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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Anxiety and Body Tmperature

01/26/2001

Question:

Can anxiety and stress elevate the body temperature just slightly? I have been under a lot of stress and anxiety and my body temperature has been elevated during the day to 99 to 99.2 on most occasions and 99.4 twice and 99.5 once?

Answer:

Stress of all types can raise or lower the body temperature, depending on the body`s reaction. The reason why is that anxiety triggers the body`s alarm system--flooding the body with hormones and changing blood flow to better handle danger. However, with body temperature it is important to note two things: 1. Your body temperature fluctuates during the day, rising and falling as much as three degrees (though most people have a smaller range of variability). Unless you are taking your body temperature at the same time each day, under similar circumstances (e.g., just upon awakening) you may be taking your temperature at a time when your body temperature is reaching a peak (around 10-11 a.m. in most people). Also, each person`s temperature differs, with some individuals having a very low body temperature (97 degrees), while others run higher. A temperature of 99 degrees is generally considered high, but if your "basal" or "baseline" temperature is higher than 98.6, this may not indicate a problem. 2. Please consider seeing your physician about this elevated temperature, particularly if it has remained high across several days. A low grade temperature is often the sign of an infection or other changes in your body (e.g., pregnancy). It is possible to be ill and not be aware of symptoms, even for potentially serious diseases such as mononucleosis and hepatitis. In fact, some of the symptoms you may be attributing to stress, such as feeling fatigued, are also important signs of illness. If you have recently started exercising or taking any medications or dietary supplements to increase metabolism, these may also impact your body temperature. Regardless, talk to your doctor as soon as possible to make certain that you are physically healthy.

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Response by:

Norman B Schmidt, PhD
Associate Professor
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Ohio State University

Kathleen Kara Fitzpatrick, MA
Clinic Staff
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Ohio State University