Tired But Wired

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated July 23, 2021

feeling tired but wired anxiety symptom

Feeling “Tired But Wired” is a common symptom of anxiety disorder, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Anxiety Attacks and Panic Disorder.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and feeling tired but wired.

Tired But Wired anxiety symptom video:

Play the video below for an overview of the "Tired But Wired" anxiety symptom.


Read below for the text version.

Tired But Wired anxiety symptom common descriptions:

Common descriptions of this anxiety symptom include:

  • You feel completely exhausted, but at the same time, you have so much nervous energy you can’t sit still, rest, deeply relax, or have a sound sleep.
  • You feel terribly exhausted, but your sleep is constantly disrupted.
  • You feel completely fatigued but your body has difficulty being calm because it is so geared up with energy.
  • You feel absolutely wiped out but “wired” with lots of nervous energy at the same time.
  • You are so exhausted that you quickly doze off only to be jolted out of your sleep with a surge or energy (or panic), and then can’t go back to sleep even though you still feel exhausted.
  • You feel completely exhausted, but the abundance of nervous energy makes it almost impossible to rest or sleep.
  • You feel extremely tired, but no matter what you do, your body won’t gear down so that you can rest.
  • You are exhausted, but your nervous energy pushes you to keep going.
  • You feel exhausted, but your body wants to keep going, and therefore, pushes you to drag yourself around throughout the day. Nights aren’t much better.

To name a few.

This “tired but wired” feeling can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist 24/7 and day after day. For example, you feel tired but wired once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel that way all the time.

This “tired but wired” feeling can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms or occur by itself.

This anxiety symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress or occur “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.

A tired but wired feeling can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where you feel tired but wired one moment and fine the next.

This anxiety symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All the above combinations and variations are common.

This anxiety symptom is particularly noticeable when undistracted, resting, doing deep relaxation, or when trying to go 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 it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including feeling tired but wired anxiety symptoms.

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Why Anxiety Causes A “Tired But Wired” Feeling

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms, including this one.

If you've done that and your doctor has attributed your symptoms solely to anxiety or stress, you can be confident there isn't a medical or medication cause.

Yes, anxiety can cause a “tired but wired” feeling, and in many ways. Here are the most common:

1. The stress response

Anxious behavior, such as worry, activates the stress response.

The stress response prepares the body for immediate emergency action – to either fight or flee.

This survival reaction is often referred to as the stress response, fight or flight response, fight, flight, or freeze response (since some people freeze like a deer caught in headlines when they are afraid), 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 many changes caused by the stress response.

Since stress responses push the body beyond its balance point, stress responses stress the body.

Consequently, anxiety stresses the body.

Stress taxes the body’s energy resources harder and faster than normal, which can lead to fatigue.

As such, we can feel stimulated while the stress response is active and then fatigued when the stress response ends.

This phenomenon can be referred to as a “wired then tired” feeling.

2. Behavior

Overly anxious and stressful behavior can cause a feeling of being “tired but wired.”

For instance, overly anxious behavior can drain the body of energy, creating fatigue. Then, behaving anxiously again can trigger another stress response, restimulating the body since stress hormones are stimulants.

Restimulation can create a feeling of being fatigued yet wired with stress hormones simultaneously.

Overly anxious behavior is a common cause of feeling “tired but wired.”

3. Hyperstimulation

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

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

Incomplete recovery can leave the body in a state of semi-stress response readiness, which we call “stress-response hyperstimulation” because of the stimulating effect caused by stress hormones.

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

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

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many ways hyperstimulation can affect how we feel, including Nervous System Excitation and Dysregulation, Homeostatic Dysregulation, and Hormone Changes.

As such, hyperstimulation chronically stresses the body. Chronic stress can cause a “tired but wired” feeling where the body is drained of energy but overly stimulated at the same time.

 A "tired but wired" feeling is a common indication of hyperstimulation.

Overly apprehensive behavior is a common cause of hyperstimulation and feeling “tired but wired.”

4. Other factors

Other factors can cause anxiety-like symptoms, aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, and contribute to hyperstimulation and its symptoms, including:

Medication

Side effects of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can mimic, cause, and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you are unsure if your medication is playing a role in your symptoms, including feeling tired but wired.

Visit our Medication article for more information.

Recreational Drugs

Many recreational drugs can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Many recreational drugs can also profoundly affect the nervous system, which can aggravate existing anxiety symptoms since anxiety also affects the nervous system.

Visit our Recreational Drugs article for more information.

Stimulants

Stimulants bring about their stimulating effect by causing the secretion of stress hormones and other chemicals into the bloodstream, stimulating the body.

Increasing stress hormone secretion can cause and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms since stress hormones fuel them.

Visit our Stimulants article for more information.

Sleep Deprivation

Going without adequate sleep can affect the body in many ways, such as:

  • It prevents the body from sufficiently refreshing itself
  • Stresses the nervous system
  • Impairs brain function
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases blood sugar
  • Increases moodiness
  • Increases cortisol secretion to compensate for feeling tired (cortisol is a powerful stress hormone)

These effects can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Sleep Deprivation article for more information.

Fatigue

Fatigue can cause many anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, such as difficulty thinking, foggy head, lightheadedness, dizziness, body pain, heart palpitations, trembling, memory loss, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath, to name a few.

Visit our Fatigue article for more information

Hyper and Hypoventilation

Over breathing (hyperventilation) and under breathing (hypoventilation) can also cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Hyper And Hypoventilation article for more information.

Low Blood Sugar

Even if low within the normal range, low blood sugar can cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Low Blood Sugar article for more information.

Nutritional Deficiency

Nutritional deficiencies, such as low vitamin B and D, to name two, can cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Nutritional Deficiencies article for more information.

Dehydration

Dehydration can also cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, such as concentration problems, lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, headache, involuntary panic attacks, muscle twitching, and heart palpitations.

Visit our Dehydration article for more information.

Hormone Changes

Hormones affect the body in many ways. A change in hormones can cause many anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Hormone Changes article for more information.

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How To Get Rid Of Feeling Tired But Wired Anxiety Symptoms

When this symptom is caused or aggravated by other factors, addressing those factors can reduce and eliminate it.

When this symptom is caused by an active stress response, calming yourself down will end the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside.

Keep in mind 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 symptom is caused by hyperstimulation (chronic stress), reducing and eliminating hyperstimulation will reduce and eliminate hyperstimulation-caused symptoms, including periods of feeling tired but wired.

As your body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops exhibiting involuntary stress-caused symptoms, including this one.

Eventually, symptoms of hyperstimulation completely subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think. It’s common for hyperstimulation symptoms to linger as long as the body is hyperstimulated.

But as with all symptoms of hyperstimulation, episodes of feeling tired but wired will subside when the body’s stress is returned to a normal level and the body has sufficient time to recover and stabilize.

Because this symptom is just a symptom of hyperstimulation (chronic stress), it’s harmless and needn’t be a cause for concern.

Lingering anxiety symptoms are merely an indication that:

  • You are continuing to trigger stress responses (from stressful circumstances or from anxious behavior motivated by unidentified and unresolved underlying factors).
  • The body’s stress level hasn’t been sufficiently reduced.
  • The body hasn’t completed its recovery work.

Lingering anxiety symptoms ONLY remain because of the above reasons. They AREN’T an indication of a more serious medical problem.

Anxiety symptoms will subside when hyperstimulation has been eliminated and the body has had sufficient time to recover and stabilize.

Since worrying, fretting, and becoming emotionally upset about anxiety symptoms stress the body, these behaviors aren’t helpful to recovery and symptom elimination.

Passively accepting your symptoms in the short-term — allowing them to persist without reacting to, resisting, worrying about, or fighting them — while faithfully practicing your recovery strategies will bring about 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's adverse effects. We have to persevere with our recovery efforts despite the lack of apparent progress and remain patient as the body recovers.

We also have to do our recovery work FIRST before the body can recover. It’s the cumulative effects of our recovery work that produces results down the road. And, the body’s stimulation has to diminish FIRST before symptoms can subside.

Nevertheless, faithfully practicing your recovery strategies, passively accepting your symptoms, containing your anxious behavior, and being patient will bring results.

When we do the right work, the body has no choice but to recover.

Short-term remedies:

Even though eliminating hyperstimulation will eliminate chronic anxiety symptoms, including feeling wired but tired, some people have found the following strategies helpful.

However, keep in mind that each person can have a unique symptom experience since each person is somewhat physically, chemically, psychologically, and emotionally unique. What might work for one person might not for another.

Reduce stress – Since stress, including anxiety-caused stress, is a common cause of feeling tired but wired, reducing stress can reduce episodes of this symptom.

Any stress reduction strategy can help improve this symptom. Visit our article “60 Ways To Reduce Stress And Anxiety” for natural stress reduction strategies.

Recovery Support members can read chapters 4 and 14 for many natural ways to reduce stress and anxiety.

Increase rest – Increasing rest, despite feeling wired, can deliberately slow down a stress-elevated nervous system. As the body gears down, the wired feeling will subside enough to catch up on much needed rest. As the body rests, the feeling of being tired will subside, as well.

Regular good sleep – Regular good sleep can reduce stress, cortisol, and the body’s overall level of stimulation. Their reduction can reduce and eliminate anxiety symptoms, including this one.

Regular deep relaxation – Deep relaxation can also reduce the body’s overall level of stimulation and stress, leading to a reduction in anxiety symptoms, including feeling tired but wired.

Keep well hydrated – Dehydration can cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms. Keeping your body well hydrated can reduce and eliminate anxiety symptoms, such as feeling tired but wired.

Contain your anxiousness – Since anxiety activates the stress response, which causes anxiety and hyperstimulation symptoms, containing your anxiousness about this anxiety symptom can help reduce and eliminate it.

The more successful you are in containing your anxiousness, the more opportunity your body has to reduce stress and stimulation. A reduction in stress and stimulation can reduce episodes of feeling tired but wired.

Therapy

Therapy is the most effective way to eliminate anxiety symptoms since unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors that cause anxiety and stress issues are the number one reason why anxiety disorder and its symptoms persist. [6][7][8]

Dealing with your anxiety issues (Level Two recovery) is the most important work overall if you desire lasting success.

If you have difficulty containing, becoming unafraid of your symptoms, becoming unafraid of the feelings of anxiety, eliminating your symptoms, overcoming your anxiety issues, or have what seems like out-of-control worry, consider connecting with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists.

All of our recommended therapists have personally experienced anxiety disorder and have overcome it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder combined with their Master's Degree and above professional training makes them a good choice when wanting to achieve lasting success over anxiety disorder, its symptoms, and worry.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the best way to attain Level Two recovery success. In many cases, working with an experienced therapist is the only way to overcome stubborn anxiety.

Prevalence:

How common is this anxiety- and stress-caused symptom? In an online poll we conducted, approximately 93 percent of respondents said they experienced this symptom due to their struggle with anxiety. As you can see, this is a common stress- and anxiety-caused symptom.

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Prognosis:

Since feeling tired but wired is a common symptom associated with anxiety and hyperstimulation, it will subside when you reduce stress, eliminate hyperstimulation, and deal with your anxiety issues.

Therefore, there is no reason for a long-term struggle with this anxiety symptom.

FAQ:

Can anxiety cause a feeling of being tired but wired?

Yes, anxiety and chronic stress can cause a feeling of being tired but wired (exhausted but an abundance of nervous energy at the same time.

Read the “Causes” section of this article for more information.

Can feeling tired but wired be a sign of a serious illness?

It can be, but is also just a sign of anxiety and chronic stress (hyperstimulation).

It’s best to discuss this symptom with your doctor if you haven’t already.

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 feeling tired but wired anxiety symptoms.

References

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. “Understanding the Stress Response.” Harvard Health, May 2018.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. McEwen, Bruce S. “Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress.” Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks). U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017.
  1. Kinlein, Scott A., et al. “Dysregulated Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal Axis Function Contributes to Altered Endocrine and Neurobehavioral Responses to Acute Stress.” Frontiers In Psychiatry, 13 Mar. 2015.
  1. 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.
  1. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.
  1. 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.