Body aches and pains are often symptoms of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.
To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test.
The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including body aches and pains.
This article explains the relationship between anxiety and body aches and pains.
Body aches and pains anxiety symptoms description:
It feels like your entire body aches and is painful.
It feels like your body is bruised in a few spots, many spots, or all over.
Your body aches.
Your body has aches and pains that seem unexplainable.
It feels like a spot on your body, spots on your body, or your entire body is sore, tender, or painful.
Your body feels like it’s been run over by a truck.
A spot on your body, spots on your body, or your entire body feels achy, painful, sore, tender, or bruised.
It feels like every bone in your body aches.
Body aches, pains, soreness, and tenderness can affect one, two, or many parts of the body. It also may feel like your entire body is painful or tender to the touch.
Body aches and pains anxiety symptoms can persistently affect one area only, can shift and affect another area or areas, and can migrate all over and affect many areas over and over again.
Body aches and pains anxiety symptoms can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel body aches and pains once in a while and not that often, feel them off and on, or feel them all the time.
Body aches and pains anxiety symptoms may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.
Body aches and pains anxiety symptoms 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.
Body aches and pains anxiety symptoms can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
Body aches and pains anxiety symptoms can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
What causes the body aches and pains anxiety symptoms?
Being stressed and/or anxious (worried, apprehensive, fretful, fearful) causes the body to produce the stress response, which 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 this response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.
Tightening muscles is one of the physiological changes this response brings about. Tight muscles make the body more resilient to attack when in dangerous situations.
When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from these physiological, psychological, and emotional changes. This can make aches and pains temporary and not seem problematic.
When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body can remain in a state of emergency readiness, which we call stress-response hyperstimulation, since stress hormones are stimulants. Hyperstimulation can cause the body’s muscles to remain tight even though the immediate threat has passed. Headaches, muscle pain, muscle tension, tight muscles, body aches and pains, and stiffness are all common symptoms of stress-response hyperstimulation.
As long as the body’s stress remains elevated, one, or a group of muscles, can remain tight causing persistent body aches and pains.
Moreover, recent research has found that psychological and emotional stress can negatively affect pain modulation (the body’s ability to regulate pain). This can also be a cause of persistent body aches and pains.
As well, persistently elevated stress, such as that from behaving overly apprehensively, has a dramatic effect on the body’s nervous system. The body’s nervous system, which includes the brain, is responsible for sending, receiving, and interpreting sensory information from the body’s sense organs. When the nervous system becomes hyperstimulated, it can behave in erratic and more involuntary ways, which can create all sorts of sensory miscommunication, misreporting, and interpretation errors, such as reporting aches and pains when there isn’t another physical reason.
How to get rid of the body aches and pains anxiety symptoms?
When the body aches and pains anxiety 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 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 the body aches and pains anxiety symptoms are caused by persistent stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where body aches and pains are eliminated.
Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from an active stress response and/or stress-response hyperstimulation, the body aches and pains anxiety symptoms completely subside. Therefore, they needn’t be a cause for concern. Yes, body aches and pains can be disconcerting, painful, and even restricting, but they aren’t harmful in and of themselves. They are simply indications of a body that has become overly stressed.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, working at calming your body down, 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, the body aches and pains anxiety symptoms completely disappear.
For lasting relief from body aches and pains anxiety symptoms, it’s best to address the underlying factors of your anxiety so that your body CAN reduce stress and fully recover (continued stress responses triggered by unidentified and unresolved anxiety underlying factors can prevent recovery). Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to successfully address anxiety’s underlying factors.
For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including the body aches and pains 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.
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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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