Can Low Blood Sugar Cause Anxiety?
Many people with diabetes also experience anxiety, which begs the question, can low blood sugar cause anxiety? Research has consistently shown a strong connection between diabetes and anxiety. A 2013 meta-analysis found that about 40% of people with diabetes experience anxiety, compared to 18.1% of the general population. This is especially true in young adults and Hispanic Americans. So what is the link between low blood sugar and anxiety, and can it be treated?
Can Low Blood Sugar Cause Anxiety?
People with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, often experience higher levels of physical and emotional stress. Stress can affect blood sugar levels, although the research is not conclusive as to how. Stress appears to raise glucose levels in some people while lowering glucose levels in others. It is known, however, that stress and anxiety can contribute to health problems. One study found that anxiety and high stress levels are significant risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Another study suggests that experiencing several episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can increase the likelihood of anxiety, possibly by triggering chemical and metabolic changes in the part of the brain that processes anxiety.
Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar vs. Symptoms of Anxiety
The symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and anxiety are extremely similar, making it easy for someone to mistake a hypoglycemic episode for a panic attack or anxiety disorder. Low blood sugar puts the physical body under significant stress, creating symptoms similar to anxiety. It is important to be able to distinguish low blood sugar from anxiety so that your symptoms can be treated in a timely manner. Severe hypoglycemia can result in accidents, injuries, coma or even death.
The main symptoms shared by hypoglycemia and anxiety are:
- Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly
- Irritability or feeling on edge
- Rapid heartbeat
Symptoms exclusive to anxiety include:
- Digestive problems, such as gas, constipation, or diarrhea
- Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- Nervousness, restlessness, or being tense
- Obsessing about certain ideas
- Performing certain behaviors over and over again
- Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
- Trembling or muscle twitching
- Weakness and lethargy
Symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- Cold/clammy skin
- Difficulty sleeping
- Pale skin
- Skin tingling
- Sudden mood changes
- Sudden nervousness
- Unexplained fatigue
When hypoglycemia becomes severe (defined by The American Diabetes Association as blood sugar less than 54 mg/dL), people can also experience:
- Behavioral changes (blank stare or “zombie-like” behavior)
- Blurry or double vision
- Clumsy movements, as if intoxicated
- Loss of consciousness or coma
- Slurred speech
How are Low Blood Sugar and Anxiety Treated?
Lifestyle changes often play a large role in treating anxiety. Exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting sufficient sleep are all important steps to reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, your doctor will want to check for underlying conditions that can contribute to anxiety, such as hormonal imbalances or nutrient deficiencies. For low blood sugar and diabetes, your doctor will help you develop a healthy diet and wellness plan to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
To learn more about the link between low blood sugar and anxiety, call Anchor Wellness Center today at (832) 246-8437 and schedule a consultation with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM. As a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra can help you manage your blood sugar levels and find relief from anxiety.