Tingling, Pins and Needles, Paresthesia Anxiety Symptoms
Tingling, pins and needles, paresthesia anxiety symptoms feelings anywhere on or in the body.
Since each body is somewhat chemically unique, each person can experience anxiety symptoms in a unique way. With that in mind, the tingly, tingling, pins and needles anxiety symptoms are often described as:
- A tingling sensation anywhere on or in the body, including the hands, feet, fingers, toes, head, face, arms, chest, back, groin, mouth, etc.
- A pins and needles feeling, numbness, pressure, or trembling sensations on or in your arms, hands, legs, feet, head, face, or anywhere on or in the body.
- A paresthesia feeling anywhere on or in the body.
- A tingling numbness, prickly feeling anywhere on or in the body.
You might experience one, many, or all of these sensations.
These tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms can persistently affect one area only, can shift and affect another area or areas, and can migrate all over and affect many areas over and over again.
These tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel a pins and needles feeling once and a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.
These tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.
These tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.
These tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
These tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
These tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms often seem more disconcerting when undistracted or when trying to rest or go to sleep.
What causes tingling, tingly, pins and needles feelings?
Tingling, tingly, pins and needles feelings can be caused by a number of factors including:
- Remaining in the same position (seated or standing) for a long time
- Injury or pressure on a nerve (for example, a back injury can cause numbness in the legs or feet, and a neck injury can cause numbness in the arms and hands).
- Pressure on the spinal nerves (for example, due to a herniated disk)
- Lack of blood supply to an area (for example, restricted blood flow–we often refer to it as “falling asleep,” or for medical reason such as, plaque buildup from atherosclerosis–this can cause pain, numbness, and tingling)
- Side effects from certain medications
- A lack of vitamin B12 or other vitamins
- From radiation therapy
- Toxic action on the nerves, such as from alcohol, tobacco, or lead
- Abnormal levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium in the body
Tingling, tingly, pins and needles feelings can also be caused by other medical conditions, including:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Underactive thyroid
- Pinched nerve
- Circulation problems
- Reaction to medication
- Allergic reaction
- Tight muscles
- Vitamin B deficiency
Since there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety and anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, we recommend that all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that your sensations and symptoms are solely stress related (including anxiety-caused stress), you can be confident that there isn't another medical reason for them. Generally, most doctors can easily tell the difference between stress- and anxiety-caused sensations and symptoms from those caused by other medical reasons.
If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions concur, you can be assured that stress (including the stress that being overly anxious can cause) is the cause of your sensations and symptoms and not some other medical or biological problem.
Why can anxiety cause the tingling, tingly, pins and needles feeling?
When this symptom is caused by anxiety, there can be many factors that cause the tingly, tingling, pins and needles feeling. Here are seven most common:
1. Being anxious has activated an active stress response
Being stressed and anxious (worried, apprehensive, fretful, fearful) causes the body to produce the stress response. The stress response secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it—which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.
A part of the stress response changes include shunting blood away from parts of the body less vital to survival and to parts more vital to survival. This shunting action can cause a tingling, tingly, pins and needles feeling in various parts of the body when a stress response has been activated.
2. Stress-response hyperstimulation
When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. But when stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyper stimulated state, since stress hormones are stimulants. A body that becomes hyperstimulated can behave oddly and erratically, which can be particularly noticeable because of how hyperstimulation affects the nervous system.
The nervous system is responsible for sending and receiving sensory information to and from the brain. A main component of the nervous system is specialized cells called neurons (nerve cells), which communicate with each other using an electrochemical process (the combination of electricity and chemistry).
For example, when nerve impulse information is received from one of the body’s senses, neurons relay this nerve impulse information through the nervous system network to the brain for interpretation. And if we want to move a particular muscle or group of muscles, nerve impulse information is sent from the brain through the nervous system network to the particular muscle or groups of muscles to bring about movement (muscles move through a combination of nerve impulse-triggered muscle contractions and releases). Again, this nerve impulse information is conveyed electrochemically by the neurons through the nervous system network.
This system of communication and reaction works normally when the body and nervous system are healthy. Problems can occur, however, when they become stress-response hyperstimulated.
For example, because of their electrochemical properties, neurons are particularly sensitive to stress hormone stimulation. When neurons become overly stimulated, they can act erratically and more involuntarily than normal, which can cause them to “misreport,” “over report,” and send “false” nerve impulse information to and from the brain. These abnormalities can cause a wide range of sensory and physical anomalies, such as experiencing a tingling in head feeling.
And because hyperstimulation can cause the electrical activity in the brain to increase, which can cause neurons to become even more unstable, neurons can fire even more erratically and involuntarily when the body, brain, and nervous system become hyperstimulated.
The combination of the above factors can cause a wide range of odd and bizarre behaviors, sensations, and feelings. Experiencing tingling, tingly, pins and needles sensations is an example of some of the odd sensations and feelings that can occur as a result of these stress-response hyperstimulation factors.
3. Hyper- or hypoventilation
Hyper- or hypoventilation is another cause of tingling in head symptoms. When we breathe too shallowly and don’t take in enough oxygen (hypoventilation), this causes the CO2 levels in the blood to drop, which can cause a tingling, tingly, pins and needles sensation anywhere on or in the body. Some people describe this feeling as an effervescence, prickly, or crawly sensation.
If, on the other hand, you are breathing too aggressively and take in too much oxygen, this can also change the CO2 levels in the blood causing hyperventilation, which can also cause a tingling, tingly, pins and needles sensation anywhere on or in the body, as well.
Even though these tingling, tingly, pins and needles symptoms can seem odd and even unsettling, they are harmless and needn’t be a cause for concern. They will subside when you reverse the above causes.
4. Muscle tension
Stress, including the stress caused by stress responses, causes the body’s muscles to tense and tighten. This tension can cause muscle and muscle groups to experience a tingling, tingly, pins and needles feeling.
5. Vitamin B deficiency
Stress taxes the body’s resources harder than normal, which can affect the body’s nutrients, including vitamins. Stress commonly causes a reduction in the body’s vitamin B. Vitamin B deficiency can also cause a tingling, tingly, pins and needles sensation.
6. Circulation problems
Similar to point 4, stress, including the stress caused by stress responses, causes the body’s muscles to tense and tighten. As the body’s stress elevates, muscle tension can restrict arteries, which can reduce blood flow (circulation). When blood flow is restricted, we can experience tingling, tingly, pins and needles sensations in the parts of the body that aren’t receiving sufficient blood flow.
7. Reaction to medication
The adverse effects of medications, including anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, can cause tingling, tingly, pins and needles sensations.
This list is not exhaustive, but does represent the majority of anxiety-related causes of the tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms.
How to get rid of anxiety caused tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms?
When tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms are caused by apprehensive behavior (anxiety) and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this tingling in head feeling should subside and you should return to your normal self. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
When this feeling is caused by stress-response hyperstimulation, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where the tingling in head symptoms are eliminated. We explain the many complications to recovery when the body becomes stress-response hyperstimulated in Chapters 2 and 3 in the Recovery Support area of our website.
Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from either an active stress response or stress-response hyperstimulation, the tingling in head symptoms will completely subside. Therefore, these symptoms needn’t be a cause for concern.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, the tingling in head symptoms can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, the tingling in head symptoms will completely disappear.
When tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptoms are caused by hyper- or hypoventilation, regulating your breathing to a normal pattern will restore the proper CO2 levels in the blood, which will eliminate ventilation caused tingling, tingly, pins and needles symptoms.
When tingling, tingly, and pins and needles feelings are caused by an adverse reaction to medication, speak with your doctor and pharmacist for more information.
When the tingling, tingly, pins and needles feelings are caused by persistently elevated stress, such as from behaving overly anxiously, there are typically NO quick-fix cures for this symptom. Eliminating it requires regularly practicing the above-mentioned strategies and for long enough for the body to recover. But as with all sensations and symptoms of stress (including the stress caused by being overly anxious), they fully disappear when the body’s stress is returned to a normal level and the body has sufficient time to recover. So again, these types of stress-caused sensations and symptoms needn’t be a cause for concern.
If you are finding that your anxiety symptoms are persisting longer than you think they should, you may want to join our Recovery Support area and read about the considerations when in recovery. Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 contain vital information about recovery and recovery expectations.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:
Return to our anxiety symptoms page.
Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated June 27, 2017.