Cold hands and feet anxiety and stress symptoms
Anxiety cold hands and feet description:
Your hands and feet may feel cold even though there isn’t a real reason for them to feel cold, such as cold weather or temperature.
Your hands and feet may feel cold even though you have warm socks on, gloves on, or have them wrapped in a blanket to insulate them from the cold.
Your cold hands and feet may come and go rarely, frequently, or persist indefinitely. Feeling cold might affect just your fingers, hands, or feet, or all of them at the same time.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to warm up your cold hands and feet even with a heating blanket or warming bag.
Your cold hands and feet may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other sensations and symptoms, and may precede, accompany, or follow an episode or period of elevated stress, fear, worry, high anxiety, and even panic.
Similar to other anxiety-caused sensations and symptoms, anxiety cold hands and feet can occur in conjunction with an episode of high anxiety or stress or can occur ‘out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.
This symptom can be exhibited as just cold hands, or just cold feet. This symptom doesn’t have to include both at the same time.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
What causes cold hands and feet?
Because there are many medical causes for cold hands and feet, it’s best to discuss this symptom with your doctor. If your doctor says that they are caused by anxiety, yes, anxiety can cause cold hands and feet. Here’s why:
Anxiety activates the stress response. The stress response secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body 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.
While the fight or flight response changes are active, they can cause a wide range of sensations and symptoms, including having cold hands and feet (or just cold hands, or just cold feet). As long as the fight or flight response is active, your cold hands and feet can persist. This is why when people are nervous, they can have cold hands and feet.
Moreover, sustained anxiety and the stress it causes can cause stress-related symptoms, as well. For example, if you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, or if you’ve been anxious a lot lately, your body can build up a ‘stress load’ and exhibit symptoms even though you may not feel stressed or anxious in that moment.
We explain this in much more detail in the Recovery Support area of our website.
Is having cold hands and feet harmful?
No! Anxiety cold hands and feet is very common. Most people experience this symptom when anxious or stressed.
How to eliminate anxiety cold hands and feet?
When this symptom is caused by anxiety, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers, your cold hands and feet should 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 shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
When your cold hands and feet are caused by sustained stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where they subside.
Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from being anxious and stressed, this symptom will completely disappear. Therefore, anxiety cold hands and feet needn’t be a cause for concern.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your body's stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this symptom. Again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.
For a more detailed explanation about all anxiety symptoms, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.
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:
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated October 9, 2018.