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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Anxiety induced tremors

03/02/2009

Question:

Eleven years ago, we experienced a family tragedy. During the very stressful periods of that time, my head began what I call "bobbing". After a few months, no more "bobbing". Now, over the last 1 1/2 years, the same thing has happened to me on several ocassions. Now though, my head begins bobbing and my right hand begins to shake uncontrollably (large movements, not small shakiness). This morning, I was witness to a terrible car accident and I was the first one to get to the car and the victim. I tried desparately to open the car and get the man out, he was screaming and stuck in by his seatbelt. Once the police got there and I backed away to let them take over, my head, arms, and legs began this terrible, uncontrollable shaking. I couldn`t even walk back to my car. I was so embarrased, I couldn`t control it. The shaking continued for an entire hour until I was completely concentrating on work and no longer thinking about the accident. I noticed the same reaction (but on a much lesser scale) during a recent disagreement with a coworker. What could be happening to me?

Answer:

When the body receives a jolt of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, such as occurs with extremely stressful situations, such as witnessing (or being in) a car accident, many things happen, including tremors and shakes.  Some people are quite sensitive to these effects, while some people hardly notice them.  People also release varying amounts of adrenaline in the same situation.

Whether your shaking and bobbing is just your body's reaction to adrenaline surges, I cannot say.  If you have not been to see your primary care physician to discuss this problem and get a check up, that should be your first step.  If you find that you seem to physically react to "stress" more than you feel is comfortable, then I would recommend you spend some time with a counselor or therapist who can help you find techniques to decrease your physical reaction to stressful situations.

Good Luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati