While it is necessary to consult a doctor if you have a physical health problem, you may not have been made aware that certain physical conditions (including your daily habits) are capable of causing chronic anxiety.
There is no theory or diagnosis that is a fit for 100% of any population, anywhere. Every single mental symptom and disorder in the DSM-5 (Bible of Psychological disorders) varies by individual and treatments for those disorders only have a positive effect on a percentage of patients, not all.
An Illness that Can Cause Anxiety
One health condition that is capable of causing anxiety is Hypothyroidism. The Thyroid plays an important role in the regulation of neurotransmitters that control mood. When you have low thyroid function this can become out of balance causing anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
Lack of Sleep or Sleep Apnea
You may know that anxiety causes sleep loss but many people have undiagnosed sleep apnea; a condition that causes your body to stop breathing when your reach deeper levels of sleep. This can happen many times per hour, never letting you truly rest and have a profound effect on mood regulation. Unfortunately it is very hard to detect since it only happens when you’re sleeping.
Many patients who have lived with undiagnosed sleep apnea say that diagnosis and treatment completely turned their lives around. It is not uncommon to hear about a person who has been moody and anti-social, to be diagnosed late with sleep apnea, receive treatment and then go on to be a happy person who has much better relationships with others.
Contact your local sleep clinic about having a sleep study done if you suspect that you might have sleep apnea.
In today’s hustle and bustle societies, many people do not make time to eat well. The consequences are not so clear and many people are suffering from varying levels of malnutrition. Simply put, sandwiches, sodas and potato chips will not give you the nutrition you need to feel well.
A lesser known part of diet is the relationship between your mood and the sugar crash cycle. I have heard many people say they cannot tolerate drinking plain water. We are so used to drinking sugary drinks that this is now the norm and water tastes weird.
Here’s what happens inside your body when you consume sugar: Your sugar blood level rises immediately and you feel satisfied. Since sugar is a simple carbohydrate, your body burns through it very quickly and your sugar blood level crashes abruptly. That is when you get that sudden feeling of being very hungry and you need to eat now. The pattern of immediate gratification followed by a sudden absences of the substance is identical to the Dose/Response reaction of highly addictive narcotics.
When you get very hungry, the last thing we want to do is wait and so we grab the nearest and easiest thing (fast food). The urgency to eat that the sugar crash gives us causes us to make poor decisions in our diet but also makes mood regulation more difficult. We often get moody during a sugar crash.
Well-prepared whole-foods such as leafy greens and whole grains take longer to digest so they take longer for your body to convert to sugar and then ATP through a process known as Cell Respiration.These foods stay with you longer, helping you avoid the sugar crash. When you do get hungry, it’s not an emergency and you have more time and patients to make better decisions about what you eat.
Drugs and Alcohol
Many who suffer from anxiety turn towards methods of self-medication such as drugs and alcohol. If you have chronic anxiety, all you want is to feel better and many want to be able to relate to others. By taking substances to feel better, we essentially trade our long term health and mental stability for short-term relief.
If you consume depressive substances frequently, it will be reflected in your mood, how you feel and how you relate to others. By doing so, we only make the problem worse. It is the equivalent of throwing gas on a fire and expecting it to go out.
Lack of Social Contact
Many people in my support group have mentioned that they are happier when they’re alone and that they don’t really need people. To that I usually respond with “then why are you here?” It’s a valid question. If you truly feel like you don’t need the company of others, why would you come to a support group or read about social skills?
Turns out, we are hard-wired to need other human beings. Compared to the amount of time our species has had intelligence, our ‘civilized’ way of living has only existed for the blink of an eye. Who we think we are now as a race is not who we have been for the majority of time that we’ve possessed the ability of formal planning, language, tool creation and to have a tribe of others which our lives depended on.
We existed for eons as nomads moving from place to place with our tribe. It was an extremely hostile environment and most did not live long. If you left your group, that was the end. Flying solo was not an option and even if you survived, you certainly did not breed. Result, the genes of those who were separated from their tribe are no longer in our gene pool.
Instead, nature’s cruel selectiveness encouraged the survival of early hominids (now us) that could not stand to be separated from their group. Even today, everything we have is owed to another human being. You likely have never eaten, worn or used anything that did not come from a long series of other people who supplied it to you, usually for the benefit of receiving payment, which they get from you.
It has been shown that isolation has a drastically negative effect on the human psyche. Prisoners who are committed to solitary confinement often will hurt themselves and break things in their room in order that the guards take them out. They usually receive very harsh treatment and punishment once taken out, but the negative treatment from others is preferable to a complete absence of company.
So, maybe we do need each other…