Panic attacks and weakness in legs

Himanshu Dani Comment

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Panic attacks and weakness in legs

Many anxiety sufferers complain leg muscle weakness. You may have experienced that in anxiety and panic attacks. It’s like you often feel weakness in the legs when you stand still or walk on narrow footpaths, or walk in crowds or cross roads. You feel like energy is being drained from your legs and they are losing power to perform normally.

The sensations you feel are:

  • Weakness and soreness in the calfs.
  • You describe this symptom as that their feet muscles feel numb.
  • You say that you feel continuous tingling in the thighs.
  • Panic attack sufferers often complain that the strength of their leg muscles has reduced.
  • It feels like the brain is not controlling the muscles properly.
  • At the end, you also think that you have neurodegenerative diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS, or Parkinson’s Disease (which is of course not true).

Panic attacks and weakness in legs

A sense of tingling in the legs and feet make this feeling even worse. I have known some people who believe their legs are slowly paralyzing. This is of course not true.

The first thing to understand that anxiety actually causes full body weakness because it is a stress response.

When anxiety and panic strike it startles you with high-intensity sensations. My past experience is that whenever I panicked I felt leg muscle weakness. It always accompanied panic attacks or general anxiety.

Adrenaline Rush

The weakness is felt in the entire body but it is somewhat more uncomfortable in the legs because legs and feet are responsible for posture and balance. Many people say it feels like vertigo. But 99% of the times it is not. The reason you feel this weakness is the adrenaline rush that you have during panic attacks. When adrenaline circulates through your muscles electrifies the nerves to produce empowered signals for the muscles to act (Fight or Flight). Muscles are invigorated and electrified to the extent that they get loaded with energy ready to take action. But, the intensity of the fear and the way the sufferer interprets her autonomic arousal technically freezes her. There is lots of energy in the muscles but it only causes muscle tension or shaking. This is the reason your muscles feel fatigued after the panic ends. 

Hyperventilation

Simply stated- hyperventilation is an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and it is caused by fast breathing. In hyperventilation, carbon dioxide levels drop increasing the ratio of oxygen in the blood. We take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide but there is a definite ratio between both that is maintained by the body. When it goes out of balance it creates symptoms like tingling and weakness. The combination of these two makes the sensation really uncomfortable.  It feels like the legs are shaking and they will lose power. 

Most of it is fear

My very own experience says that no doubt it is a physical sensation caused by maybe adrenaline rush and hyperventilation. But it is also because of perceived fear or thoughts about it. When we fear that something is about to happen we experience it! There may not be any specific cause for it. It can be because of the fear or suspicion only. Many of the sensations or symptoms of panic attacks are rooted in the subconscious mind. You are often like- I’m sure that will happen to me!” Therefore you feel the sensations. The irrational thinking makes things appear real and also we physically feel the sensations even if there is no biological cause behind them. To some extent, same is the thing that affects the symptom of weakness.

Dealing with leg muscle weakness

Here are the ways you can deal with leg muscle weakness you feel:

  • Do some simple exercises when you feel weakness or shaking in the legs. It could be a few sit-ups or walking up the stairs. That will energize your leg muscles and it will help to reduce the sensation of weakness. Don’t overdo it since it can tire your muscles and you will feel more weakness.
  • Get leg massage every week. Getting a massage with natural oils like sesame oil can reduce the symptoms of tingling and weakness. The massage releases muscle tension and relaxes them and the oil nourishes muscles so that they perform better.  No matter what oil you use, massage is the main thing that relieves the symptom of muscle fatigue.
  • Break the habit of fast breathing. As discussed earlier you often breathe rapidly during a panic attack. It is a normal response to fear arousal. But this fast and shallow breathing causes hyperventilation and it induces the sensations of tingling, muscle soreness, and fatigue. Breathing from the belly- slowly but deeply during anxiety can help you avoid hyperventilation. 

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