhat higher or lower than the normal 98.6ºF (37ºC). Or, your body temperature is somewhat different each time you take it.
The reason why anxiety can cause a change in body temperature
Normal body temperature on average is approximately 98.6°F. It's quite common, however, for body temperature to fluctuate 1°F one way or the other. This fluctuation can occur for a number of reasons. For example, if you're quiet and relaxed, your body temperature may drop a bit. But if you're active and racing around during the day, it may elevate to the higher end within the normal range.
Other factors that affect body temperature include metabolic rate, weight, exercise, age, hormones, pregnancy, and gender.
The body's biological clock also affects body temperature. For example, prior to going to sleep the body cools its body temperature somewhat to help bring on sleep. As we wake up, the biological clock increases body temperature so that we can function normally during the day.
Bacterial infection can also cause the body temperature to rise. In fact, it's one of the most common causes of increased body temperature. Since viruses and bacteria have a hard time surviving at temperatures higher than normal body temperature, when the body detects a bacterial infection, it involuntarily increases its temperature (fever) and increases blood flow to speed up the body's defense actions in order to fight the infection. It's not uncommon for the body to raise its body temperature as much as 3 to 5°F to fight off an infection. Because elevated body temperature also causes harm to the body, we don't want to let prolonged high temperatures go untreated. As we mentioned earlier, isn't uncommon, however, for body temperatures to fluctuate 1° F above or below the normal range. This is considered normal.
There are other factors that can affect body temperature, including:
- Medications - antibiotics, narcotics, and antihistamines (to name a few)
- Medical conditions - heart condition, heart attack, cancer, leukemia, and Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Exposure to cold (low body temperature)
- Shock (low body temperature)
- Alcohol (low body temperature)
- Drug use (low body temperature)
- Metabolic disorders - diabetes and hyperthyroidism
How you take your body temperature may also produce varying results. For example, rectal or tympanic (ear) temperatures are normally as much as 1°F higher than oral temperatures. Axillary (armpit) temperature may be as much as 1°F lower than oral temperatures.
Regarding stress and anxiety, since both can increase the body’s metabolism, and the by-product of increased metabolism is heat, being stressed and/or anxious can also increase body temperature.
It's also common for episodes of increased stress and anxiety to cause a person to feel cold or chilly because of the restricted blood flow to the skin due to the constriction of blood vessels caused by the stress response. When we feel cold or chilly, the body wants to increase its body temperature because it is dropping toward the low end within the normal range.
So yes, stress and anxiety can cause a change in body temperature. But that change is a minor one, and not more than plus or minus 1° F. If you are experiencing a more dramatic change, you should see your doctor. There may be another reason for your higher or lower body temperature.
Addressing your stress and anxiety issues can help to diminish and eventually eliminate body temperature change due to stress and anxiety. Also, regular deep relaxation and regular mild exercise can also help to stabilize fluctuating body temperatures.
Nevertheless, anxiety-caused changes in body temperature aren’t harmful, so there’s no need to worry about a change in body temperature. These changes will subside as you address your stress and anxiety issues.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated March 26, 2017.