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Morning Anxiety 101: Symptoms and Causes

I am not a morning person. If you are reading this, chances are, you aren’t one either. Sometimes, I have been woken up in the early hours to instant panic. There isn’t a reason for the fear but as soon as my eyelids open I am absolutely terrified. Its a horrible feeling. When my day begins this way one of two things are bound to happen.

Either I accept the anxiety and try to ignore it, or I feel sorry for myself, pout, and sometimes cry, and it consumes and ruins my entire day.

My anxiety is always worse in the mornings. Always. Sometimes I find myself dreading to go to sleep at night for fear of what the morning will bring. I have learned not to plan important events or parties until the afternoon or evenings because I know I will be in a better mood at that time.

Symptoms of Morning Anxiety

My anxiety is always worse in the mornings. Learn how cortisol, low blood sugar, and your environment can cause mornings to be filled with anxiety.Most people experience several of the following symptoms when feeling anxious:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
  • Nervousness, sense of terror, of impending doom or death
  • Feeling sweaty or having chills
  • Chest pains
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Trembling
  • Mental confusion

Causes for Morning Anxiety

Cortisol- the Stress Hormone

When we are feeling stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the morning and lowest at night.Β  Our bodies will also produce cortisol when we are feeling anxious to help with the “fight or flight” response.

It becomes a vicious cycle. We wake up feelingΒ anxious because of the stored up cortisol throughout the night, which makes us feel anxious, so our bodies continue to pump out cortisol, which creates more anxiety, which produces more cortisol, which causes us to feel more anxious, etc.

Low Blood Sugar

Deanne Repich, founder of the National Institute of Anxiety and Stress, Inc. says,

“Another reason why symptoms can be worse in the morning is because your blood sugar is low when you first wake up. You have gone all night without food. It’s important to maintain a constant blood sugar level because the brain uses sugar, also known as glucose, as its fuel. If blood sugar levels are too low or drop too fast, then the brain starts running out of fuel.”

Running out of fuel causes the brain to trigger the “fight or flight” response which we just learned will send cortisol through our bodies to help fight or flee the perceived threat (which in this case is low fuel).

Environmental Aggravations

Although these may not be the root of your morning anxiety, your bedroom surroundings can aggravate an already bad situation. Imagine sleeping in a dark room, in an uncomfortable bed and then suddenly a noisy, loud alarm clock scares you into reality. Soon harsh bright lights and the chill of getting out of bed welcome you to your worst day ever (Infuse Positive Energy into Your Home).

There are simple things we can do to help eliminate morning anxiety. Read on forΒ Morning Anxiety 101: 5 Useful Tips.

123 thoughts on “Morning Anxiety 101: Symptoms and Causes”

  1. i too wake up shaking with anxiety i think about what if i try not too i pray i am seeing a.therapist i need to find a dr. for a checup and maybe anxiety meds. a lot is going on in my life ill be moving in with my boyfriend soon but not soon enough. i voild go on and on.

  2. Some very good advice there Tamara. The morning fear almost has me paralysed sometimes. I know everything you say is correct. I don’t think I could have a workout the moment I wake up but i try and distract myself with a game on my phone or meditation while my brain wakes up. I drink a glass of water as soon as I wake up which also is supposed to help.I have read so much about anxiety and depression and believe I am slowly getting there. Mirtazipine has helped enormously but I still feel anxious in the morning when I wake up. I think the brain just needs time to reconfigure itself after you have had a shock/greif/depressive episode or whatever you want to call it. Patience and time are what we need (along with all the other things you have suggested). Good luck to anyone feeling these very unpleasant feelings. If you can ride this out you will be able to take on anything!

  3. I too am suffering with this morning anxiety/depression. I wake up with a dread and horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that sometimes doesn’t go away until 3pm.,,or 8pm although yesterday it subsided at 10:30am. I’m sitting here at my doctors right now and will beg her for help. It’s hard to even write this because I’m soooo tired. If I close my eyes for a second I could just sleep. I force myself out of bed because I have 2 young kids that I need function for. I’m praying desperately for this to be cleared up as I can’t deal with it anymore. I’ve been reading that high cortisol could be the culprit. I will ask her to test my levels. I also have a consult for a sleep apnea test. I’m sure I have sleep apnea. Prayers for everyone

    1. Your experience is my EXACT experience: difference being, I have bipolar and am on meds for that. I’m recently on a bento which i hate taking but it helps me function.

    2. I have been feeling the same way. And having children, which I do also, makes it’s so much harder. You know u have to take care of ur kids. Trying to figure out how to get th irrational thought to stop fighting with the truth! I hope you get relief soon.

  4. I, tpo, am waking up with terrible morning anxiety. I’ve had anxiety disorder for a long time but never this horrific morning thing! I feel a lump in my chest and often throw up. Can anyone help me?

  5. My ex and I broke up one month ago, I found out that he cheated on me, now its been a month. We been together for for 8yrs he’s been my world for the entire said years. I’ve been suffering these body trembling and even vomiting every morning. But it goes out at noon and feel better after up until in evening but when I wake up in the morning the feeling came back its hard for me since im working. My body weight is dropping also. I dont know what to do anymore can anyone help me what I should do? 😒

      1. I saw both of your posts and I wanted to comment because my heart goes out to you both. As well as others who have/are going through this. For over a year I was having 15 panic attacks a day. And every morning I would wake up running to the bathroom and throwing up because I have such a sensitive stomach. Or when a stressful event would happen. But the grace of God, I am doing better. But I still will have seasons of high anxiety. But if it’s to the point where youre throwing up that often. (I was already super skinny and really couldn’t lose more weight) I would first try some ginger tea. It helps with nausea. If that doesn’t help- peptobismol (pink stuff) helps coat the stomach and may help relieve some tightness. And if it’s really bad I would talk to your doctor about odonsetron- anti nausea pill and works instantly. It has been a God send for me (though my insurance covers it-not cheap). Because nothing else would work.
        My other inputs. Talk it out. See a counselor or someone who is a good listener. Going through a break up or something stressful- it’s so important to talk it out. Your a human being and you can’t always carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Allow your body to grieve and give yourself some grace. I would beat myself up so much and what a horrible person I was for having panic attacks and missing hang outs with people because of how stressed and sick I was. But it only made it worse.
        Another thing, deep breathing and mindfulness. Be present focused and nothing else. Your brain will want to take you on a Rollercoaster ride when you first wake up but give it something else to think on. Like the softness of a blanket or the texture of something or some music. (What my counselor suggested) And don’t fight the panic attacks. That’s what made it worse for me. Once I started to accept them and understand why my body was responding the way it was. The less panic attacks and throwing up I had. Another thing. Everything inside of you will say no but I highly recommend doing a workout right when you wake up. Get rid of the stress hormones and get some happy ones. When you run or workout it creates serotonin which helps so much. Your body needs a way to get rid of the stress and if you don’t find a place for it- it can go to your stomach. My dad (who also is a counselor) always says the stomach is like the second brain.
        Also totally random but a huge thing that made a world of a difference for me. Diet. My whole GI track was inflamed and it made anxiety and depression a nightmare. If you have gut problems I highly recommend a diet without wheat or dairy or an anti inflammatory diet. 80-95% of your happy hormones (serotonin) are made in your gut. If that’s not doing well, youre probably not doing well.
        Anyways I hope this helps someone. And I encourage you all. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and easier seasons. But I pray you all find relief. On a personally note meditating and reading my bible is another thing that has been one of the biggest helps for me. Of course I am not forcing this on anyone. I am just sharing what personally has helped me and have nothing but a heart to want to help. It’s been a blessing to know I don’t have to have all my crap together- and to stop being such a people pleaser. It wore me out. So give yourself some grace <3

        1. Your comments were so helpful. Last year I found a daily Bible devotion that was a life saver for me. I have the gut problem too. Will look up suggested diet.

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