Anxiety can cause facial numbness and a tingling sensation. These symptoms of anxiety may make someone think they are experiencing a medical emergency, such as a stroke or head injury.

Many different conditions can cause numbness, but tingling and numbness are among the most common anxiety symptoms, especially during a panic attack.

Keep reading to learn more about anxiety and facial numbness, including how the two are linked, when to contact a doctor, and further information about other potential physical symptoms of anxiety.

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When a person feels anxious, their body responds with a number of changes that prepare them to fight or flee either a real or perceived threat.

One of the quick changes that occur in these instances is vasoconstriction. This means that the blood vessels narrow, which, in turn, decreases blood flow throughout the body. This usually causes numbness and tingling.

This numbness tends to affect the hands, feet, or legs. However, it can also occur in the face. A person who clenches their jaw or shoulders when they feel anxious might notice increased tension around the face and head as well.

Anxiety may even cause numbness in the mouth or tongue. A 2015 case report highlights the experience of a man whose anxiety and depression caused numbness to affect his tongue. With antidepressant medication, the numbness disappeared.

Although a person with anxiety might focus on the numbness in their face, the most effective treatment focuses on the anxiety itself. As anxiety eases, it is expected that the physical effects that cause the numbness ease as well.

In the moment of an anxiety attack, reminding oneself that the numbness is a symptom of panic can also help ease anxiety. This may help prevent a person from panicking about physical symptoms.

Some treatment options for anxiety include:

  • Therapy: In therapy, a person can discuss their anxiety, get help managing their symptoms, and develop a plan for managing panic attacks and other scary symptoms.
  • Medication: A number of prescription drugs can help with anxiety. Antidepressants can help ease anxiety over time, while a group of drugs called benzodiazepines may help with more acute anxiety, such as panic attacks, offering near-immediate relief.
  • Support: Having support from loved ones can help when a person feels overwhelmed by panic, particularly when they panic about physical symptoms such as numbness. Some people find that support and skills groups offer additional help from individuals who understand the challenges of living with anxiety.
  • Self-care: People who experience anxiety can monitor their symptoms and how various lifestyle choices may affect those symptoms. Regular exercise, deep breathing, or journaling may help ease stress.

Learn more about the different treatments for anxiety here.

People experiencing panic attacks or anxiety may also experience other physical symptoms, which can cause worry and lead to further anxiety.

In fact, a common experience during moments of intense panic is the fear of dying or belief that death is imminent.

Facial numbness may trigger fears of a stroke and, in rare cases, could, in fact, be a symptom of a stroke. People with anxiety should be familiar with the symptoms that distinguish a stroke from anxiety.

They should go to the emergency room if:

  • The numbness appeared before the anxiety and only affects one side of the face.
  • A person cannot raise both arms or, when they do, one arm moves downward.
  • A person has difficulty speaking, walking, or seeing.
  • A person feels very confused or loses consciousness.
  • A person has a sudden, severe headache without another obvious cause.
  • A person can only see out of one eye.
  • A person’s face droops.
  • A person smiles, but the smile looks different on each side of the face.

A panic attack can feel very scary, but it is not dangerous or life threatening unless a person has other symptoms of a serious medical condition.

For example, people with sickle cell disease may have a higher risk of a sickle cell crisis when blood vessels constrict due to anxiety. Numbness can be a symptom of these blood vessels constricting.

Otherwise, it is usually safe to manage the symptoms of panic at home. However, a person should contact a doctor if:

  • They have frequent panic attacks or severe anxiety that makes it difficult to function.
  • They have numbness in the face that does not go away when the anxiety eases.
  • Numbness in the face appears after an injury or dental surgery.
  • A person has other unexplained medical symptoms along with facial numbness.
  • Home treatments do not ease anxiety.
  • Anxiety gets worse over time.
  • Anxiety medication does not work.
  • A person notices unpleasant side effects of their anxiety medication.

Anxiety is a physical state and a mental one. At times of intense physical anxiety, the body enters a fight-or-flight state, preparing to either defend itself or flee.

This can cause a wide range of physical symptoms, including:

  • changes in blood pressure
  • an irregular heart rate or a very fast heartbeat
  • feeling hot or sweating
  • tingling or numbness in various parts of the body, especially the hands and feet
  • a pounding heart that may cause tension in the chest
  • physical pain or muscle aches
  • having a knot in the stomach or feeling very physically alert
  • gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea
  • rapid breathing
  • dizziness
  • feeling the need to move around
  • struggling to remain calm or sleep

Numbness in the face can be scary, especially when a person already feels anxious or afraid.

Knowing that numbness is a common response to anxiety may help a person feel less panicked.

However, if the numbness does not disappear or gets worse, it is possible that something other than anxiety caused it. In this case, it is worth contacting a doctor.