If you have experienced anxiety for a while, you have probably noticed that certain thoughts or situations trigger your anxious feelings. But did you know that the hormones in your body can also contribute to your feelings of anxiety?
Understanding how hormones affect your anxious feelings might help you have more control over any recurring anxiety. Keep reading to find out which hormones can cause anxiety.
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When you’re extremely worried or fearful about a particular situation, this is known as anxiety. While anxious feelings are expected in stressful or dangerous situations, anxiety that persists for a long time can lead to an anxiety disorder.
Common anxiety disorders include:
If you’re aware of experiencing anxiety, you may be able to identify some of these common symptoms:
Excessive worry or stress
Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
Feeling on edge, irritated, or restless
Tiredness and fatigue
Inability to concentrate
Increased heart rate
Being aware of these symptoms will allow you to detect potential anxiety early on. And if you can reduce your anxiety early, the hormones related to this condition can have a lesser effect on your body and feelings.
You might be able to link your anxiety to a particular circumstance. For example, you may feel anxious over a frequent work-related problem, social event, relationship, or health issue.
However, not all anxiety is linked to something you’re experiencing in the present moment. In fact, worrying about something that happened in the past or that may happen in the future is enough to trigger anxiety.
These causes of anxiety are external factors because they’re linked to something outside of your body. When these external factors impact your thoughts, you feel anxious.
Internal factors, such as the hormones in your body, can also contribute to your anxiety symptoms. One hormone in particular that has a leading role is cortisol. However, other hormonal imbalances can also add to the condition.
Therefore, when you initially feel anxiety, hormones in your body respond to this feeling. But if your anxiety persists, these hormones can actually become part of the cause of that lingering anxiety.
Hormones are molecules that act as messengers within your body. When hormones are secreted, those molecules travel in your blood to different organs and tissues. When they arrive at a particular organ, they create a change in its processes.
Some common processes that hormones regulate are:
As you can see, hormones play a role in mood regulation. Because of this, certain hormonal changes can contribute to your anxiety.
The primary hormone related to anxiety is cortisol.
You might have heard people mention cortisol before, referring to it as the “stress” hormone. This is because cortisol levels are elevated during prolonged periods of stress.
A fine line divides stress and anxiety, and prolonged stress can develop into anxiety.
If you’ve ever been under pressure to meet a deadline or expectation, you’ve experienced stress. However, it’s likely that the stress from that situation went away after you took care of the obligation or source of that stress.
Stress has the potential to become anxiety if your worry continues after the source of the stress is gone. In this case, your cortisol levels, which initially increased because of the stress you were under, remain elevated and contribute to your anxiety symptoms.
When cortisol levels are elevated, you may experience:
Suppose you compare the effects of elevated cortisol to the symptoms of anxiety. In doing so, you’ll notice that many of them overlap.
The reason for this crossover is that cortisol is the main hormonal contributor to anxiety. Therefore, when your anxiety persists over time, cortisol levels remain elevated. From this, you’ll experience long-term effects that contribute to persistent anxiety.
Cortisol is not the only hormone that can affect your anxiety. When hormones like estrogen and testosterone become imbalanced, they can also contribute to this condition.
Estrogens are a group of female sex hormones that include:
You might have heard of the term estrogen imbalance, which refers to these hormones being present in unusually higher or lower quantities.
Conditions that cause estrogen imbalances are:
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
However, these hormones do naturally fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. When the fluctuations are abnormal, estrogens are more likely to impact your mood and contribute to anxiety.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone. Like estrogens, testosterone levels can also become imbalanced and affect mood.
Both unusually high and low testosterone levels can have an impact on mood. However, testosterone levels are more likely to be higher in younger men and slowly decrease with age.
Because testosterone decreases with age, older men are more susceptible to developing anxiety.
Before discussing ways to overcome the effects of your hormones, it’s essential to know that anxiety is a complex condition affected by many factors. This means different physical, emotional, and situational elements can all contribute to anxiety.
While considering hormonal problems to be relevant, other factors related to your anxiety still need to be addressed. Consulting a healthcare professional is the best way to get help for anxiety.
Regardless, managing your hormone levels can certainly help. Below are some ways to manage your hormones:
Exercise is related to anxiety in so many ways. However, in terms of your hormones, specifically, exercise helps by reducing cortisol levels.
Experts¹ say that low-intensity workouts are the best type of activity for reducing cortisol levels. This includes walking, light jogging, or lifting weights at a slow pace.
Overall, exercise is a huge component of keeping your body healthy. If you improve your physical health and well-being, you’re likely to improve your mental well-being at the same time.
Practice relaxation techniques
You can relax your mind and body to help manage your hormone levels. Relaxation techniques are an excellent way to calm the mind, and a range of techniques are available.
Common relaxation techniques include:
Doing a hobby that you enjoy
You can try these techniques from home, or you might be able to do some on your break at work.
While there are groups that offer yoga, meditation, or mindfulness teachings, you can do these practices on your own if you prefer. In addition, you can find lots of online resources and books on these topics.
Take a break
Remember to take better care of yourself when you’re feeling anxious, and a great way to do this is to take a break.
You should prioritize breaks and dedicate them to spending quality time with yourself. It’s okay to prioritize time for yourself because this allows you peace of mind.
Try a technique mentioned above during your break, like exercise or relaxation. Or just get away from everyday life by taking a walk and spending some time connecting with nature.
As long as you find something that’s relaxing, enjoyable, and suited to you, then you’ll certainly be making the best of those breaks.
Poor diet and nutrition are known to make hormonal imbalances worse. Therefore, you should opt for healthier foods whenever possible.
When you’re anxious or stressed, it can be easy to grab a convenient snack or a quick dinner from a fast food restaurant. However, these quick snacks and instant meals are rarely good for your health.
Sticking to a healthy diet that’s right for you will yield benefits in both the short and long term. If you’re unsure where to begin, talk to a health professional to get some advice.
Although stress and anxiety can initially contribute to hormonal imbalances, chronically imbalanced hormone levels can lead to persistent anxiety. If you have persistent anxiety, you should discuss this with your doctor.
By doing so, they can provide you with a clearer picture of what’s going on and offer treatment if necessary.
If your anxiety is getting worse or there is no improvement, you also need to mention this to your doctor. If left untreated, anxiety can become even more challenging to manage. Your doctor can refer you to counseling or prescribe medication if required.
Anxiety is a widespread problem, so don’t hesitate to talk about it with your doctor. Just talking it over with someone and creating a plan to manage it can be beneficial.
Anxiety is a common issue, and you’re not alone if you feel this way. Many external and internal factors contribute to anxiety, and this condition is not just worrisome thoughts. Gaining insight into how hormones affect anxiety might enable you to regain some control over your mental and physiological processes.
However, if your anxiety persistently troubles you, you should book an appointment with your doctor for professional treatment.
Exercise and anxiety (2020)
Anxiety disorders | The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Physiology, cortisol (2021)
Psychologists explore the type and frequency of breaks we need to refuel our energy and enhance our well-being | American Psychological Association