10 Reasons Why Anxiety Isn't Always in the Mind

Medical Reviewer

It is quite possible for an adult who has never previously experienced anxiety to suddenly be overtaken by an intense sensation of anxiety or panic for no apparent reason. Equally, the fact that someone has experience of anxiety does not necessarily mean it is inevitable.

When anxiety strikes the first thing people tend to look for is the cause. They consider whether they've had bad news, whether work is particularly stressful or whether they are unhappy for some reason. But anxiety can be caused by a number of things so in this Sharepost I've listed some of the better known causes. Essentially these come down to medical conditions and medications.

Hyperthyroidism: refers to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms may include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, weight changes and/or fatigue.  People often complain of rapid heart rate, palpitations and changes in bowel movements. The symptoms mimic anxiety very closely so it is important that a thyroid function blood test be undertaken to rule out hyperthyroidism. Some people with hyperthyroidism do establish a fear of the related symptoms and go on to develop and anxiety disorder.

Ménière's syndrome: is an inner ear disorder that includes a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus and sense of fullness within the air. Anxiety is a well know symptom partly because the person never quite knows when symptoms may develop in severity.

Mitral Valve Prolapse: is the most common cardiac problem. It may affect as much as 20 per cent of the population. Although the exact relationship between panic attacks and mitral valve prolapse is not known, the American Heart Association has formally recognized the relationship and understands the cause is likely to relate to a dysfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System.

Hormonal Imbalance: can occur for a number of reasons. Hyperthyroidism, mentioned previously, is just one of many possibilities that include Cushing's syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, postpartum and menopause.

Lupus: is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes joint pain, fatigue and skin rashes, as the immune system attacks the body's  tissue and cells. Symptoms of chest pain and anxiety are associated with the condition.

Energy Drinks: may be popular but most exceed the FDA limit for caffeine in the most popular carbonated drinks (65 mg for a 12-ounce serving). Caffeine can trigger a number of sensations including sweaty palms, a racing heart and ringing in the ears, that has been know to result in panic attacks. The caffeine content of energy drinks ranges anywhere from 33 mg to nearly 77 mg per serving. A report by Jeff Minerd for the website Medpagetoday.com, states that one product, SoBe No Fear, was found to have 141 mg per 16 oz serving. However a Starbucks Doubleshot has 105 mg of caffeine.

Codeine: is used in the treatment of mild to moderate pain. Unfortunately its common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, excitability, nervousness, trouble sleeping and anxiety.

Benzodiazepines: are used in the treatment of anxiety. They are generally tolerated quite well but side effects include headaches, dizziness and tremors.

Calcium channel blockers: are used in the treatment of high blood pressure by relaxing and widening blood vessels. According to the website WebMD they are usually well tolerated but side effects include dizziness, headache and rapid heart rate.

Statins: are increasingly being used in the treatment of high cholesterol. Side effects may include dizziness, headaches, nausea and diarrhea.


Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure. WebMd.com. Retrieved 02/03/2010 from: http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/calcium-channel-blockers-for-high-blood-pressure.

Elliott. C.H. (2009) When Anxiety Isn't Anxiety. Psychcentral.com. Retrieved 02/01/2010 from: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/anxiety/2009/05/when-anxiety-isnt-anxiety/

McCusker RR et al. Caffeine content of energy drinks, carbonated sodas, and other beverages. Journal of Analytical Toxicology. 2006; 30.