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Anxiety Symptoms Explained

Trembling and Shakiness


To fight? To flee? In certain situations we may have to do one or the other immediatey.



"To shake involuntarily as with cold or fear."

(The Collins English Dictionary)


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Imagine walking down a dimly lit alley, alone, late at night. There are doorways on either side – who knows what's hiding in them waiting to pounce?

In such a situation we feel 'jittery' and shaky. Our muscles are trembling; they are primed and ready to spring into action in a split second. Adrenaline has flooded our system to energise us, which make us feel shaky. To be able to go from standing still to instantly fleeing for our life it has to be like this.

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in panic where the 'energisation' of our body can be instaneous, it has to be – if we had to consciously think about jumping out of the way of a speeding car, it would be too late. In anxiety it's a bit less pronounced and happens more slowly.

Rooted in fears over survival and the fight-or-flight response, this behaviour is innate, programmed into us. We don't have to think about protecting ourselves – anxiety (our survival instinct) does it for us.

The preparation and energisation of our body can be seen at an early age: observe the small child 'jumping' when startled at being caught out in some secretive act.

The 'energising' of our body defines the fight or flight response.


Physical anxiety symptoms result from the body re-directing resources to the major muscle groups (legs / arms / chest) to provide them with an energy boost to prepare us for action (ultimately to fight or flee).

* Our breathing becomes more rapid to get more oxygen for these muscles into the blood.
* Our heartbeat speeds up to get the blood to the muscles quicker.
* Blood is diverted from the brain (making us light-headed and dizzy) and the stomach (causing 'butterflies').
* Energy cannot be wasted processing any half-digested food in our system so we need to get rid of it quickly - either through the mouth (feelings of nausea) or the other end (wanting to go to the toilet).
* Other 'energy-wasting ' systems (unnecessary in time of danger) are shut down eg. saliva production, giving us a dry mouth and difficulty swallowing.
* We sweat more to cool down all this energy production.
* The energy boost to the muscles makes them 'jumpy'/ 'jittery'/ 'jelly-like'/ on-edge ready for action.

Shakiness (or trembling) due to our muscles being primed for action is an integral part of anxiety and panic. It's totally normal and extremely common and is one sure fire way to tell when someone is anxious.

Many people who appear outwardly calm often feel shaky inside when anxiety strikes as the follwing example demonstrates:-

~ On a popular TV quiz show, where the contestants answer questions and can double their winnings up to a million, the quizmaster has said to many contestants, words to the effect, "You look remarkably calm". In nearly every instance, the reply has been the same – "On the outside yes, but inside I'm shaking like a leaf". ~

However, like all anxiety symptoms (which should be more correctly called 'fight or flight responses'), when we dwell on trembling and worry about it, our general anxiety increases, which makes the trembling worse.




See also:-  Free Anxiety Symptoms eBook

Anxiety Symptoms: What's Happening and Why


Essential information for anyone experiencing anxiety-related symptoms. It is totally free to read on-screen, download and print – no personal details required. ›› More Details




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