Morning Anxiety 101: Symptoms and Causes

January 25, 2010 Aimee White

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. 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 feeling 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 for Morning Anxiety 101: 5 Useful Tips.

APA Reference
White, A. (2010, January 25). Morning Anxiety 101: Symptoms and Causes, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Aimee White

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Aimee White
March, 1 2010 at 12:27 pm

Hi Kerry,
Thanks for all of your tips. You are such a sweetheart to open yourself up so much to strangers. Thanks for being so supportive. You rock!

February, 15 2010 at 7:53 am

I've read all your posts and its interesting. I panic and have anxiety when I wake up in the morning. After a nasty divorce of 5 years ago I have been living alone and waking up in an empty house was frightening. I would stay in bed for weeks at a time. I don't know if getting this off my chest will help or make matters worse. I am phobic about taking a shower so it doesn't comfort me. I feel like I need a medication that will suppress the anxiety and panic. I am in really bad shape and need help desparately. Wish there was a magic wand to wave but there isn't and I don't know how I can stand to keep going like this. The stress is taking its toll. My beautiful hair is falling out like crazy.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Aimee White
March, 1 2010 at 12:22 pm

Hey Debbie,
Suppressing the anxiety will only make it worse. You can take medication to help with the anxiety, but you have to learn that to accept your anxiety as a part of who you are. When you stop fighting it and learn to roll with it, it will start to get better.
Hope that helps!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 24 2018 at 10:51 am

I want to know how to roll with it please ? When my heart starts to go faster, faster I panic and actually shake once in awhile cause I’m nervous. My heart rate will get up to close to 200.... I have Xanax, but it takes awhile for it to relax me. I try to not use meds. A glass of ice cold water, sit and try to breath slowly and wish I was at the beach seems to help sometimes. Any other ideas would be most welcomed ?Thank You ?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 26 2017 at 1:33 am

Showers make me MUCH worse and I often have to rest after showering. I learned that this is a symptom of adrenals and cortisol. Taking a cool shower is less taxing.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 27 2018 at 10:06 am

You are in a sensitized state right now. Any thoughts, physical symptoms, and fears you have are going to feel very intense and magnified -- overwhelming even.
Look up Dr. Claire Weekes on YouTube. She explains how a hypersensitive mindset (caused by stress or personality type) magnifies scary feelings, this leads to mental confusion (like a brain fog).
Dr. Weekes calls this 'bewilderment'. It can feel like deja Vu, or feelings of unreality "this isn't really happening", or feeling 'not like yourself'. Bewilderment is followed by fear, then increased sensitization, and the cycle starts again.
When I'm feeling anxious, yes even the thought of a shower is scary, the thought of exercising is ruined by fears of chest pain, taking a tranquilizer or even a vitamin is an exercise in fear and self-doubt. If you are exhausted, a short-term medication will help you get some rest and allow you to catch your breath so that you can better deal with anxiety by using acceptance techniques such as those taught be Dr. Weekes.

Aimee White
February, 13 2010 at 4:33 pm

Thanks Heather for the tip about Cipralex. I have never heard of that one.
Also thanks Rochelle for sharing what works for you to relieve your morning anxiety. Showers are the best. I always take really long ones. I like to just "be" when I am in the shower. Having someone call you is a great distraction. I'll have to remember that one.

Rochelle Gollin
February, 9 2010 at 11:55 pm

Dear Aimee,
You are so right about being up late. I am writing this at 3:36 A.M. I used to wake up every morning in a panic, then it became waking up w depression. Sometimes it got so bad I didn't want to go to bed at night for fear of how I'd wake up in the morning. I discovered 2 things; keep an orange at my bedside so I had something to grab for to up my blood sugar; get in the shower no matter what. Somehow the warm water is very calming. However, I must admit that if I'm in a bad depression, getting myself into the shower can take a couple of hours. I am basically a night personl. My best thinking seems to start at 11 p.m., sometimes I think that part of the problem is being forced to live in a society that does not synch w my circadian rhythms. Also, once in the while I can calm myself down by asking myself "O.K., how much worse can this get?" Somehow that seems to ground me. The absolute best thing for me , however, is if I can get someone to call me about the time I wake up. Good Luck!

January, 28 2010 at 3:15 pm

This seems to be a common problem .I too have trouble in the morning and shy away from going anywhere before noon ,my dentist wont see me anymore beacause of missed appointments ( time for a new dentist),But I have found a medication that works well for me,CIPRALEX. Before this my anxiety was all consuming and unbearable it takes a while to kick in but it has improved my daily life,hope this helps someone.

Aimee White
January, 28 2010 at 3:08 pm

Wow I appreciate all of the comments on this topic. Its a great one to discuss.
I take 100 mg of Zoloft every morning with my breakfast. I would be interested to hear what everyone else is taking. It seems to work well for me, but overall techniques such as positive affirmations or distractions work better for me.
I encourage you to read the follow up post to this one. It talks about how if you worry about the anxiety it will only make it worse. You should instead think of what actions you will take if it does come, so you can feel better prepared for it. Also, you need to learn how much power you have. You can handle the anxiety. Its not bigger than you. You just have to believe in yourself.
Thanks to everyone else for your comments! I hope these articles will help you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Barry Steinhart
March, 25 2019 at 5:45 pm

My morning anxiety seems to be connected with my unbearable burning electric shock pain that I endure every morning. It might be due to my cervical spinal stenosis, or my carpal tunnel (plus Dupuytren’s Contracture). All I know is that it is utterly unbearable and prevents me from getting out of bed until roughly 10.30-11. I wish someone could help me.

March, 25 2019 at 5:52 pm

I forgot to mention that I also get panic attacks and depersonalisation during the day. Certain times every day, everything even indoors look all queer as though nothing is real. I take 30 mg of Duloxetine every night but it doesn’t seem to help. I am an Orthodox Jewish gentleman, nearly 80 years old.

March, 29 2019 at 12:33 pm

Wow...I get the same ....I'm house bound by panic attacks to scared to go anywhere....... Don't have many friend so i am mostly alone... I take 10mg of pax diazapame but does not really help I always feel out of it like I'm not alive ...hard to explain.....I'm 60 Yeats old...

Doris Jackson
April, 7 2019 at 7:55 am

Oh I see old and newer posts are mixed in.... noticed this current one. I am 75 and been mostly in my bedroom since end of November 2018. Mid Feb psychiatrist put me back on Zoloft - I took myself off it for a year as diagnozed with Glaucoma narrow angle and many meds are not to be used. So, I wake up around 4am heart pounding which never happened the many years I was on Zoloft before .... thing is, cant get back to sleep. When I have toast and coffee at 7.30 I am shaking inside and out and lie on bed til noon or later. I also have IBS D and mornings are spent with five to ten trips to bathroom. I have other medical issues. Thing is, I am prepared to leave this world but have no way of doing it.... I, as others, feel a bit better in evening, so that thought subsides, but is right back again as soon as I feel unwell Its an awful existence after working all my life and raising children. I feel I cannot cope any more - meds, doctors, seclusion etc. I feel so sorry for young adults experiencing this.

January, 28 2010 at 11:11 am

I've been suffering from anxiety for a couple of years now with not much success in treating it. Mornings are really awful for me. I would love to know of ANYTHING that can help with this.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 1 2017 at 11:30 pm

Try staying in bed and eat a banana then listen to a guided meditation of breathing exercises ultra calm by Mark Hyman is good. Wait until you feel better then get up

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 1 2019 at 10:59 pm

This works for me ... and meditation and breathing twice a day ! With anxiety we must have a routine.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 13 2018 at 9:27 pm

Hi Judy, check hormone levels. DHEA, progesterone, serotonin, you could have adrenal fatigue. Google adrenal fatigue and see if the symptoms you are experiencing are familiar

January, 28 2010 at 8:48 am

i too suffer with anxiety i take valium. every time i go out in the morning i have to take someone out with me or i just cant function. i never do more than 1 appointment a week and my therapeist comes to my house to see me.

January, 28 2010 at 2:41 am

I woke up groaning. It's weird to wake up hearing yourself. I never make morning appts. Feel better at night. I am well known for cancellations or being late. I find if I have appts; I space them out. Like 1 appt. one day; next 2 or 3 days later another appt.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 11 2018 at 2:52 am

I am waking up groaning, been happening for a while. It passes but i am still down and feel anxious. It can pass by later in the day sometimes. All anti deps tried have made me worse, more agitated. Whatnisnthe solution

Marta Novotny
January, 27 2010 at 2:19 pm

I have anxiety also but I did not know about the pounding heart. I would get out of bed & my heart rate would be 105 I am not a morning person either but after being up a couple hours it goes away.

Diane Smith
January, 27 2010 at 11:17 am

I can relate to this anxiety. I have also quit making appointments in the morning. I seldom ( every 5 or 6 mos.) go out in the evening. When I was really bad, I was afraid to be alone ever. I spent months at the neighbors house everyday . My husband would drop me off and pick me up on his way home. Thank goodness they were like parents to me. I could not go in my kid's room if the light wasn't already on. There seemed to be no end in sight. Finally I told my husband we had to move. I was suicidal and seriously tried to kill myself. We moved. It's been 3 years. A few times in the last month or so I have had that anxiety again. I'm truly scared that I may be starting to fear everything again.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 27 2018 at 9:42 am

Don't despair. Your story reminds me of a woman talking about her anxiety on YouTube. Please watch a YouTube video called "Dr. Claire Weekes -- Peace From Nervous Suffering" (it is about an hour long, it has a yellow bust of a person with blue text on the screenshot).
The woman went from being terrified at night, to being terrified all the time. She even started straining the milk before breakfast because she was afraid there might be broken glass in it.
Do not be afraid of setbacks! Do not be afraid of that fear returning, it will do what it will. You need a strategy, and you need practice. This is not something you can move away from.
Memories of anxiety in the past will always stir up new fears -- it's only natural. I'll bet that revisiting that house or your old neighbors has the ability to bring back the scary feelings. But Dr. Claire Weekes simple strategy of accepting that ugly feeling really works!
It's normal to become depressed and feel hopeless when the anxiety persists for extended periods of time and does not show signs of letting up. You feel terminally ill, like there will never be relief. Dr. Weekes knows this process all too well. Use her advice on how to cope and accept it. Best of luck to you!

nancy brashears
January, 27 2010 at 10:33 am

I,too,am not a morning person.Lately I do not want to get out of bed,let alone start a new heart flutters and pounds,I do not have motivation.I feel isolated from the rest of the world.Let's talk about cortisol and sugar levels.Is there medication to maintain healthy balance....

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