Can Stress & Anxiety Cause a Fever?

Can Stress & Anxiety Cause a Fever?

Stress and anxiety are how your body gives you a heads-up that you’re facing a potentially dangerous situation. It’s normal to feel anxious or stressed when you’re about to present the report that you’ve worked on for weeks or you inadvertently stir up a hornet’s nest. These responses help the body decide whether to resist the danger or flee, known as the fight-or-flight response.

However, they become a problem when you’re faced with situations that don’t warrant such a response. Snapping suddenly when someone only means to ask for a favour means stress and anxiety have overstayed their welcome. Without adequate intervention, stress and anxiety can make you feel terrible, both physically and emotionally.

Believe it or not, among the things excess stress and anxiety can give you is a nasty fever. Here’s an in-depth look into what doctors call psychogenic fever.

Emotional fever

According to Takakazu Oka, a psychosomatic medicine specialist at Kyushu University in Japan, some people can develop a fever that can reach up to 41o C when faced with an emotional event. This temperature borders between regular (pyrexia) and very high fever (hyperpyrexia), just two degrees shy of a deadly fever. (1)

Psychogenic or emotional fever isn’t anything new. Scientists have recorded cases dating back to the early 20th century, some calling it neurogenic fever. Oka also pointed out that the condition seems to be more prevalent among young females and children. (1)

Unlike normal fever, psychogenic fever doesn’t stay consistent until it ebbs. In one of Oka’s case studies, he noted that the patient, a 15-year-old girl, experienced fever only when she was at school. Her temperature normalized more or less in any other situation. (1)

To date, the scientific community doesn’t fully understand how such fevers work. Some studies have linked it to a traumatic brain injury, potentially to a damaged hypothalamus. Unfortunately, this is where treatment can be a problem. (2)

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Fever drugs may not work

Paracetamol and ibuprofen are the most common antipyretics or medications for treating fever. Comparing ibuprofen vs paracetamol, the primary distinction is that the former targets the inflammation site while the latter targets the central nervous system (hence the term ‘centrally-acting’). Both are effective, though some may have allergic reactions to either.

However, both drugs are ineffective in stopping psychogenic fever because it doesn’t trigger the mechanisms in the body that usually do in a regular fever. It’s important to remember that a fever is your body’s response to infection. Most bacteria and viruses don’t do well in heat, making the job of your antibodies much easier.

With psychogenic fever, there’s no inflammation—no immune response. The body feels hot, but there’s no invasion by bacteria or viruses. Without anything to treat, the drugs are unable to take effect as they should.

Doctors also discovered that treating this kind of fever with antipyretics appears to result in the body developing resistance against such drugs. If ever a person develops a normal fever on top of psychogenic fever, they’ll have fewer treatment options.

Treatment options

Despite working differently, psychogenic fever is still fever, manageable with home remedies. If you find yourself coming down with one, here’s how to treat a fever.

  • Water is still the best remedy for managing fever, helping cool your body down. Drink as much water as your body needs. For more severe cases of dehydration, mix a teaspoon of oral rehydration salts in a glass of water.
  • Refrain from strenuous activity and rest your body as much as possible. Forcing yourself to sweat during a fever will only draw more heat from the outside, worsening your fever. Stay in bed and let your body do what it needs to do. (3)
  • Wear light clothes when sleeping or going around the house. Your body releases heat via pores across your skin, so it’s essential to keep them open.

Currently, there are no drugs specifically formulated to combat psychogenic fever. However, as excess stress and anxiety are the culprits, alleviating them has shown to have promise. While some drugs already do this, combining them with therapy or a change of pace on one’s part helps immensely. Some of the things you can do yourself include:

  • Identifying what’s causing you to be stressed out
  • Avoiding vices like smoking or alcohol in hopes of coping with it
  • Spending a few minutes of meditation or any calming ritual
  • Consulting your doctor about your treatment options


To sum it up, stress and anxiety can cause a fever, one that you can’t entirely manage the same way as a normal fever. If you feel like you keep heating up when dealing with stressful situations, be sure to consult with your doctor.


  1. “Psychogenic fever: how psychological stress affects body temperature in the clinical population”
  2. “Neurogenic fever”
  3. “Why sweating out a fever is a myth — and more effective ways to break your fever”


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