Hormones and anxiety

In England women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders as men.* Also, general anxiety disorders are more common in people from the ages of 35 to 59. So we can see then that this age bracket also correlates with the natural hormonal changes that all women go through during this time.

So why are we feeling this way?

There can be many causes of anxiety and it can range from a low level hum to accute panic attacks. If we view it from a hormone perspective, we see that oestrogen, which is in flux during this time can exacerbate common anxiety symptoms, such as, a faster heart rate, flushing in the face and neck, intense heat, a feeling of overwhelm that comes on suddenly.

On a personal note

Speaking from my own personal experience, my hormones – anxiety link can cause sudden heart palpitations. When I first experienced the palpitations, I didn’t know the cause, and this worry only made the symptoms worse, but if we look at one of oestrogen’s many roles, we see that it is involved with modulating heart beat and blood pressure. Now I know if these symptoms crop up I can experience them without letting it build into a full anxious episode. I have the right nutrition and targeted supplementation in my toolbox and I adjust lifestyle choices too. Obviously if you are feeling things aren’t right, go to the GP and get a check up, I did and in that way, I ruled out lots of things that were worrying me.

If you are feeling these feelings, what can you do?

  1. Talk to someone – this in itself can sign-post you to the support you need. Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone with these feelings, and you really are not alone, can help. There are many women who feel the same as you and want to know how to manage these symptoms.

  2. Get a full health check at the GP – Women can blame themselves for their symptoms, eg, you feel this way because you don’t get enough sleep, or you take on to much in the day etc.. however, a lot of the time, there are underlying causes to feeling this way. For example, your stress hormone cortisol could be raised, your thyroid could be underactive, your blood pressure might be elevated. So you can see there might be other things coming into play when feeling anxious.

  3. Check your cup – With this I mean, what’s in your cup? Are you relying on tea and coffee and not drinking enough water. Caffeine alone will raise your cortisol and if you’re mildly dehydrated this too can impact on cortisol input. So if you can up your water intake, limit caffeine to 1 a day and take it before midday.

  4. Check your plate – So how much green leafy veg do you get a day? Green leafy veg = magnesium. Magnesium is needed to maintain healthy GABA levels. GABA, is a neurotransmitter that can help your mind and body to relax, Magnesium has been shown to improve sleep and anxious feelings.

Feeling anxious is not to be dismissed or unacknowledged. Speaking from personal experience, it can feel debilitating and isolating. There is no one magic pill to ‘cure’ it. Anxiety is a sum of lots of parts. But there is a way through it, firstly by acknowledging it, calling it out for what it is, you feel anxiety but you are not defined by it. Get checked over to see if there’s underlying issues, then start to look at your current lifestyle and nutrition to really address the root cause and can help you to add in some tools that will really support and work for you.

*Martin-Merino, E., Ruigomez, A., Wallander, M., Johansson, S. and GarciaRodriguez, L. (2009). Prevalence, incidence, morbidity and treatment patterns in a cohort of patients diagnosed with anxiety in UK primary care. Family Practice, 27(1), pp.9-16.

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