Can Hormone Imbalance Cause Anxiety?
Nearly 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders every year, which is why anxiety disorders are considered the most common mental illness in our country. But the cause of anxiety doesn’t always lie in the brain. Anxiety affects women more than men at a disproportionate rate, raising the question, “Can hormone imbalance cause anxiety?” And, if so, what can be done to treat the underlying cause?
What is Anxiety?
The definition of anxiety is a state of uneasiness or apprehension. People who suffer from anxiety can experience excessive, persistent worry and fear about things that normally aren’t considered worrisome (for example, whether a discarded item should be placed in trash or recycling, or whether to sign off an email with ‘sincerely’ or ‘yours truly’). Anxiety can often lead to a panic attack, which is the sudden onset of overwhelming fear that is accompanied by physical symptoms such as palpitations or a pounding heart, sweating, shaking, rapid breathing, or a smothering sensation. Anxiety can be severe enough to make normal, everyday functions difficult to impossible.
How Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause Anxiety?
There are 11 major organ systems in the human body – including the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, immune and nervous systems – which oversee various bodily functions and work together to keep the body healthy. The endocrine system is made up of the organs responsible for hormone production, including the hypothalamus, thyroid, pancreas, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs. These hormones regulate our energy levels and determine how we respond to stress, and they also play a large role in our emotional state. When the endocrine system is out of balance, people can experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, tense muscles, brain fog, and sleep disturbances.
Many hormones (including progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone) are neurologically active, meaning they affect the brain in numerous ways, including mood regulation. A number of studies have found a correlation between abnormal hormone levels and anxiety disorders, with lowered hormone levels having a negative impact on mood and cognitive function. Abnormal hormone levels can occur as a result of aging (e.g., menopause or low testosterone) or from the dysfunction of an endocrine organ (e.g., adrenal fatigue or hyperthyroidism). The most common hormonal causes of anxiety include:
- Progesterone deficiency – Also referred to as estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency allows estrogen levels to stay chronically elevated, creating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Estrogen also impairs adrenal function by interfering with the release of cortisol, and low cortisol levels can cause fatigue, muscle loss, and mood swings.
- Estrogen deficiency – Many women who go through menopause experience anxiety, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and more, all of which is caused by decreased levels of estrogen. Some women also notice increased anxiety during normal menstrual cycling due to dips in estrogen levels.
- Low testosterone – While testosterone is typically associated with men, women also need testosterone. Low levels of testosterone in both men and women have been linked to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Adrenal fatigue – The adrenal glands are responsible for managing our response to stress. Chronic stress causes these glands to overwork and become fatigued, and they can no longer regulate hormones properly. People suffering from adrenal fatigue often feel anxious, stressed out, and jittery.
- Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism – While symptoms of anxiety are most commonly associated with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), those with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can also experience anxiety, depression and insomnia.
How Can Anxiety from Hormonal Imbalances be Treated?
In order to relieve anxiety resulting from hormonal imbalances, you must treat the underlying cause by restoring optimal hormone levels. The best way to do this is through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Unlike synthetic hormones, BHRT derives hormones from natural sources, such as soybeans and yams. These hormones have the same chemical makeup as your body, making them easier for your body to absorb and reducing side effects.
At Anchor Wellness Center, Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM, uses BHRT to help patients regain their quality of life. BHRT alleviates the symptoms of hormone imbalance, including anxiety, reduced energy levels, brain fog, sleep disturbances, difficulty losing weight, and unstable moods.
If you suspect your anxiety is being caused by a hormonal imbalance, call Anchor Wellness today at (832) 246-8437 and schedule a consultation with Dr. Malhotra. Board Certified in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra can help you find relief from your anxiety.