What should I know about living with essential tremor (ET)?

Essential tremor (ET) is not life-threatening, but it can be very distressing for people who have it. The distress is more acute for people with severe symptoms. Simple activities such as eating, writing, or picking up a cup can be challenging and frustrating.As the disease progresses and tremors become more pronounced, many people feel anxious and embarrassed in social situations, making those situations worse. Eating a forkful of food without spilling, drinking a glass of water in a restaurant, speaking in a meeting without a trembling voice, or writing a legible check can become trying tasks.Some people with ET may feel tempted to withdraw from family and friends, but avoiding social situations is not recommended. There are practical tips, in addition to doctor-prescribed treatments, that allow people with ET to maintain active social lives. Staying socially active is an important part of maintaining emotional and physical well-being.

Educate yourself and others

  • Become informed about your condition and learn as much as you can about living with it.
  • Take an active role in your treatment, and discuss your symptoms and questions with your doctor. The more you know about your condition and its treatment, the easier it will be for you to adapt to the condition in daily living.
  • Explain your condition simply and honestly to people you meet. This will avoid confusion on their part and embarrassment on yours.

Day-to-day tips

  • Find ways to reduce stress and relax.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption. While small amounts of alcohol seem to relieve tremors in some patients, alcohol may interact with medications used to treat ET. In addition, alcohol may have negative effects like alcohol dependency disorder or liver damage. Most experts do not recommend its use.
  • Ask your doctor about whether you should take a small dose of medication, such as a beta-blocker, before a social outing in order to minimize tremors.
  • Ask your doctor about briefly discontinuing certain prescriptions right before you attend social events. Some medications, like thyroid or asthma treatments, may aggravate tremors.
  • Avoid caffeine, which may be found in sodas, coffee, or other drinks/foods.
  • Place a napkin between a cup and a saucer to prevent the cup from rattling.
  • Avoid uncomfortable postures and actions.
  • When using the telephone, press auto dial or have the operator place the call.
  • Add a small amount of weight to your wrist by wearing a heavy bracelet or watch, or by holding something in your hand. The weight may reduce some tremors and restore more control to your hands.
  • Drink beverages from half-filled cups or glasses; use a straw.
  • Get enough rest and sleep as fatigue may make tremors worse.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/20/2019.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy