Can Anxiety Cause Nerve Pain? Behind the Scenes of Neuropathy

Clinical Director
Mental health therapist specializing in EMDR and trauma therapy. Experience with working with children, adolescents, adults and groups. Supervision and clinical director experience. Considerable experience working with addictions.

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Can Anxiety Cause Nerve Pain? Behind the Scenes of Neuropathy

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Identifying the causes of peripheral neuropathy (neuropathy) can be challenging, making it hard to diagnose. Damage to nerves and related pain, which are causes of neuropathy, can be triggered by injuries, certain medical conditions, and alcohol consumption.

However, a common inquiry is whether anxiety or stress can cause nerve pain. What options exist for treatment? In this article, I look at the link between anxiety and nerve pain and offer tips on how to alleviate anxiety.

Can Anxiety Damage Your Nerves?

Anxiety itself cannot cause nerve damage that causes pain resulting from injury or accidental nerve damage. But it can intensify existing nerve pain.

Peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain often felt in the hands, legs or feet) is one of the most common conditions doctors see for nerve pain. But this term encompasses many conditions. Around 2.4% of individuals worldwide suffer from some type of neuropathy. For those aged 45 and above, it’s around 6%, meaning a significant number of people are impacted.

Neuropathy is any disorder that impacts the nerves located beyond the brain or spinal cord. The condition is a result of factors within the body that harm nerve fibers responsible for transmitting signals between the brain and the spinal cord or other body parts. Nerve damage can result from certain medical conditions, injuries, excessive alcohol or substance abuse, and other factors. This could result in extremely distressing symptoms that may be worsened by anxiety.

Numbness and tingling in different areas of the body are the most frequent sensations felt by those with neuropathy. There are numerous potential causes for this. That’s the reason why it’s important to communicate your symptoms to a medical professional.

Even though anxiety and stress may contribute to neuropathy, they are not capable of causing direct damage to your nerves. So, they aren’t a cause of neuropathy. Nevertheless, many people suffering from anxiety mistakenly think they have neuropathy, and some are convinced that anxiety can be a contributing factor to it. I’ll clarify this further below.

Anxiety and Neuropathy Symptoms

Anxiety and stress affect the body in many ways. Some symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Pain or discomfort when moving

These symptoms are the same as, or very similar to, neuropathy. As a result, it’s easy to think you have neuropathy when you don’t. So for some people, the worse your anxiety is, the more you’ll feel symptoms similar to neuropathy. But neuropathy is about nerve damage, not nervous symptoms typical of anxiety.

Neuropathy has many types of symptoms including:

  • Tingling or crawling sensations
  • Numbness or trouble with movement
  • Pins and needles (like when a limb falls asleep)
  • Cramping, pain, and heaviness may also occur

.Each depends on the location of the nerves and the type of damage.

Can Anxiety Cause Nerve Pain?

This is a complex question since the perception of pain is influenced by mental health—and vice versa.

Anxiety can cause symptoms that resemble neuropathy or other forms of nerve pain. Anxiety very commonly causes tingling, numbness, burning, or movement issues in various areas of the body. Some people who self-diagnose believe health reasons may cause these symptoms when they may be caused by anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety often have their pain perception on high alert, leading to a catastrophizing view of pain.

The most successful approach to answering this question requires a thorough differential diagnosis by medical professionals looking at both sides of the issue. Treatment options vary depending on whether the nerve damage is a priority, the mental health or both. However, when anxiety is relieved, physical pain may also be reduced.

How Does Anxiety Affects Nerves

How Does Anxiety Affects Nerves

Anxiety causes several issues that may lead to the development of symptoms similar to those in the nervous system with neuropathy. These include:

  • Hyperventilation: It’s very common to hyperventilate with rapid, shallow breathing when you have anxiety. However, when you do, it makes your blood vessels constrict. This lowers the blood flow to your lower legs and arms causing these areas to tingle and burn, similar to what you would feel with neuropathy.
  • Over-firing nerves: There is evidence that high anxiety causes nerves to fire more. This may lead to feeling the tingling and burning sensations associated with nerve damage and neuropathy. Anxiety may also cause muscles to cramp, which can also be related to nerve damage.
  • Shooting pains and spasms: Anxiety can cause muscle tension, leading to muscle aches, pains, and spasms. These symptoms can be felt anywhere in the body and can feel like shooting pains similar to neuropathy..
  • Over-awareness of your body: Often people with anxiety who also believe they have neuropathy may be unusually aware of their bodies. So they are always looking for every small sign, every twinge or small sensation. This can actually make it more difficult to move naturally, heightening the anxiety. The worse your anxiety gets, the more you’ll experience symptoms similar to neuropathy.

What To Do if Anxiety Is Causing Nerve Pain

This can be difficult to manage. Ideally, you need to combat your anxiety altogether. Some techniques include:

Breathe More Regularly: If you tend to hyperventilate, make a deliberate effort to slow your breathing down a lot. This can help manage an anxiety attack. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, then slowly breathe out for 7 seconds.

Distract Your Mind: Many of these symptoms are related to thinking too much about your body. Mindfulness meditation can help by letting go of passing thoughts to just focus on the present moment.

How to Manage Anxiety

There are many other ways to help reduce your anxiety. Focus on the ones you find most effective:

  • Reduce stressful activities.
  • Contain anxious behavior (since anxiety creates stress).
  • Identify triggers that cause your stress to increase
  • Regular deep relaxation
  • Avoid stimulants
  • Get regular good sleep 
  • Do regular light to moderate exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet of whole and natural foods
  • Passively accept your symptoms until they subside
  • Be patient as your body recovers
  • Don’t react to your anxiety symptoms, since reacting stresses the body
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Quit smoking and cut back on caffeinated beverages
  • Use stress management and relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga
  • Have massages
  • Learn about your disorder
  • Keep a journal
  • See family and friends
  • Stick to your treatment plan


Peripheral Neuropathy. 2023. Mayo Clinic.

Can Anxiety Cause Nerve Pain? Arizona Pain

Clinical Director
Mental health therapist specializing in EMDR and trauma therapy. Experience with working with children, adolescents, adults and groups. Supervision and clinical director experience. Considerable experience working with addictions.

Liz Lund, MPA

Liz is originally from lush green Washington State. She is a life enthusiast and a huge fan of people. Liz has always loved learning why people are the way they are. She moved to UT in 2013 and completed her bachelors degree in Psychology in 2016. After college Liz worked at a residential treatment center and found that she was not only passionate about people, but also administration. Liz is recently finished her MPA in April 2022. Liz loves serving people and is excited and looking forward to learning about; and from our clients here at Corner Canyon.
When Liz is not busy working she love being outdoors, eating ice cream, taking naps, and spending time with her precious baby girl and sweet husband.