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Can Anxiety Be Caused by Dehydration?

Many things can contribute to anxiety and anxiety symptoms. In some cases these issues may cause anxiety directly. In other cases, your anxiety symptoms may simply become worse. Either way, in order to effectively cure your anxiety, you need to make sure you're avoiding anything that may contribute to the development of anxiety symptoms.

That's why you need to make sure that you're drinking enough water. Dehydration rarely causes anxiety on its own, but if you're not drinking enough water you may be putting yourself at risk for worse anxiety symptoms now, and the development of greater anxiety in the future.

How Severe is Your Anxiety?

Dehydration can cause mild anxiety or make more severe anxiety worse. If you haven't yet, make sure you take our free 7 minute anxiety test to score your anxiety severity and get a better understanding of how to control that anxiety.

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Dehydration Alone Can Cause Anxiety

It's possible for those that are regularly dehydrated to experience anxiety often. Water is an essential part of living, and some estimates place the number of people living in a constant state of dehydration to be as high as 75% - an extremely high number for such a preventable problem.

But while dehydration absolutely can cause anxiety on its own, for most people it's not a true cause, but a contributor. That's why you need to learn more about your own anxiety in order to get the right treatment. Start by taking my free anxiety test now.

Dehydration and Anxiety

Dehydration is a chronic problem in today's society. While each person needs a different amount of water, estimates put the number of people not drinking enough water each day above 50%. Considering that water is freely available and causes no side effects, this has become a serious problem.

Dehydration may affect anxiety in a variety of ways, but the clearest link is that when the body is dehydrated, it starts to function improperly. Hormones are unable to reach their destined locations because of poor blood flow. Muscles may tense up. Your brain may experience weakness or changes as a result of water loss (the brain is 85% water).

Simplified: When your body is stressed, you experience anxiety as a result.

Dehydration and Panic Attacks

A more common problem occurs in those with panic attacks. Panic attacks often have triggers, and these triggers are almost entirely physical. Panic attacks occur when your body starts to translate physical experiences into something much worse, telling your brain and your body that something is horribly wrong.

For example, some people get panic attacks when their heartbeat increases for no apparent reason. Heartbeats change all the time depending on exertion, foods, etc., and yet in those with panic attacks, the mind and body start to interpret this heartbeat increase as something very serious - like a heart attack.

When you're dehydrated, you are far more likely to experience many of the symptoms that trigger panic episodes. Some examples include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle fatigue and weakness
  • Headaches
  • Feeling faint
  • Increased heart rate

All of these are panic attack triggers. Many of them are due to a loss of blood pressure as well. When your body is dehydrated, your blood pressure goes down. It causes your heartbeat to increase to improve blood pressure, lightheadedness, and so on.

That's why those with panic attacks absolutely must stay hydrated as best they can. While hydrating will not stop the panic attacks, they can make them less frequent, or at least reduce some of the triggers that make them worse.

Avoiding Excess Symptoms

When you live with panic attacks, frequent, severe panic attacks can be such a struggle that you fear them more in the future, which unfortunately increases your likelihood of having another panic attack. Small changes like this to reduce your panic attack frequency and possibly its intensity can make recovering from panic attacks easier.

Even if all you have is anxiety, drinking more water can be an important tool in overcoming it. Dehydration may also cause symptoms that don't create anxiety themselves, but cause the symptoms you do experience from anxiety to feel worse. Because your anxiety increases when you feel something is wrong with your health or body (with or without panic attacks), avoiding these exacerbations can be incredibly beneficial.

Water as a Calming Tool

Water also appears to have natural calming properties as well, possibly as a result of dehydration. So even if dehydration isn't contributing to your anxiety necessarily, it is sometimes useful to go and grab a glass of water when you're feeling high anxiety. Drinking water can be soothing, and often your body will benefit from the added hydration during times of intense stress.

Overcoming Anxiety With Dehydration

Dehydration is completely preventable. Drink water more often, and you'll avoid many of the symptoms of dehydration and the subsequent anxiety. There's no harm in drinking more water if you're not sure how hydrated you are. Add a few extra glasses of water to your daily meals, and you may find that your anxiety and some of its symptoms clear up.

Yet most people that suffer from anxiety and dehydration have anxiety regardless of their hydration levels. Their water intake simply effects how badly their symptoms feel and how much they focus on them. That's why you still need to treat your anxiety separately from just water.

I have a 7 minute anxiety test that can help. Completely free, it'll show you exactly what you're dealing with and how to reduce it.

Click here to start the test.

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

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