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Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Anxiety is a common issue that affects all of us from time to time, whether it’s before a major life event, in a stressful, tense situation or when you first introduce yourself to someone new.
It’s normal to feel anxious. However, when your anxiety is overwhelming, persistent or interferes with your daily life, it’s often a sign that you may be affected by an anxiety disorder.
A variety of factors play a role in anxiety, including genetics, personality traits and some physical health issues.
Research has also found that your levels of certain hormones, including male and female sex hormones, may play a part in the development of anxiety.
Below, we’ve discussed the link between hormones and anxiety. We’ve also explained what you can do to relieve feelings of anxiety, from habits and lifestyle changes to treatment options such as therapy and anti-anxiety medication.
Put simply, yes. Hormones serve as your body’s chemical messengers, transporting instructions to your tissues and organs.
While we typically associate hormones with things such as growth or sexual function, hormones are also deeply involved in regulating mood.
Different hormones can promote feelings of stress, anger, calmness and other emotional states.
Researchers have explored the relationship between hormones and feelings for decades. Over the years, numerous hormones have been linked to feelings of anxiety.
Your body depends on thyroid hormones to control your metabolism. Thyroid hormones help to regulate your level of energy, body temperature, weight, mental function and the growth of your hair and skin.
When your body produces too much thyroid hormone, it’s referred to as hyperthyroidism. High levels of thyroid hormone caused by an overactive thyroid gland can result in feelings of anxiety, restlessness, emotional instability and insomnia.
Hyperthyroidism is also linked to physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Sex hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (yes, even as a woman, your body also produces testosterone), are involved in almost every aspect of your health, from your fertility to your heart function, bone health and mental performance.
Your levels of sex hormones constantly fluctuate, particularly before and during your menstrual cycles.
Researchers have long known of a connection between sex hormone levels and behavior, with numerous studies linking both estrogen and testosterone to anxiety.
In a review published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports, researchers noted that changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle have an impact on the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. The link between birth control and anxiety arises from the fact that medications that influence hormones may impact anxiety levels as well.
Interestingly, both low and high levels of estrogen may have negative effects on your mood. Low estrogen is associated with mood swings and sleep issues or maybe hair loss, while high estrogen levels are linked to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Fluctuations in hormone levels throughout the menstrual cycle are also thought to contribute to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a condition that can involve depression, anxiety and irritability in the weeks before your period.
Being aware of these changes in your hormone levels can help you to identify when feelings of anxiety may be hormonal in origin, rather than situational.
Beyond thyroid and sex hormones, the stress hormones produced by your body in challenging, threatening situations can also contribute to feelings of anxiety.
One of the most well-known stress hormones is cortisol — a steroid hormone that’s produced in your adrenal glands.
Your body releases cortisol when you feel stressed, causing changes such as an increased heart rate, muscle tension and rapid breathing.
These effects help you to take action when needed, such as when you’re placed in a dangerous situation.
High levels of cortisol are also linked to changes in your moods, including irritability, depression and anxiety.
Just like the hormonal fluctuations that can occur throughout your menstrual cycle, it’s important to be able to recognize when stress may cause you to feel worried or anxious.
Although it’s normal to experience anxiety from time to time, when your anxiety is persistent or severe, it could be a sign that you have an anxiety disorder.
Common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and phobias — anxiety that’s triggered by heights, animals or certain situations.
If you think that you have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to talk to a licensed mental health provider to learn more about your options.
Your mental health provider may ask you questions about your anxiety symptoms or ask you to complete an assessment.
If your anxiety is related to a possible hormonal imbalance, you may be asked to provide a blood sample for testing.
Many hormonal health issues, such as excessive thyroid hormone levels, can be treated using medication.
When anxiety isn’t caused by a hormonal imbalance, your mental health provider may suggest treating your symptoms using anti-anxiety medication, psychotherapy or both.
Several medications are used to treat anxiety, including benzodiazepines, antidepressants and beta-blockers.
Our guide to anxiety medications explains how these work, as well as the major advantages and disadvantages of each type of medication.
Anxiety disorders often improve with psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Common forms of therapy for anxiety include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves learning new methods of thinking and reacting to anxiety-producing situations, and exposure therapy.
If you’re affected by anxiety, making changes to your habits and lifestyle may help to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Simple things such as exercise, stress management techniques and even meditation may help you to gain more control over your feelings and thoughts
We’ve discussed these in more detail in our guide to calming down anxiety through good habits and lifestyle choices.
Hormones can have a significant effect on your thoughts and behavior. In some cases, natural fluctuations in your hormone levels that occur during your menstrual cycle or due to stress may cause you to feel overly anxious, worried or concerned about the future.
If you think that you might have a hormonal imbalance that’s causing anxiety, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
They can check your hormone levels for anything concerning, or refer you to a mental health provider if you need help with an anxiety disorder.
While anxiety can feel overwhelming sometimes, it’s important to remember that it’s a treatable condition.
If you feel anxious, reaching out for help can allow you to move forward in life and put your worries in the rearview mirror.
Dr. Vicky Davis is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, leadership and education.
Dr. Davis' expertise include direct patient care and many years working in clinical research to bring evidence-based care to patients and their families.
She is also an active member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
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