Whenever I get severely anxious, there's a small muscle beneath my throat that twitches consistently for at least a few days, until it goes away on its own. Before I went to my doctor about it, though, I definitely thought that I was dying because this muscle was twitching right by where my pulse was. But as it turns out, facial and body twitches are common symptoms of anxiety.
Amy Morin, LCSW, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, says that these tics can be a sign of high anxiety (though they're usually not the only sign), and they tend to go away on their own.
"Stress causes muscle tension, which disrupts nerve energy and body signals," she says. "Anxiety can also lead to extra adrenaline. Consequently, some muscles may begin to twitch. People may develop a variety of tics or twitches due to stress. Arm and leg twitches, for example, can be common too."
Anxiety's effects on the body are well-documented. For many people, a mental health problem or distressed state of mind can manifest physically, and some people might experience tenser muscles (like clenched jaws) due to anxiety.
"Tics can get worse as anxiety increases," Morin says. "Anxiety affects the body in many different ways and high anxiety means more stress hormones in the body, which in turn, affects muscle activity."
Generally, Morin says that if a tic is associated with anxiety, it's usually harmless. But if the twitching doesn't go away within a few days, you might want to see a doctor to rule out any other causes, since they can also stem from a tic disorder or be a side effect of medication.
If they do stem from anxiety, Morin says that addressing the anxiety directly through therapy and other forms of treatment can help manage them, and in some cases, doctors can prescribe medication if these tics are affecting your everyday life.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.