Is Your Yawning Habit a Sign of Anxiety? Find Out Now!

Are you someone who is wondering if your yawns are more than just a sign of sleepiness? It is believed that yawning is linked to anxiety and can indicate when someone is stressed, overwhelmed, or feeling socially uncomfortable.

In this article, we’ll explore ‘is yawning a sign of anxiety’, the link between the two and discuss ways to manage it. So if you think your yawns have more meaning than meets the eye, read on to find out more!

Why Do We Yawn

Yawning is a surprisingly complex phenomenon, and scientists are still trying to understand why it occurs. Generally speaking, we yawn because our bodies need more oxygen, or because they want to cool down the brain.

Yawning can be triggered by various things, such as boredom or fatigue. It’s also contagious – we often find ourselves yawning after seeing someone else do it.

Studies have suggested that yawning helps increase oxygen intake and reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the body; this, in turn, boosts alertness and arousal. Other studies suggest that yawning helps cool down the brain.

When we yawn, air passes through the sinuses and carries away excess heat from our brains.

Additionally, some researchers believe that yawning is an evolutionary adaptation used to show empathy and strengthen social ties between members of a group. When someone sees another person yawning, they may feel compelled to do it too because it signals a sense of belonging and connection with that person.

Interestingly enough, humans aren’t the only species that yawns: even fish, birds, reptiles, and other animals have been observed doing it occasionally!

Excessive Yawning

Excessive yawning is defined as a persistent and recurrent pattern of yawning, typically lasting for more than five minutes at a time. It can also be accompanied by other physical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, dizziness, and headache.

Excessive yawning has been linked to anxiety and stress-related disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and major depressive disorder (MDD). Also, people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are also known to experience excessive yawning.

It is thought that these conditions may lead to an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in excessive yawning. Furthermore, some medications used to treat anxiety and depression, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also cause excessive yawning as a side effect.

3 Physiological Explanations For Yawning

Yawning is a physiological phenomenon that has multiple explanations. From the body’s need for more oxygen to cooling down the brain, there are many theories about why we yawn and what purpose it serves. This includes:

1. Brain Oxygenation And Cooling Theory

The brain oxygenation and cooling theory is one of the most widely accepted physiological explanations for yawning. According to this theory, yawning helps to keep the brain oxygenated and cool, which in turn improves alertness and focus. This process is primarily facilitated by increasing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain while simultaneously cooling the brain’s temperature through rapid inhalations and exhalations.

When we yawn, we inhale deeply – drawing in a large volume of air into our lungs.

This cool air can then be circulated throughout our bodies, including our brains, reducing their temperature significantly. At the same time, while inhaling deeply, we are also drawing in more oxygen into our lungs than during normal breathing. This extra supply of oxygen-rich blood can then be passed on to the brain, where it helps to boost alertness and concentration levels.

This oxygenation-cooling process is believed to help lower fatigue levels and improve cognitive performance – making it one of the main physiological explanations for why we yawn.

2. Contagious Yawning Theory

The contagious yawning theory is a popular physiological explanation for why we yawn. It suggests that when we observe someone else yawn, it triggers a reflex in our brain and body causing us to imitate the same behavior.

This is known as the “contagious” yawn.

Research suggests that this phenomenon has both psychological and physiological elements to it. Physiologically, contagion is thought to be an instinctive, unconscious response triggered by certain stimuli in the environment. Psychologically, it can be seen as an expression of empathy or an attempt to sympathize with another person who is feeling tired or bored.

Researchers believe that contagious yawning may be linked to speech development and communication. A study conducted in 2009 found that certain areas of the brain were more active when participants observed others yawning compared to when they only heard someone else make a yawning sound.

This indicates that seeing a real-life example of a behavior may cause more neural activity than simply hearing about it. Which could contribute to the ability of humans to understand other people’s intentions through facial expressions and body language.

It’s believed that contagious yawning serves as a way for humans to communicate non-verbally. What would normally be expressed through words can instead be expressed through mimicking each other’s behavior such as sleeping posture or even facial expressions like smiling or frowning.

3. Sleepiness Theory

The sleepiness theory suggests that yawning is a physiological reaction to fatigue and tiredness. It is thought that when the body is tired, it needs additional oxygen to help keep itself awake. Therefore, yawning helps increase oxygen intake into the body and increases alertness.

This theory states that yawning occurs when someone is feeling sleepy or fatigued and needs a boost of energy.

The increased inhalation of oxygen helps to wake up both the mind and body by increasing alertness, focus, and energy levels. Studies have even found that people who are sleep-deprived may initiate more frequent yawns than those who are well-rested. Most experts agree that the sleeping phenomenon of yawning increases when the body is in need of more rest or energy and diminishes with adequate sleep and rest.

3 Psychological Explanations for Yawning

In addition to the physiological theories of why we yawn, there are also several psychological explanations that attempt to explain this phenomenon. Psychological models suggest that yawning has evolved not only as a way to boost alertness and lower fatigue levels, but also as an expression of emotions and feelings such as boredom, stress, or even empathy.

It is believed that certain emotions trigger specific facial expressions which can then be contagious among groups of people. Thus, when someone else yawns it can set off a chain reaction in those around them who may mimic the behavior for social or emotional reasons. Here are some of the reasons:

1. Expression Of Stress And Anxiety

Yawning can be an expression of stress and anxiety, which is why it’s common to see people yawning in uncomfortable or anxious situations. When under stress, the body releases hormones such as cortisol which can cause us to feel fatigued and even increase our urge to yawn.

In a study conducted at The University of Albany, researchers found that people who yawned when feeling stressed had lower levels of cortisol in their saliva compared to those who didn’t yawn. This suggests that yawning may help reduce stress and anxiety levels by releasing tension from the body.

  • Stress hormones such as cortisol can cause fatigue and increase the urge to yawn.
  • A study found that those who yawned when feeling stressed had lower levels of cortisol in their saliva.
  • Yawning may help reduce stress and anxiety by releasing tension from the body.
  • It is believed that yawning helps to reset the body’s physiological state and refresh the mind.

2. Indication Of Emotional State

Yawning can also serve as an indication of one’s emotional state. For example, people may yawn in response to feeling bored, nervous, or uneasy. This is especially true when faced with social situations or uncomfortable conversations.

According to a study conducted at the University of Vienna, participants who were instructed to engage in small talk yawned more than those who weren’t given any instructions. This suggests that yawning may be used as a way to express discomfort in certain situations and indicate that one isn’t interested in continuing the conversation.

Is yawning a sign of anxiety

  • People may yawn in response to feeling bored, nervous, or uneasy.
  • A study found that participants instructed to engage in small talk yawned more than those who weren’t given any instructions.
  • Yawning may be used as a way to express discomfort in certain situations and indicate that one isn’t interested in continuing the conversation.
  • It is also believed that yawning can be contagious among groups of people, as it can be triggered by seeing or hearing someone else yawn.

3. Contagious Emotion Theory

The contagious emotion theory states that yawning is contagious among groups of people and can be triggered by seeing or hearing someone else yawn. This theory suggests that certain emotions, such as boredom or fatigue, can trigger a chain reaction in which everyone around them may mimic the behavior for social or emotional reasons.

It is believed that this behavior helps to synchronize the physiological state of the group, promoting unity and understanding.

  • Certain emotions, such as boredom or fatigue, can trigger a chain reaction in which everyone around them may mimic the behavior for social or emotional reasons.
  • This behavior helps to synchronize the physiological state of the group, promoting unity and understanding.
  • Yawning is often seen as a sign of fatigue or inattentiveness, but it may also play an important role in regulating our emotions and social interactions.

3 Other Factors That May Cause Yawning

Apart from stress, boredom, and fatigue, there are a number of other factors that may cause us to yawn. Some of these causes include:

  1. Boredom or Lack of Stimulation – Yawning is often associated with boredom and lack of stimulation. This can happen when you’re stuck in a boring class or when you’re not getting enough mental stimulation from conversations, activities, etc. In this situation, yawning may be your body’s way of telling you that it needs something to do.
  2. Heredity – Another factor that can cause yawning is heredity. Some people simply have a genetic predisposition to yawn more than others. Studies have shown that people with certain genetic mutations are more likely to yawn than those without them, suggesting that genetics play an important role in regulating our need to yawn.
  3. Hormonal or Neurochemical Imbalances – Hormonal or neurochemical imbalances can also lead to excessive yawning. An imbalance in hormones such as serotonin can cause the body to feel tired and sluggish, leading to frequent yawning episodes. Neurochemicals such as dopamine may also be involved; when levels of this neurotransmitter are low, we may experience the urge to yawn more often than normal.

Is Yawning A Sign Of Anxiety

Yawning is one of the most curious physical responses to anxiety. It can seem like an odd reaction in a situation that presents fear and discomfort, but it’s actually quite simple. When you experience anxiety or have an anxiety attack, your body tends to hyperventilate, which causes a sensation of not getting a full breath.

As a result, your body sends out the signal for you to yawn, because yawning is known to expand the rib cage and show that you got a full breath. While this may sound strange, it’s actually just your body’s way of trying to tell you to relax and calm down.

Though there isn’t much research done on this topic specifically, there are some studies that delve into the connection between yawning and emotional states like anxiety. One study by researchers at the University of Geneva suggests that yawning might be linked with self-regulation when it comes to emotional contexts.

In other words, your body may yawn as an attempt at calming itself down when feeling anxious or stressed.

Another study by researchers at Monash University also found evidence linking yawns with attempts at regulating emotion — they found that people who were stressed or more anxious were more likely to respond with higher numbers of yawns than those who were calm or relaxed.

Yawning is an indication that rest is needed

While further research still needs to be conducted on the matter, these studies prove there could be a strong link between anxiety and uncontrollable bouts of yawning. If you find yourself frequently overcome with anxiety or stress-induced fatigue along with lots of yawning, then know that this is most likely just your body’s natural reaction in trying to tell you it needs some time for rest and relaxation.

Is Yawning A Sign Of Anxiety In Dogs

Yes, yawning can be a sign of anxiety in dogs. Studies have found that dogs may yawn more when they are feeling stressed or anxious, compared to when they are relaxed.

This behavior has been observed in clinical studies of dogs with anxiety-related disorders. In a study conducted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Thessaloniki, Greece, researchers found that dogs with separation anxiety had significantly higher yawning frequency compared to control groups.

The study also showed that yawning can be triggered by environmental cues associated with stress and fear, such as loud noises or unfamiliar people and animals. Dogs may yawn more when they anticipate something stressful or frightening, or simply out of habit due to repeated exposure to these types of stimuli.

In addition to this research, there have been numerous reports from pet owners who say their dog’s anxious behavior is often accompanied by increased yawning. It appears that this behavior is an attempt by the dog to cope with its fear and anxiety, as evidenced by the calming effect that yawning seems to have on dogs.

Overall, research suggests that yawning may be a sign of anxiety in dogs, especially when it occurs in response to environmental cues associated with fear or stress. If you suspect your dog may be anxious or stressed due to certain triggers, it’s important to seek veterinary care and work with a professional trainer to help manage your pet’s symptoms. With proper management and treatment, your dog can learn how to find relief from their anxieties while also adjusting more easily to new environments.

Can Yawning Actually Hurt The Anxiety

Yes, yawning can actually hurt the anxiety and make it difficult to manage. It can be a dangerous side effect of hyperventilating which is often caused by anxiety. When we yawn, our breathing becomes deeper and more frequent.

This increase in oxygen intake can cause an over-stimulation of the nervous system, leading to increased levels of panic and fear. Furthermore, when we yawn during moments of heightened emotions such as anxiety or stress, it can cause our body to go into a fight-or-flight response mode.

Yawning can harm your body as well

The result is even higher levels of panic, distress, and fear – all of which can contribute to making anxiety more difficult to manage.

5 Excellent Ways To Manage Excessive Yawning Caused By Anxiety

Excessive yawning caused by anxiety can be both disruptive and uncomfortable. But it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem – there are plenty of ways to manage the excessive yawning and ultimately calm down your body. Here are some useful tips that may help reduce your anxiety-induced yawning:

  1. Take slow, deep breaths. When you feel a yawn coming on, take slow, deep breaths instead. This will help you relax and focus on something else besides the anxious feeling in your chest or stomach.
  2. Practice relaxation exercises such as yoga or tai chi. These types of activities can help you feel calmer and more centered, which can reduce your impulse to yawn excessively when feeling anxious.
  3. Engage in activities that you find calming and enjoyable. Anything from reading a book to walking in nature can help distract your mind from anxious thoughts and provide an outlet for your pent-up energy.
  4. Talk to someone about what’s causing your anxiety. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or therapist – talking it out can often be the best way to gain insight into why you’re feeling so anxious and work on ways to cope with the underlying issue.
  5. Get adequate rest and exercise. Making sure you get enough sleep each night as well as regular exercise can help reduce stress hormones that contribute to excessive yawning due to anxiety.

These are just some of the many strategies you can use to manage excessive yawning caused by anxiety. However, if your anxiety persists despite trying these techniques, it may be a sign that you should seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support as you work through the underlying issues causing your anxiety and enable you to develop healthy coping strategies.


Yawning is still considered an understudied phenomenon. Although this article has explored the evidence that is currently available regarding whether is yawning a sign of anxiety, further research is necessary to evaluate how accurately yawning could be used as a diagnostic tool.

Ultimately, due to the mixture of complex physical and psychological factors that lead to yawning, more research is needed to investigate if this is indeed an accurate predictor. Until then, it is important for people suffering from extreme fatigue or anxiety to reassure their health using other means such as light exercise and mental relaxation.


Gupta, S., & Mittal, S. (2013). Yawning and its physiological significance. International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research, 3(1), 11.

Thompson, S. B. (2014). Yawning, fatigue, and cortisol: Expanding the Thompson Cortisol Hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 83(4), 494–496.

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