Anxiety: in this day and age, it’s almost surprising to meet someone who doesn’t experience it.
Whether it’s our diets, lifestyles, social media, or simply the way we’ve become more open to talking about our mental health, anxiety is on the rise – particularly in women.
In fact, it’s so common that we often forget how serious it is. Anxiety causes (see also: Can Anxiety Cause Ocular Migraines?)intense physical and emotional symptoms that can leave us feeling run down, hopeless, and isolated.
Anxiety has plenty of physical, emotional, and environmental causes, and our hormones may be one of them. But how exactly can they cause anxiety, and what can we do about it?
Stick with us as we take a closer look at the link between anxiety and hormones, and learn how you can take control of them today.
Can Hormonal Change Induce Anxiety?
Yes. If your hormones are out of balance, you can experience a myriad of unpleasant symptoms, including anxiety. For women, this can be an even bigger issue.
In women, anxiety is almost always diagnosed as a strictly psychiatric disease.
However, these anxiety symptoms may be more closely related to times of hormonal change, and link to premenstrual symptoms (PMS), perimenopausal mood changes, and more.
Signs Of Hormonal Imbalance
If you think a hormonal imbalance could be contributing to your anxiety but you’re unsure, here are a few signs and symptoms you can look out for:
- Hair loss
- Reduced muscle mass
- Vaginal dryness
- Adult acne
- Irregular periods
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Excess body hair
What Hormones Cause Anxiety?
There’s more than one type of hormone out there, and to understand the links between hormones and anxiety, you also need to understand which hormones can cause anxiety (see also: Can Sleep Apnea Cause Anxiety?)and alter your responses to stress.
Each hormone plays its own unique role in the body, and if just one is out of balance, you may start experiencing anxiety.
There are four main categories of hormone.
- Sex Hormones (Oestrogen and Testosterone)
- Stress Hormones (Adrenaline and Cortisol)
- Thyroid Hormones (Thyroxine, Triiodothyronine, and Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone)
- The ‘Love Hormone’ (Oxytocin)
Here’s a closer look at each hormone, and what role they play in the body:
People who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) often experience more anxiety than those who are assigned male at birth (AMAB). This is no coincidence.
Some hypotheses suggest that low testosterone levels can lead to increased levels of anxiety.
Although testosterone still exists in people who are assigned female at birth, it’s found in significantly lower levels.
Although testosterone is thought to have positive effects on symptoms of depression and anxiety in both sexes, its impacts still aren’t fully understood.
If your oestrogen levels are constantly fluctuating, they may play a role in your anxiety. This is often why anxiety levels can peak during periods of emotional flux.
For people who are AFAB, oestrogen levels reach their peak in the first few weeks of the menstrual cycle, which may actually increase serotonin.
However, during the final stages of the phase, oestrogen levels may drop significantly. Many people experience changes in mood and anxiety levels during this time.
Your thyroid can have a big impact on your mood. If your thyroid hormones are out of balance, you may experience increased anxiety.
Irritability is also another common symptom that can occur in people with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), and an underactive thyroid can cause other symptoms, such as depression, low libido, and fatigue.
There’s even some evidence to suggest that autoimmune inflammation can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.
If your symptoms of anxiety or irritability are not responding to ‘conventional’ treatments such as therapies and SSRIs, it may be worth getting your thyroid checked for any abnormalities.
Oxytocin, aka ‘the love hormone’ is one hormone that can have a pretty positive impact on anxiety. In some cases, it can even reduce it.
Oxytocin is released when we hug, cuddle, kiss, have sex, and it’s even released during breastfeeding.
Oxytocin plays a pretty unique role in regulating feelings of aggression, anxiety, and restlessness, and when you’re experiencing high levels of oxytocin activity, you may notice a reduction in these feelings.
Adrenaline and cortisol come to the forefront when we feel threatened or anxious, and they’re responsible for creating that notorious ‘fight or flight’ response that helps us navigate the threat.
However, if your fight or flight response is triggered in situations that don’t actually present you with any danger, your body can be left with a build-up of adrenaline and cortisol that create intense feelings of anxiety.
Plus, if you end up with a build-up of stress hormones, your body can actually end up creating even more of them in response to the stress, which causes even more anxiety.
How To Support Your Hormones And Reduce Anxiety
If your hormones are contributing to increased anxiety levels, you may be feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and stuck in a rut.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to help balance your hormones naturally and lower your anxiety levels.
- Changing your diet: If you’re regularly consuming foods high in fibre and omega-3, you may be able to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. If you also have a gastrointestinal issue, you may find that making these changes has even bigger benefits to your mental and physical health.
- Exercise: Regular exercise really can work wonders for your health, and it’s been proven to reduce anxiety levels by lowering your adrenaline and cortisol levels and offering you a generous dose of endorphins in the process.
- Sleep: We really can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep! Poor sleep quality has been linked to hormone imbalances and heightened anxiety levels. See if you can make any changes to your sleep routine, and the improvements may astound you.
Anxiety has a myriad of causes, and your hormones may be one of them.
If you think a hormone imbalance may be the cause of your anxiety, talk to a medical professional for further testing, advice, and support, and remember to look after your mind and body in the process.