Does anxiety burn calories?

This post answers: Does anxiety burn calories? Does anxiety always burn more calories? What are some symptoms of anxiety burning more calories? Why makes people more vulnerable to burning more calories when they are anxious? What is Anxiety? What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? What are the causes of anxiety? What are some ways to manage anxiety? What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Does anxiety burn calories?

Generally speaking, yes, anxiety may burn a lot of calories. Anxiety is as much of a physiological problem as it is psychological. In anxiety it’s not only the mind that gets affected, the body is also severely affected in many ways.

When someone has anxiety the person’s mind has declared a state of emergency. There is extreme uncertainty about the future. That’s what makes the person extremely worried. Under such situations, the body is in a state of what’s known as “flight or fight”.

The external environment is threatening and uncertain, and the body has to stay alert. This leads to increased metabolism. We know that increased metabolism means more calories getting burned. This is why people with anxiety burn more calories, and as a result, report weight loss.

Apart from weight loss, feeling of exhaustion and fatigue is very common among people with anxiety.

Does anxiety always burn more calories?

The relationship between anxiety and caloric consumption is somewhat complicated. It depends upon the severity of anxiety, the person, the situation, and the type of anxiety.

Generally speaking, most people burn more calories in the short term when they get anxious. The reason for that is that their bodies are in a state of extreme tension and worry which requires a lot of energy to deal with.

However, when it comes to long-term anxiety, the effects of anxiety may actually be reverse. Research indicates that suffering from anxiety for prolonged durations of time can actually lead to more caloric consumption and therefore weight gain.

Apart from that, research also indicates that anxious women are more vulnerable to weight gain as compared to anxious men. The metabolism of women slows down when they are anxious. Even when they are eating the same meal as before, they gain more weight because calories are burned slowly.

What are some symptoms of anxiety burning more calories?

When someone is anxious and their body burns more calories than usual, it manifests itself in many forms in the person’s body. These people report that they are more tired and fatigued than usual. They always feel that they don’t have energy and are constantly on the edge of exhaustion. The low energy leads to other physiological problems as well; such as pains in the body.

When there is a lack of energy in the body it may also lead to hypoglycemia. The hypoglycemia may in turn result in other mood problems, such as irritability. People with anxiety are irritated by seemingly trivial things. They hate noise and just want to be alone somewhere.

The lack of energy due to more burning of calories may also lead to difficulties in sleeping. People with anxiety either don’t want to sleep or can’t sleep due to insomnia.

Why makes people more vulnerable to burning more calories when they are anxious?

In general, anxiety leads to more caloric consumption in almost anyone. However, some people in some situations are more vulnerable to it than others. The following are the main triggering factors that may lead to burning more calories when one is anxious:

Other health issues

People who already have other health issues, or have comorbid psychological problems, are more vulnerable to weight loss due to anxiety than others. It’s because the bodies of these people are already consuming too much energy, anxiety just worsens their situation. This is especially true of chronic conditions such as diabetes or cancer.

Skipping meals

People with anxiety constantly skip meals, especially breakfast. This leads to a decline in their caloric intake, which leads weight loss. Apart from that, skipping meals itself may also trigger anxiety. They get anxious, they skip meals, it makes them even more anxious, they skip more meals, and so on. This is the vicious circle they are trapped inside.

Negative thinking

Anxiety and negative thinking may be regarded as synonymous. People with anxiety have a very unrealistic view of the world and themselves. Their brains are constantly engaged in generating negative emotions, which requires a lot of energy. That’s how negative thinking leads to burning more calories, and consequently weight loss.

What is Anxiety?

Problems and resulting stress are usually accompanied by some common emotions like confusion, feeling at the edge, a sense of helplessness, and recurrent negative thoughts which can collectively be seen as an individual experiencing what’s commonly called  Anxiety. 

Every human has their unique ways of dealing with these difficult situations and the following emotions, some try to adapt to the circumstances and find the best and most comfortable solution while others try to find an escape route for the same, in both cases the main aim is usually to get over the uncomfortable emotions of anxiety. 

What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? 

Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:


  • Sweating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sense of choking
  • Complaints of chest pain
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment
  • Fear of impending doom
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Increased heart rate

These symptoms vary in severity from person to person. However, it is noted that many people experience anxiety attacks that are not significantly displayed.

What are the causes of anxiety?

Anxiety often results from accumulated stress or overwhelming feelings. Some common causes of anxiety include.

  • Increased and challenging situations and demands in day-to-day life.
  • Major changes in family dynamics such as marriage, divorce, death of a loved one.
  • Strain interpersonal relationships
  • Intrapersonal conflicts
  • Ineffective coping mechanisms
  • Comorbid conditions both physical and mental
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Genetic factors
  • Changes in the brain region
  • Overdose of caffeine
  • Prolonged use of medications
  • Significant traumatic experiences in the past or recent times
  • Comorbid mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other phobias.

What are some ways to manage anxiety?

Identify and acknowledge the triggers

The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety is by identifying and acknowledging those triggers.

Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.

Relaxation techniques


Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques.

These might include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.



A key to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.

The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel connected and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety.

Apart from friends and families, individuals can also consider speaking to groups of people that are experiencing similar problems.

Set realistic goals

When an individual is feeling overwhelmed, setting goals and targets keeping in mind priorities can help resolve overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.

Setting goals provides structure and routine to an individual’s life reducing space for uncertainty which can be a major trigger for anxiety in many cases.

Take up new challenges

Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anger temporarily.

Signing up for new activities also provides a path to meeting people with similar stories and concerns.

Lifestyle changes

An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.

A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.

These coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.

lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.

Making journal entries

Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.

Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.

In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.

What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.

As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session, individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.

Group therapy


It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.


Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief. 

Online therapy  

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium. 

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation. 

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time


The bodies of people with anxiety are in constant state of tense emergency. Their brains are involved in generating negative emotions at a constant level. The constant worry exhausts their bodies because it requires a lot of energy. Anxiety causes them to burn more calories.

Frequently asked questions: Does anxiety burn calories?

Why do people with anxiety exhaust so much and so easily?

It is associated with more use of the adrenal gland. That’s why even small stressors exhaust people with anxiety easily. Negative thinking has the exact same effect.

Can anxiety lead to weight gain?

Yes, in the long-term anxiety can lead to weight gain.

Can burning more calories lead to sleep disturbances?

Anxiety is highly linked to insomnia. Also, the exhaustion and tiredness people with anxiety feel stops them from sleeping properly.


How many calories does anxiety burn?