Can anxiety and stress cause TMJ disorder?

Can anxiety and stress cause TMJ disorder?
October 11, 2022 Lighthouse Network

Can anxiety and stress cause TMJ disorder?

While it may not be evident at first, anxiety and stress are often the underlying causes of many of our physical health issues. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and vice versa.

Studies show a strong link between TMJ disorder and anxiety disorders and stress.

This is because people suffering from anxiety or stress tend to clench and grind their teeth. This leads to TMJ disorders. At the same time, TMJ disorders cause a lot of pain. This again exacerbates stress and anxiety levels, making it a vicious cycle.

A person’s TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) disorder or TMD (Temporomandibular disorder) symptoms may also be due to a combination of risk factors, such as genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury.

TMJ disorder and its symptoms

The TMJ connects your jawbone to your skull. We have two jaw joints, one on each side of the jaw. The TMJ also plays an important role in the head and neck systems.

TMJ disorder or temporomandibular joint disorder can have a severe negative impact on your daily life. While it is a common condition, trying to find solutions for chronic pain is not easy.

But what are its physical symptoms? According to the Mayo Clinic, TMJ symptoms may include the following symptoms:

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw muscles.
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints.
  • Aching pain on either side of your face. And around your ear and face. Sometimes it also leads to shoulder pain.
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your upper and lower jaw.

If you feel experience pain while moving your jaws or you can hear a “clicking” sound when your jaw pops, then you could have TMJ problems. And it’s time to take an appointment today with a doctor.

TMJ disorder and its link to anxiety and stress

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This popular riddle can also apply to the link between TMJ problems and anxiety and stress.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, stress is possibly capable of arising TMJ disorders. Other studies have also found similar links.

Chronic stress and anxiety can manifest in the body in different ways. It can lead to the tightening of the jaw, grinding of teeth, and clenching of the jaws. These also happen when you have panic attacks due to anxiety.

Moreover, stress can also produce muscle tension around the neck. All of these are major contributors to temporomandibular disorder.

In turn, TMJ pain can lead to negative effects on a person’s quality of life. If it is not diagnosed and treated properly, suffering from constant pain can make anyone stressed. It can also give them depressive symptoms.

TMJ dysfunction also affects the quality of sleep, leading to disorders such as sleep apnea. All this in turn, again contributes to stress and anxiety.

So, as you can see, it is a vicious cycle that keeps going around. The only way to break out of it is through proper diagnosis and treatment options.

What are the treatment options for TMJ disorders?

Thankfully, for most people, TMJ disorder symptoms can be quite easily managed in different ways. There are a variety of ways for TMD treatment including medicines as well as self-care.

One option that your healthcare provider could offer is different types of medications. They include OTC pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, as well as, muscle relaxants.

They can also suggest mouth night guards, exercises, and physical therapy. In some severe cases, TMJ surgery is also an option.

But the most important treatment option for stress-induced TMJ is self-managed care. This can be simple self-care practices such as eating soft foods and using an ice pack.

However, while medicines are helpful, the real underlying cause is often anxiety and stress. So, the real solution for overall health is maintaining good mental health.

You must find the root cause of your stress. Then, managing your stress and anxiety symptoms is an important factor to get relief from TMJ disorders. Lifestyle changes with regular exercise, music, and good food will yield better results.

Managing anxiety and stress as a Christian

As mentioned above, stress and anxiety have unfortunately become a big part of our lives today. And its physical manifestation can make you experience pain. So, as someone who suffers from TMJ disorder, what can you do to keep the pain away?

While it is important to continue your treatments, as a believer, your faith can give you strength like no other. It can be an important part of your treatment. Remember that the Bible is always there to offer you guidance to overcome stressful situations.

First of all, take the message from Philippians 4:13 to heart. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When you are in pain, you feel like it is almost impossible to accomplish even simple tasks. But this verse reminds you that Christ is always there for you. You will find the strength to overcome the pain.

When you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, remember Psalm 94:19 which says “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” Always remember that our Lord is there to help us manage even our greatest worries. As long as we have faith in him, we will not flail and get lost in our worries.

Matthew 6:34 also has a message for us “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Anxiety robs us of the joy of the present. But we should not let it. Worrying will not get us anywhere. So, we should learn to let go of things we cannot control.


While the pain is real, getting a proper diagnosis is essential for recovering from a TMJ disorder. And the good news is that it is easy to recover from, provided you can work on self-care.

Of course, managing anxiety and stress levels is not as easy as it sounds. So, as you work on yourself and your mental health, always remember 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” No matter how weighed down you are by the stress of your life, don’t lose hope. Always remember that Christ cares for you and your problems are not yours alone.

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