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Does Your Anxiety Have an Underlying Medical Cause?

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Are you plagued with anxiety, worry, or nervousness? When is the last time you had a thorough medical check up? A medical exam is especially important if your symptoms have been worse lately, if they are new (you haven’t had anxiety before or until after childhood), or if there is no family history of anxiety. Major areas to check on include your:

  • heart
  • hormones
  • drugs (and supplements)

The Heart

How could a heart issue cause symptoms of anxiety? With mitral valve prolapse, blood can leak backward through the mitral valve. This can cause multiple symptoms that we commonly attribute to anxiety, including a racing heartbeat, dizziness or lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.


You may be familiar with the role an underperforming thyroid can have on depression. You might not know, however, that the thyroid can also cause symptoms mimicking anxiety, both when it’s overactive and underactive. Changes in estrogen and progesterone can affect the action of neurotransmitters in your brain, which affects your moods and thoughts. Other glands can have issues which cause symptoms of anxiety.

Drugs (and Supplements)

Many drugs can either exacerbate existing anxiety symptoms or create them. Caffeine, for example, can trigger symptoms even in very small doses most people would assume couldn’t be problematic. Acid reflux medications can interfere with the absorption of folic acid and B12, mentioned in the previous section, leaving the brain unable to manufacture sufficient quantities of the neurotransmitters that affect mood and thinking. Supplements can have side effects which cause symptoms of anxiety, as well. You may want to discuss with your pharmacist if any of your prescription medications are known to have the side effect of anxiety symptoms; if so, when you see your doctor, you might want to ask about your options with regard to any of those medications.


While this isn’t on the list above because you may not get much help from a physician on the topic of nutrition, it’s nonetheless important. It makes sense that if you aren’t eating foods that contain the building blocks of neurotransmitters, your body can’t make them and when they are in short supply or out of balance, depression and anxiety usually occur. To insure you have the building blocks, you need to eat an adequate amount of protein (animal or plant) each day. And you’ll need folate (folic acid) and vitamin B12, as well. (See this blog post for one common underlying physical cause of depression ). If you know your diet is limited or is missing significant kinds of foods (for instance, the only vegetable you’ll eat is corn), consider talking with a nutritionist. My local Hy-Vee has a nutritionist you can make appointments with; perhaps a grocery store near you offers this convenience, as well.

This is clearly not an in-depth list of the possible causes of symptoms of anxiety, but these are issues that are important to address. If any of these issues are present for you, then it’s possible that no treatment, whether it’s therapy or an anti-anxiety prescription, will be able to offer you much relief until the underlying cause is addressed.

Anxiety responds very well to therapy. If you’d like help reducing your anxiety, worry, or panic, give me a call or text at (816) 226-4678.

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