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Tingling in head, paresthesia anxiety symptoms

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 3, 2019

The tingling in head, paresthesia in the head anxiety symptoms description:

Other descriptions of the tingling in head symptom include:

This tingling in head feeling can persistently affect one area of the head only, can shift and affect another area or areas of the head, and can migrate all over and affect many areas of the head over and over again.

This tingling in head symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel a pins and needles feeling once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.

This tingling in head feeling may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This tingling in head symptom 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.

The tingling in head symptoms can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. They can also come in waves, where they are strong one moment and ease off the next.

The tingling in head symptoms can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

What causes tingling symptoms?

Tingling can be caused by a number of factors including:

Tingling can also be caused by other medical conditions, including:

Why does anxiety cause the tingling in head symptoms?

As mentioned above, 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.

There are three main reasons why anxiety can cause tingling in head symptoms:

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 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.

A part of the stress response changes include shunting blood away from parts of the body less vital to survival and to parts of the body more vital to survival, such as the brain. In an emergency, the brain requires more blood sugar so that it can function optimally when in danger. This shunting action provides that extra blood sugar.

This sudden rush of blood to the brain can cause a variety of sensations, including tingling in head feelings.

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 body’s nervous system.

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). 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 the body and nervous system 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 in head, pins and needles, pressures, numbness, and tremors in the head or any part of the body is an example of some of the odd sensations and feelings that can occur as a result of these 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 sensation in the body, including the head. Low oxygen in the blood can cause a pins and needles and tingling feeling in any part of the body, including the head. Some people describe this feeling as an effervescence in the head or brain feeling, or like your head is experiencing a prickling or tingling 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 tingling in head symptoms.

Even though tingling in head symptoms can seem odd and even unsettling, when they are caused by any of the above anxiety factors, they are harmless and needn’t be a cause for concern. They will subside when you reverse the above causes.

How to get rid of the anxiety tingling in head symptoms?

When the tingling in head symptoms are 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 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 in head 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 in head symptoms.

Chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area of our website is our anxiety symptoms chapter. It contains detailed information about all anxiety symptoms, including what they are, why they occur, what you can do to eliminate them, and how many people experience them (the percentage of people who experience each anxiety symptom). All anxiety symptoms are listed and described there.

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.

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Additional Resources:

Return to our Anxiety Frequent Questions page.

Return to our section that explains the hundreds of anxiety signs and symptoms, including trembling, numbness, tingling, shortness or breath, and racing heart, and so on.

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