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Anxiety and the Flu: Symptoms and Connection

Anxiety is something that is normally forged through genetics and years of experiences. There is rarely a single cause, and even those that develop anxiety as the result of a traumatic experience or event tend to have experienced other issues in their life that increased the likelihood of an anxiety disorder.

But there are some health conditions that can cause the development of anxiety, and one of those conditions is the flu.

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The common flu is a temporary condition, but experiencing anxiety is something you can suffer from year round. Learn how to control your anxiety by taking my free anxiety test.

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Anxiety and Influenza

Studies have shown that anxiety can be caused by the flu virus. But remember that a great deal of anxiety isn't caused by the flu, and instead getting sick simply makes the anxiety worse. Really ask yourself if the flu is to blame, and if not, take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more about your anxiety.

How The Flu Causes Anxiety

Even though it often sounds like new age nonsense, it's important to remember that mind and body are connected. When the body is stressed, it's not uncommon to have stressful thoughts and experiences. Why this occurs isn't entirely clear, but every part of your body is a machine, and when something is going wrong in that machine it throws off everything.

When you have the flu, your immune system goes into action, and that affects everything else in your body. Many people find that they actually start to experience anxiety before their flu hits, while others experience anxiety during and after the flu. The flu has also been linked to depression, and some studies have even shown that severe depression actually peaks during flu season.

Cytokines are some of the culprits. Studies have shown that cytokines - a cell protein - can cause anxiety and depression when activated, and cytokines are released in higher numbers when sick.

The symptoms of the flu can also lead to anxiety. Nausea, aches and pain, high temperature - these all can make you feel as though you're suffering from something terrible, and that can cause a great deal of anxiety.

How Anxiety Causes the Flu

Something you may not have considered is that anxiety may actually contribute to the flu. Anxiety doesn't cause the flu - the flu is caused by exposure to the influenza virus - but anxiety can weaken your immune system so that fighting the flu may be a bit more difficult.

Anxiety can also cause several symptoms that mimic the flu. Nausea, headache, shakes, and even hot and cold sensations can all occur when you have severe anxiety, and in some cases you may feel as though you're constantly sick or showing symptoms of illness. This is actually very common when you suffer from severe anxiety.

Control Anxiety After the Flu

Because the flu is a physical disease, it's hard to control anxiety during the flu. Ideally, you need to try to surround yourself with whatever you can to improve your mood. While you're recovering, try to listen to funny things, talk to people that you care about, or find ways to distract your mind from your symptoms. Sleep as much as possible as well.

While you have the flu, make sure you're drinking plenty of water as well. Dehydration (very common with the flu) can lead to more anxiety symptoms.

Once the flu is over, make sure that you're not allowing that anxiety to continue by immediately addressing your mood. Drink lots of water, exercise as best you can, and start looking for strategies to control your anxiety in the future.

I've helped hundreds of people with anxiety overcome their symptoms. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test. It'll help you use what you learn to control anxiety and prevent it from coming back in the future.

Start the test here.


de Miranda, Aline Silva, et al. Anxiety-like behavior and proinflammatory cytokine levels in the brain of C57BL/6 mice infected with Plasmodium berghei (strain ANKA). Neuroscience letters 491.3 (2011): 202-206.

Eccles, Ron. Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. The Lancet infectious diseases 5.11 (2005): 718-725.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.

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