Psychogenic tremors anxiety symptoms

Psychogenic tremors, a type of functional movement disorder, are often associated with psychological factors such as anxiety and stress. These tremors differ from those caused by neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, as they are not the result of physical abnormalities in the brain. Instead, they are rooted in the complex interplay between the mind and body, demonstrating the profound impact of psychological states on physical health. This essay explores the nature of psychogenic tremors, their connection to anxiety symptoms, their diagnosis, and the therapeutic approaches used to manage them.

Psychogenic tremors anxiety symptoms


The Nature of Psychogenic Tremors

Definition and Characteristics

Psychogenic tremors are involuntary, rhythmic muscle movements that are believed to originate from psychological factors rather than from a physical neurological condition. These tremors can manifest in various parts of the body, including the hands, arms, head, vocal cords, trunk, and legs. The tremors may vary in frequency and intensity, often exacerbating under stress or emotional distress.

Differentiation from Neurological Tremors

Unlike tremors associated with neurological disorders, psychogenic tremors do not follow the typical patterns seen in conditions like Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor. Neurological tremors are usually consistent and can be linked to specific neurophysiological abnormalities. In contrast, psychogenic tremors often have an abrupt onset, can vary in presentation, and might improve with distraction or worsen with attention.

The Connection Between Psychogenic Tremors and Anxiety

The Role of Anxiety in Psychogenic Tremors

Anxiety plays a significant role in the onset and exacerbation of psychogenic tremors. The physiological responses to anxiety, such as increased adrenaline, heightened muscle tension, and altered neural activity, can contribute to the manifestation of tremors. Individuals with high levels of anxiety may experience these tremors more frequently, as their bodies react to perceived threats or stressors in their environment.

Symptoms of Anxiety Contributing to Tremors

Anxiety can present with a range of symptoms, both physical and psychological. Physical symptoms often include sweating, palpitations, muscle tension, and tremors. Psychological symptoms include excessive worry, fear, and hypervigilance. The combination of these symptoms can create a feedback loop, where anxiety exacerbates tremors, and the presence of tremors increases anxiety, perpetuating the cycle.

Diagnosis of Psychogenic Tremors

Clinical Evaluation

Diagnosing psychogenic tremors involves a comprehensive clinical evaluation to rule out neurological causes. Neurologists often use detailed patient histories, physical examinations, and neuroimaging studies to differentiate psychogenic tremors from other types of movement disorders. Key indicators of psychogenic tremors include variability in the tremor’s frequency and intensity, distractibility, and improvement with certain psychological interventions.

Psychological Assessment

A psychological assessment is also crucial in diagnosing psychogenic tremors. Mental health professionals evaluate the patient’s psychological state, looking for signs of anxiety, depression, or other psychiatric conditions that could contribute to the tremors. Tools such as the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) or the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) may be used to quantify the severity of anxiety symptoms.

Therapeutic Approaches to Managing Psychogenic Tremors

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for psychogenic tremors, particularly those linked to anxiety. CBT helps patients identify and modify maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their symptoms. Techniques such as cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and relaxation training can reduce anxiety levels and, consequently, the severity of tremors.


While there are no medications specifically approved for psychogenic tremors, medications used to treat anxiety can be beneficial. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers are commonly prescribed to manage anxiety symptoms. By reducing overall anxiety, these medications can indirectly reduce the frequency and intensity of psychogenic tremors.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can also play a role in managing psychogenic tremors. Therapists use exercises and techniques to improve motor control and reduce muscle tension. Functional movement retraining and relaxation exercises can help patients gain better control over their tremors.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help reduce the physiological arousal associated with anxiety. These practices promote a state of calmness and help patients manage stress, which can diminish the occurrence of psychogenic tremors.

The Impact of Psychogenic Tremors on Quality of Life

Daily Functioning

Psychogenic tremors can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning. Tasks that require fine motor skills, such as writing, typing, or eating, can become challenging. The unpredictability of the tremors can lead to frustration and a sense of helplessness, further exacerbating anxiety and stress.

Social and Occupational Implications

The social and occupational implications of psychogenic tremors are also profound. Individuals may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about their tremors, leading to social withdrawal and isolation. In the workplace, tremors can affect job performance and productivity, potentially resulting in job loss or difficulty maintaining employment.

Emotional Well-being

The emotional toll of psychogenic tremors cannot be understated. The constant presence of tremors and the associated anxiety can lead to feelings of depression, hopelessness, and decreased self-esteem. It is essential for individuals with psychogenic tremors to receive comprehensive care that addresses both their physical and emotional needs.

The Importance of a Multidisciplinary Approach

Collaborative Care

Managing psychogenic tremors effectively requires a multidisciplinary approach involving neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, physical therapists, and primary care providers. Collaborative care ensures that all aspects of the disorder are addressed, from medical and psychological treatment to social support and occupational therapy.

Patient Education

Patient education is a critical component of managing psychogenic tremors. Understanding the nature of their condition helps patients reduce anxiety and gain a sense of control over their symptoms. Educating patients about the mind-body connection and the role of psychological factors in their tremors can empower them to engage actively in their treatment.



Psychogenic tremors are a complex manifestation of the intricate relationship between the mind and body. Their connection to anxiety highlights the significant impact of psychological factors on physical health. Understanding the nature of psychogenic tremors, recognizing their symptoms, and employing a multidisciplinary approach to treatment can help individuals manage their condition effectively. By addressing both the physical and psychological components of psychogenic tremors, healthcare providers can improve the quality of life for those affected by this challenging disorder.