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Numbness Tingling symptom

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: July 24, 2019


Numbness Tingling (Sensory loss; Paresthesias; Numbness and Tingling; Loss of sensation):

You feel as though a part of your skin or body feels numb to the touch or tingles. It can also feel like it has been frozen with anesthesia. This numb patch may be small or encompass many parts of the body, such as an arm, hand, finger, face, mouth, lips, tongue, leg, foot, or toe, or all of them.

While numbness and tingling can occur anywhere on the body, it’s most common on the hands, feet, arms, and legs.

Numbness and tingling can also be accompanied by pins and needles and burning skin sensations.

The affected area(s) can remain constant, or they may change and randomly appear anywhere and anytime. Repeated visual inspections show no skin abnormalities.

Numbness and tingling 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.

Numbness and tingling can also be caused by medical conditions, including:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
  • Underactive thyroid

Why does anxiety cause numbness and tingling symptoms?

Apprehensive behavior activates the stress response, otherwise known as the fight or flight response.[1][2] The stress response prepares the body for immediate action by causing a number of body-wide changes, including:

  • Shunts blood away from the extremities and to parts of the body more important for survival, such as the brain and muscles.[3]
  • Heightens the body’s senses so that danger can be more easily detected.[3]
  • Stimulates the body, especially the nervous system, so that we have “extra” energy to either fight or flee.[4]

These changes can cause numbness and tingling sensations.

Furthermore, since stress responses stress the body. Overly apprehensive behavior can chronically stress the body (which we call stress-response hyperstimulation).[3][5][6] Chronic stress can cause persistent numbness and tingling. Hyperstimulation is one of the main reasons we can experience numbness and tingling even though we don’t feel anxious or stressed at the time.

For more detailed information, visit our stress response and hyperstimulation articles.

Numbness and tingling are common symptoms of anxiety, panic, and stress.

Many people experience numbness and tingling when they are anxious, having a panic attack, or chronically stressed. It is a common symptom and nothing to worry about.

How to get rid of numbness and tingling anxiety symptoms?

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning anxiety symptoms be discussed with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms, including this anxiety symptom. If your doctor concludes your symptoms are solely anxiety-related, you can be confident there isn't a medical cause. Generally, doctors can easily determine the difference between anxiety symptoms and those caused by a medical condition.

Doctors aren't infallible, however. If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, you can seek a second or more opinions. But if all opinions agree, you can be assured anxiety is the cause of this symptom.

When this numbness tingling symptom is caused by apprehensive behavior 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 numb and tingly feeling will 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 numbness tingling symptom is caused by chronic stress (hyperstimulation), it can take a lot longer for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom is subsides.

Nevertheless, when hyperstimulation has been eliminated and the body has fully recovered, this numbness tingling symptom will completely disappear. Therefore, the numbness tingling 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 numbness tingling anxiety symptom can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response or chronic stress, this symptom will cease.

For a more in-depth explanation, see our tingling, tingly, pins and needles anxiety symptom.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including this numbness tingling symptom, 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 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.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Signs and Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the anxiety symptom numbness and tingling.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Harvard Health Publishing. “Understanding the Stress Response.” Harvard Health, May 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response.

3. Murison, Robert. "The Neurobiology of Stress." 2016.

4. Mariotti, Agnese. “The Effects of Chronic Stress on Health: New Insights into the Molecular Mechanisms of Brain–Body Communication.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2015.

5. 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.

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.