Anxiety And Burning Inside The Body

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated March 19, 2022

burning inside the body anxiety symptom

Burning inside the body, such as a warm or hot burning feeling anywhere inside the body, is a common anxiety disorder symptom, including anxiety and panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and others.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and having burning feelings inside the body symptoms.

Common Burning Inside The Body Anxiety Symptom Descriptions

  • It feels as though there is a burning feeling inside the body. The burning sensation can be localized in one spot, many spots, or throughout the body.
  • The burning sensation can feel in one location, move from one location to another, or constantly change and shift from one or many locations to another or many other locations.
  • This symptom can also seem like it radiates from inside to the outside the body.
  • This symptom is often described as a burning, tingling, vibrating/tremor, uneasiness, tightness, queasiness, or crawly feeling inside the body.
  • This symptom can also feel like a “cold,” “freezing,” or “shimmery” sensation.

This symptom can:

  • Occur occasionally, frequently, or persistently.
  • Precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by itself.
  • Precede, accompany, or follow a period of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no reason.
  • Range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe.
  • Come in waves where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
  • Change from day to day, moment to moment, or remain as a constant background during your struggle with anxiety disorder.

All the above combinations and variations are common.

This symptom can seem more noticeable when undistracted, resting, trying to sleep, or when waking up.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to or causing your anxiety symptoms, including feeling like impending doom symptoms.

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Causes

Medical Advisory

Talk to your doctor about all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

Additional Medical Advisory Information.

1. Stress response

Anxious behavior, such as worry, activates the stress response, causing many body-wide changes that quickly prepare the body for immediate emergency action.

This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid like a “deer caught in headlights”), or the fight, flight, freeze, or faint response (since some people faint when they are afraid).[1][2]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about the stress response and its many body-wide changes.

Some of the stress response changes include:

  • Quickly converts the body’s energy reserves into “fuel” (blood sugar) to provide an instant boost of energy.
  • Increases heart rate, respiration, and metabolism due to the boost in energy.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, increasing nervous system activity so that we are more sensitive and reactive to danger.
  • Heightens most of the body’s senses to be more aware of danger.
  • Shunts blood to parts of the body more vital to survival, such as the brain, arms, legs, and vital organs, and away from parts less vital for survival, such as the stomach, digestive system, and skin.
  • Suppresses digestion so that most of the body’s resources are available for emergency action.
  • Creates a sudden urge to void the bowels in preparation to fight or flee.
  • Causes muscles to tighten.

The more anxious you are, the more dramatic the stress response and its changes.

Any one or combination of changes can cause a burning sensation anywhere on or in the body.

Since stress responses push the body beyond its balance point (equilibrium), stress responses stress the body. As such, anxiety stresses the body.

Anxious behavior and an active stress response is a common cause of a burning sensation inside the body.

As long as a stress response is active, it can cause this common anxiety symptom.

Many people notice a “burning inside the body feeling” when anxious or stressed.

2. Hyperstimulation (chronic stress)

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the stress response changes after the stress response has ended.

However, when stress responses occur too frequently, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, the body can’t completely recover.

Incomplete recovery can leave the body in a state of semi-stress response readiness, which we call “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants.

Hyperstimulation is also often referred to as “hyperarousal,” “HPA axis dysfunction,” or “nervous system dysregulation.”[3][4]

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body and how we feel.

Hyperstimulation can cause the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated.

Moreover, hyperstimulation can cause the body to behave erratically, which can be particularly noticeable because of how hyperstimulation affects the nervous system.[3][4]

neuron anatomy

For instance, the body’s 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).

nerves and muscles

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. However, problems can occur when the body and nervous system becomes hyperstimulated.[4][5][6]

For example, because of their electrochemical properties, neurons are particularly sensitive to stress hormone stimulation. When they become hyperstimulated, they can act erratically, causing them to “under-report,” “over-report,” and “misreport,” sensory and nerve impulse information to and from the brain.[7][6]

These abnormalities can cause many sensory, muscle movement, and system irregularities, such as the feelings associated with this symptom.

Moreover, because hyperstimulation can increase the electrical activity in parts of the brain, which can cause neurons to become even more unstable, neurons can fire even more erratically when the body and nervous system become hyperstimulated.[8]

The combination of the above factors can cause many unusual sensations, symptoms, and feelings. Experiencing a “burning sensation” in and throughout the body is one example.

Even though this symptom can seem unusual and uncomfortable, stress- and anxiety-caused burning sensations are harmless and needn’t be a cause for concern. They are merely symptoms of stress (acute stress caused by an active stress response or chronic stress caused by hyperstimulation).

3. Side effects of medication

Many medications, including common psychotropic medications (anti-anxiety, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, etc.) can cause a burning feeling inside the body as a side effect.

If you think your burning might be related to your medication, talk with your doctor and pharmacist about options.

4. Inflammation

Stress, especially chronic stress (hyperstimulation), can cause issues with inflammation.[9] Inflammation can also cause a burning feeling inside the body.

5. Stomach and digestive problems

Stress, especially chronic stress (hyperstimulation), can cause stomach and digestive problems and symptoms, which can be felt as a “burning inside the body” feeling.

Overly anxious behavior is a common cause of stomach and digestive problems and symptoms because of how anxiety-activated stress responses can affect the digestive system.[3][4]

6. Other Factors

Other factors can create stress and cause anxiety-like symptoms, as well as aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, including:

Select the relevant link for more information.

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Treatment

When other factors cause or aggravate burning inside the body symptoms, addressing the specific cause can reduce and eliminate this symptom.

When an active stress response causes this symptom, ending the active stress response will cause this acute anxiety symptom to subside.

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 needn’t be a cause for concern.

When hyperstimulation (chronic stress) causes burning inside the body symptoms, eliminating hyperstimulation will end this anxiety symptom.

You can eliminate hyperstimulation by:

  • Reducing stress.
  • Containing anxious behavior (since anxiety creates stress).
  • Regular deep relaxation.
  • Avoiding stimulants.
  • Regular light to moderate exercise.
  • Eating a healthy diet of whole and natural foods.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms until they subside.
  • Being patient as your body recovers.

Visit our “60 Natural Ways To Reduce Stress” article for more ways to reduce stress.

As the body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops sending symptoms, including this one.

Symptoms of chronic stress subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think, causing symptoms to linger longer than expected.

As long as the body is even slightly hyperstimulated, it can present symptoms of any type, number, intensity, duration, frequency, and at any time, including this one.

Even so, since burning inside the body feeling is a common symptom of stress, including anxiety-caused stress, it's harmless and needn't be a cause for concern. It will subside when unhealthy stress has been eliminated and the body has had sufficient time to recover. Therefore, there is no reason to worry about it.

Anxiety symptoms often linger because:

  • The body is still being stressed (from stressful circumstances or anxious behavior).
  • Your stress hasn't diminished enough or for long enough.
  • Your body hasn't completed its recovery work.

Addressing the reason for lingering symptoms will allow the body to recover.

Most often, lingering anxiety symptoms ONLY remain because of the above reasons. They AREN'T a sign of a medical problem. This is especially true if you have had your symptoms evaluated by your doctor and they have been solely attributed to anxiety or stress.

Chronic anxiety symptoms subside when hyperstimulation is eliminated. As the body recovers and stabilizes, all chronic anxiety symptoms will slowly diminish and eventually disappear.

Since worrying and becoming upset about anxiety symptoms stress the body, these behaviors can interfere with recovery.

Passively accepting your symptoms – allowing them to persist without reacting to, resisting, worrying about, or fighting them – while doing your recovery work will cause their cessation in time.

Acceptance, practice, and patience are key to recovery.

Keep in mind that it can take a long time for the body to recover from hyperstimulation. It's best to faithfully work at your recovery despite the lack of apparent progress.

However, if you persevere with your recovery work, you will succeed.

You also have to do your recovery work FIRST before your body can recover. The cumulative effects of your recovery work will produce results down the road. And the body's stimulation has to diminish before symptoms can subside.

  • Reducing stress.
  • Increasing rest.
  • Faithfully practicing your recovery strategies.
  • Passively accepting your symptoms.
  • Containing anxious behavior.
  • Being patient.

These will bring results in time.

When you do the right work, the body has to recover!

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Therapy

Unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors cause issues with anxiety. As such, they are the primary reason why anxiety symptoms persist.[10][11][12]

Addressing your underlying factors (Level Two recovery) is most important if you want lasting success.

Addressing Level Two recovery can help you:

  • Contain anxious behavior.
  • Become unafraid of anxiety symptoms and the strong feelings of anxiety.
  • End anxiety symptoms.
  • Successfully address the underlying factors that so often cause issues with anxiety.
  • End what can feel like out-of-control worry.

All our recommended anxiety therapists have had anxiety disorder and overcame it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder and their Master's Degree and above professional training gives them insight other therapists don't have.

If you want to achieve lasting success over anxiety disorder, any one of our recommended therapists would be a good choice.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to treat anxiety disorder, especially if you have persistent symptoms and difficulty containing anxious behavior, such as worry.

In many cases, working with an experienced therapist is the only way to overcome stubborn anxiety.

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Prevalence

In an online poll we conducted, 64 percent of respondents said they had this anxiety symptom.

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 – which we call 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.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including burning inside the body anxiety symptoms.

References

1. Berczi, Istvan. “Walter Cannon's ‘Fight or Flight Response’ - ‘Acute Stress Response.’” Walter Cannon's "Fight or Flight Response"  - "Acute Stress Response", 2017.

2. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018.

3. Elbers, Jorina, et al. "Wired for Threat: Clinical Features of Nervous System Dysregulation in 80 Children." Pediatric Neurology, Dec 2018.

4. Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 2017.

5. Patriquin, Michelle A., and Sanjay J. Mathew. “The Neurobiological Mechanisms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Chronic Stress.” Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017..

6. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

7. McEwen, Bruce S. “Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress.” Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks). U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017.

8. Z, Fatahi, et al. "Effect of acute and subchronic stress on electrical activity of basolateral amygdala neurons in conditioned place preference paradigm: An electrophysiological study." Behavioral Brain Research, 29 Sept. 2017.

9. “Chronic Psychological Stress and Inflammation.” Gastrointestinal Society, 2002.

10. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

11. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

12. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.