Anxiety is typically accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness or upset stomach. Anxiety can and will cause health issues associated with chronic stress such as weak immune system or frequent headaches, but sometimes it’s the headache causing the anxiety. So, how do you know if you have anxiety or a physical health problem?
There are medical issues that can cause or exacerbate anxiety symptoms. As a general rule of thumb, obtaining a comprehensive exam to rule out potential medical causes is best practice when you are being treated for a psychiatric diagnosis. If you are experiencing late in life onset anxiety, sudden onset with no history of anxiety symptoms or your symptoms significantly change, you should see your doctor right away as this could be a sign of a more serious medical issues such as a tumor, infectious disease or a heart attack.
Common physical anxiety symptoms include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Shallow breathing and/or tightness in chest
- Sweating and/or trembling
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Upset stomach
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Feeling hot or cold
- Muscle tension or weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Trouble concentrating or performing tasks
Medical Mimics of Anxiety Symptoms
Hormone imbalances can affect mental health. The most common being hyperthyroidism which may present with symptoms similar to panic attacks such as tremors, sensitivity to heat, weight loss and restlessness.
Vitamin B 12 is the most common deficiency associated with anxiety or panic attack like symptoms. Other vitamin deficiencies have also been linked with anxiety such as EPA/DHA omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, Vit D and folic acid.
Lyme disease can be associated with psychiatric symptoms, especially anxiety.
Some tumors, such as pheochromacytoma, which are tumors of the adrenal gland, can produce adrenaline and often present as anxiety or panic attacks.
Perimenopause may also be the culprit of anxiety symptoms. During menopause, hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone are decreased. Progesterone is a calming hormone and without it women can feel more overwhelmed and stressed and in some cases can lead to an anxiety disorder.
Other medical conditions such as migraine headaches and seizures present with anxiety symptoms.
Obesity, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome have all been linked with anxiety as well.
The good news is that most medical professionals are educated about medical mimics and can rule out the conditions before recommending mental health treatment. However, you can always ask to be evaluated for any of these medical conditions. If you are unsure if you have anxiety, a comprehensive evaluation with a mental health provider could be a good starting place.
Contact us to schedule an appointment or a free phone consultation www.bridgemindbody.com
Jennifer Owens, LCSW, CPT, LMT is co-founder, wellness director and therapist with Bridge Counseling and Wellness. Jennifer specializes in the holistic treatment of anxiety; OCD, PTSD, panic, phobias, relationship anxiety, worry and fear, general anxiety and stress management.