Panic Attacks
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Hormonal Causes of Panic Attacks

Micah Abraham, BSc
Hormonal Causes of Panic Attacks

Your body produces hormones for many useful purposes: they cause you to grow and develop correctly, they regulate your metabolism, and they determine whether or not you are capable of reproduction. However, they can also be partially responsible for panic attacks.

Panic attacks that seem to come out of nowhere can often be traced back to your hormones. You suddenly feel nervous or worried about something, and within 10 minutes your heart is racing, you're hyperventilating and you may feel nauseous, detached from your own body, or even convinced you're about to die. Luckily, the hormonal causes for these feelings can be controlled and regulated to reduce the frequency of panic attacks and hopefully even stop them altogether.

The Hormones Responsible for Panic

To be fair to you hormones, the ones that tell you to panic are usually doing it for a reason. Your body is a complex system that is built to survive, which is why is has mechanisms like the fight or flight response. Hormone imbalances may even be caused by your mental health, leading to a self-sustaining cycle. 

However, any hormonal imbalance may result in fight or flight being triggered at the slightest discomfort or concern, resulting in all the reactions your body would need to confront or escape a dangerous situation except that the dangerous situation never occurs. Your lungs overwork themselves trying to capture extra oxygen to send to your heart, and your heart pounds, sending newly oxygen-rich blood to every part of your body. The only problem is, your body doesn't need or use it, which confuses it and causes it to send you distress signals such as dizziness and nausea.

An excess of these types of hormones significantly increases the likelihood of panic attacks in situations where they are not called for:

If you suspect (or know) that your panic attacks are rooted in one of these hormone imbalances, it is important to figure out what factors in your life are causing the imbalance. From there you can look at the options for treating your hormone imbalance.

Common Causes of Hormonal Imbalance

Ironically, the very hormonal imbalances that perpetuate stress and panic attacks are also often caused by stress. This may be the stress caused by your daily life (whether you have an anxiety disorder or are simply under a lot of pressure from life's two primary stress sources: work and relationships), or it may simply be the result of the stage of life you are at (and how high your hormone levels are). However, it is thought to be possible to be genetically predisposed to hyperthyroidism, which can have several different causes. These include:

Women are more susceptible to hormone-related panic attacks than men. This is because women experience more sexual hormone imbalances than men, due to the extreme bodily changes they undergo throughout their lives, and also due to the fact that they are 10 times more likely than men to develop hyperthyroidism.

Getting Your Hormones Back in Balance

In order to cure sexual hormone imbalance, a doctor may prescribe supplemental doses of the opposite hormone to restore hormonal balance (and don't worry, a little extra testosterone or estrogen can't turn you into the opposite sex or give you characteristics belonging to them: whether you are male or female, you already have both genders of hormone in your body already, you just have more of one than the other. However, it is possible to have too much more of one than the other, which is where the imbalance part comes in).

Though hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease is thought to be genetic in nature, there are a few preventative measures you can take to decrease the chances of hyperthyroidism adding to your stress and potentially causing panic attacks.

While hyperthyroidism may not be entirely controllable, most causes of stress are. Balancing your external world can be a crucial part of balancing your internal world, and your external world is something you can influence through your own choices and actions. Here are some tips on how to prevent the stressful situations that can cause hormonal imbalances.

It might be helpful to make a list of the stress-causing factors in your life, from the most stressful to the less stressful factors. From that point, you can deal with them in a more organized manner (and it can be very satisfying to cross them off as you overcome them)! However, in general, you can build stress-reducing habits such as these to put you in a better position to combat the stress factors in your life.

Hormones (and hormone imbalances) can be hard to handle, and can make your anxiety worse: however, if you eliminate the causes of stress that can trigger hormone imbalances, you will be taking the first step towards taking your seemingly uncontrollable panic attacks into your own hands.

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