Anxiety affects approximately 15% of the population, and about 7% have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. It can be defined by certain characteristics: fear, excessive worry, apprehension, difficulty managing daily tasks, poor concentration, and sleep problems. 

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the relationship between your hormones and anxiety, and you can overcome your fears.

Anxiety Disorders and Hormonal Imbalances

There are different types of anxiety disorders: GAD, Panic disorder, Social anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD, and Specific phobias. 

Panic Disorder vs. Anxiety Attack

Panic attacks are generally intense and unprovoked, while an anxiety attack is usually triggered by something. 

Neurotransmitters, like Serotonin, GABA, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Acetylcholine are emotional regulators. An imbalance in these can lead to anxiety symptoms. 

An excess of glutamate and excitatory neurotransmitter can also lead to anxiety and overexcitation. 

Watch Out For Your Stress Hormones

stress hormones

Stress hormones are also a major factor involved. The threshold of the release of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol lowers with continued stimulus due to anxiety. It’s also important to note if there is poor circulation in and to the brain, that can lead to symptoms like anxiety.

How to Manage Anxiety

High functioning anxiety can be treated. A naturopathic approach to managing anxiety involves dealing with any underlying trauma or contributors and addressing stress and conditions of health such as diet, sleep, and comorbid conditions. 

Assessing hormones, thyroid function, genetics, and micronutrient status is one of the first steps to addressing health factors that can be an underlying cause of anxiety. 

When all these have been looked at and a patient is still experiencing anxiety, it’s time to take a deeper dive into organic acids, food sensitivities and gut function, allergies, chronic infections, and environmental exposures.

Emerging science and clinical focus are now on the gut-brain connection. Leaky gut, and likewise, leaky blood-brain barrier can lead to inflammation and autoimmunity, or cross-reactivity with the immune system. A diet high in vegetables, fruits, good fats, and proteins like fish can help with managing mood swings. 

Ketogenic diet and fasting have been shown in research to improve neuroplasticity and enhance cerebral blood flow. It’s also very important to focus on blood sugar management to reduce anxiety. High spikes in blood sugar are quickly metabolized and can lead to low levels of glucose, the brain’s primary energy source. Excitotoxins from different food sensitivities can alter brain receptor activity.

Anxiety Treatment

There are two subtypes of anxiety: under-aroused or over-aroused anxiety, and treatment is different for both. For under-aroused anxiety, treatment can stimulate or increase blood flow and activity in the brain, such as stimulant medications, Bacopa, Ginkgo, pycnogenol, caffeine, green tea, and mitochondrial support. 

Aroused anxiety is treated by certain nutraceuticals that are calming or dampen pathways that lead to overexcitation, such as inositol, l-theanine, GABA, magnesium, and glycine.

There are other common treatments for anxiety, such as neurofeedback, hydrotherapy, L-theanine enhances alpha waves and can be used in both types, tryptophan for neurotransmitter production, omega 3’s for phospholipid membrane fluidity for neurotransmitter release, and though blood levels of micronutrients may be in range, additional therapeutic dose of B vitamins are essential for treatment. 

Standard treatment interventions for anxiety involve medications and psychotherapy. But, several lifestyle interventions can be helpful for all types of anxiety, including routine (the structure is important), exercise, rote activity (repetitive actions- hobbies), meditation, and having brief, regular appointments.

FAQs: Hormones and Anxiety

Can hormone imbalances cause anxiety?

Hormone imbalance and deficiency can create anxiety. The relationship between anxiety and hormones is a dance. 

A hormonal imbalance may lead to anxiety or the anxiety may lead to hormonal imbalance. An imbalance of sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) may increase anxiety when there are dramatic shifts in levels that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, andropause, or menopause.

Can Low Testosterone Cause Anxiety? 

Testosterone affects many areas of the body. There are androgen receptors all over the body and many receptors are in the brain. Testosterone has a major role in improving cognition because of its effects on serotonin and cortisol and the interplay with estrogen. 

Studies have shown low estrogen can also lead to mood disorders. Hormone regulation involves supporting the pathways for production, conversion, recycling, and excretion of metabolic byproducts from hormones. 

You Can Defeat Your Fears

Naturopathic medicine addresses hormone balance based on the least invasive intervention necessary for symptom resolution with supplementation, herbs, and bioidentical hormone replacement.

It’s important to assess anxiety to determine the appropriate intervention. If you are impacted by anxiety and want to learn how best to manage it, schedule an appointment with Amber Walz, ND.