It is not uncommon for anxiety symptoms to become exacerbated during times of hormonal shifts because hormones and anxiety are related. Both men and women can be affected by hormonal issues that can increase their anxiety symptoms. When hormones are out of balance, they can affect several parts of your health, including your brain.
Both men and women are at risk for hormonal imbalance. It is estimated that among women alone, about 70 percent will experience a hormonal imbalance at some point. There are numerous causes that can affect both sexes, including:
- Overactive thyroid
- Cushing syndrome
- Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules
- Eating disorders
- Underactive thyroid
- Hormone therapy
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Certain injuries
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Cancer treatments
For women, the following may cause a hormonal imbalance:
- Hormone drugs
- Primary ovarian insufficiency
- Premature menopause
When it comes to men, hypogonadism and prostate cancer may cause a hormonal imbalance.
No matter the cause, hormone imbalance and anxiety can occur simultaneously. The primary difference is what hormonal anxiety treatment will be the most beneficial based on the underlying cause.
What Are the Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance?
When you have a hormone imbalance, various body systems can be affected, causing numerous symptoms. In addition to hormonal imbalance and anxiety, the following symptoms are possible:
Long-term or unexplained fatigue
Unexplained weight changes
Changes in your bowel and bladder habits
Heart rate changes
Brittle or thinning hair
Very dry skin
Females may adopt a deepening of their voice
Reduced sex drive
Excessive or unexplained sweating
Heat and cold sensitivity changes
Tenderness in your breasts
Blood pressure changes
Blood sugar concentration changes
Weakened or brittle bones
The exact symptoms that a person experiences ultimately depends on the hormonal imbalance that they are experiencing. Overall, the severity of the imbalance will also play a role in the symptoms and how much they affect you.
Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause Anxiety?
Various hormones may cause anxiety or worsen anxiety symptoms when they are not in the proper balance in the body. Changes in your hormone levels can have an impact on neuronal networking, negatively affecting several elements of cognitive function.
It is also believed that when sex hormone levels are increased during trauma or stress, resulting in brain plasticity increases, this could increase your vulnerability to developing an anxiety disorder later in life. This appears especially true among young women who are in this situation and go on to develop anxiety once they are in their middle-aged years.
It has been observed that anxiety symptoms may become more severe during times of fluctuating hormone levels. For example, women may experience worsened anxiety around the time of their menstrual period as a result of this. In addition, the following disorders may be more prevalent when sex hormones are low:
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
All of these disorders have symptoms that are similar to generalized anxiety disorder, so it is not uncommon for women experiencing them to believe that anxiety is the cause of their symptoms. When it comes to menopause, women may experience persistent anxiety when they are post-menopausal if they do not undergo treatment to restore their female sex hormone levels.
Progesterone and Anxiety
Just a little after you ovulate, progesterone levels increase. This can result in feeling anxious and depressed. It happens due to this hormone stimulating the amygdala part of your brain, which is important for your body’s fight-or-flight response.
Testosterone and Anxiety
When testosterone levels are low, it can result in stronger anxiety symptoms. This is especially true when it comes to social anxiety. This hormone is important for helping people to respond to social threats, so when it is not in balance, you may start to view minor issues as major threats, triggering your anxiety.
Estrogen and Anxiety
Estrogen is important for serotonin production. This is a neurotransmitter that helps to boost your mood. When estrogen levels reduce, this could result in a depressed and anxious mood due to the alteration in serotonin levels.
Stress Hormones and Anxiety
Cortisol and adrenaline are the primary stress hormones. These have different functions in the body, including helping you to respond to scary situations. When they are not in balance, you might view a situation as frightening when it is not, causing anxiety.
Thyroid Hormones and Anxiety
Your thyroid hormones are associated with mood and cognitive function. How severe panic attacks become are directly related to the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone levels in your body. This is why both underactive and overactive thyroid can aggravate your anxiety symptoms.
Oxytocin and Anxiety
This is often called the love hormone because it helps you to bond with people. However, when you have a traumatic experience with someone, this hormone can be a negative thing. During a stressful event, the memories that you develop are due to oxytocin. If you already have an anxiety disorder, if you experience a similar situation in the future, it can exacerbate your symptoms.
How to Beat Hormonal Anxiety
Hormonal anxiety may be resolved using a two-prong approach that includes the treatment for hormonal imbalance and anxiety treatment. For hormonal imbalance, hormone replacement therapy is common. For example, if your estrogen, progesterone or testosterone levels are low, HRT can help to bring them back up to a normal level to alleviate the resulting anxiety and other symptoms.
For anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy is often recommended. This helps you to learn how to respond to your anxiety in a way that is more productive. In the short-term, your doctor may recommend medication for acute anxiety attacks to lessen their severity.
In addition to medical treatments, the following can also help you to better manage your hormone imbalance and anxiety:
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce your stress levels
- Ensure that your diet is balanced
- Get adequate sleep every night
Since hormonal imbalance is so common, it is important to know the symptoms. This allows you to know when to see your doctor reduce the risk of hormones and anxiety making your life more difficult. It is equally important to visit your doctor if you notice an increase in your anxiety to determine if your hormones are the underlying cause.