How Can a Hormone Imbalance Cause Anxiety?

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

How Can a Hormone Imbalance Cause Anxiety?

Anxiety is seen as a psychological condition, but the causes of anxiety are far more complex. For example, anxiety can be caused by muscle energy - you can genuinely get mental stresses simply because you're not moving your muscles enough. You can get anxiety because of poor sleep. Anxiety can also be caused by nutritional deficiencies, excess caffeine, medications, and numerous other risk factors.

So it should come as no surprise that hormonal imbalances may cause anxiety, as well. The term "hormonal imbalance" has a variety of meanings, but it's also clear that it can lead to anxiety in some people, and when a hormonal imbalance is to blame it may be a good idea to seek treatment.

Hormones and Anxiety

"Hormonal Imbalance" can be an incredibly broad term - one that in some ways doesn't have a specific meaning. For example, it's possible that your body releases too much thyroid hormone which may trigger panic attacks. It's also possible that stress is causing too much cortisol production, which leads to further anxiety symptoms.

The key thing to understand about hormones is that they are the messengers responsible for nearly every process in the body, and your body gets used to specific amounts of each hormone. Various hormonal changes can create anxiety, for example:

  • Pregnancy
  • Menstrual Cycle/Birth Control Pills
  • Thyroid Health Issues
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Puberty/Adolescence
  • General Stress

Anxiety is complex enough that it's even possible for stress and anxiety to cause hormonal imbalances that lead to further stress and anxiety. Hormonal imbalances are an issue that can be physical, psychological, or both, and no matter what causes it can lead to anxiety.

Types of Hormonal Imbalances and Anxiety

It would be impossible to go over every example of a hormonal imbalance. Your body has dozens of hormones and many more types of sub-hormones within those hormone groups, and in some ways any imbalance has the potential to lead to anxiety because any imbalance can lead to physical responses that create stress. But a few examples of these hormonal imbalances include:

  • Menstruation Menstruation is unfairly blamed and stereotyped for a variety of emotional and psychological issues, but many studies have confirmed that menstruation (and its effects on estrogen and progesterone) can either contribute to anxiety or exacerbate anxiety.
  • Adrenaline Adrenaline is released by stress, so in general, excess adrenaline is a symptom of anxiety, not an imbalance in and of itself. But in some cases stress can essentially damage the body's adrenaline symptom so that if fires adrenaline without warning, and that adrenaline will almost assuredly create a feeling of unease or anxiety.
  • Pregnancy The king (or queen, as it were) of all hormonal changes, pregnancy throws nearly all of your hormones out of whack and changes far more than just your appetite. This can lead to a host of personality changes, and anxiety is chief among them - especially combined with the stress of pregnancy itself.
  • Thyroid Thyroid health issues are usually due to either nutrition or hypo/hyperthyroidism, so a doctor will generally need to diagnose and recommend proper treatment, but issues like hyperthyroidism can lead to an overproduction of various hormones that may lead to not only anxiety, but also severe anxiety attacks.

These are just a few examples of hormonal imbalances that may cause anxiety. Only a medical professional can determine what type of hormonal imbalance is to blame (if any).

Anxiety and Hormones - Chicken and Egg

Interestingly, while there is no doubt that hormone problems can cause anxiety and stress, in many cases it is believed that what most hormonal imbalances do is not create anxiety necessarily, but rather make anxiety worse.

This is especially the case with the menstrual cycle. Experts believe that most women that experience anxiety as a result of menstruation often have lower levels of anxiety before their periods, and then when their period comes the changes in emotional sensitivity may lead to strong anxiety sensations.

Hormonal imbalances can affect both men and women, and hormonal imbalances can cause anxiety even if no anxiety is present. But it is likely that many of those suffering from hormonal issues have anxiety or stress already, possibly in a lesser form, and that eventually is what creates further anxiety when hormones are unbalanced.

Curing Anxiety Without Hormonal Drugs

When hormonal imbalances cause anxiety, curing it completely can be tough. In some cases, you may need to seek out professional assistance, especially if a condition is causing the hormonal issues, such as those caused by the thyroid.

But even if your hormones are causing your anxiety, anxiety reduction tips can still successfully help you cope with that anxiety, and in some cases once your anxiety is reduced, your hormones may even go back to normal.

Curing Anxiety From Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can be a problematic anxiety culprit, because they generally can't be cured overnight. If you're suffering from a hormonal imbalance, then you are also likely in need of some type of hormonal care, including:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sleep

There are many things you can do that will help your hormones stay regulated. Diet is the first step, as there are nutritional deficiencies that may affect your hormone levels. For example, iodine plays a role in hormone function, so those that may not have enough iodine in their diet could develop anxiety symptoms.

Exercise and sleep are both useful tools for an individual’s overall wellness, which in turn may affect hormone levels. All of these are important strategies for maintaining proper hormone levels.

You should also talk to your doctor about medications that could assist with hormone balance. For example, a person that experiences anxiety during heavy periods may be given (or taken off of) an oral contraceptive. Thyroid medication may also be useful for those with hyperthyroidism. It all depends on the cause of the imbalance and the hormones that are affected, but there are treatments that are available.

There are also some herbal remedies that may be useful, depending on the type of condition you have. Keep in mind that herbal remedies receive very minimal research, so always talk to a doctor about these options before using any.

However, while treating your hormone imbalance is important, it should be noted that psychologists have had success treating anxiety even without curing the underlying hormonal cause. Anxiety is still connected to mental health, and the right stress coping techniques may help you manage the anxiety.

Consider speaking to a psychologist - especially one versed in cognitive behavioral therapy - and look into anxiety medications and self-help treatments as well. It is possible to manage anxiety without addressing the hormonal imbalance for some individuals, and should you decide to treat your hormonal issues, that anxiety treatment you received may be invaluable to enjoying a better quality of life in the future.

Questions? Comments?

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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