Anxiety Associated wth Medical Conditions

by Jerry Kennard, Ph.D. Medical Reviewer

Although our Shareposts tend to focus on anxiety as psychological issue the fact remains that very many medical conditions are strongly associated with anxiety. One thing I've pointed out in my own Shareposts is that a diagnosis of anxiety disorder should only be reached if medical explanations have been exhausted. Unfortunately, medical conditions aren't the only things to cause anxiety. Any drug that affects the sympathetic nervous system is a candidate for giving rise to anxiety symptoms too (for example asthma inhalers or nasal decongestants). Still, in this post I'm focusing on medical conditions.

Thyroid conditions such as hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid gland is overactive, or can lead to anxiety. This is the most common of the endocrine diseases occurring most commonly in women between the ages 20 - 40. Symptoms include a fine tremor, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, excitability, nervousness, sweating, palpitations and persistent fear and worry. It's easy to see how, without proper diagnosis, the condition might be overlooked. Dr. Richard C.W. Hall suggests if the estimated 60-75 percent incidence of severe anxiety in patients with overactive thyroid is accurate then a significant number of the 300,000 new cases in the United States this year will first be seen by a psychiatrist.

Mental health symptoms are often some of the early signs of under-active thyroid with up to 12 percent of cases reporting anxiety, poor memory, speech deficits and diminished learning capacity. Some estimates suggest between 30 - 40 percent of people with hypothyroidism have an anxiety disorder. Once treatment commences anxiety symptoms tend to subside anywhere from days to months later.

Chronic breathing disorders such as asthma or emphysema are often associated with anxiety. This is explained by the inability of the person to breath effectively.

Low blood sugar, not necessarily associated with diabetes, can result in anxiety. This can occur in cases where the person is working hard and has overlooked a meal.

Other Medical Conditions Where Anxiety is a Feature

Obesity, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Super-ventricular arrhythmias, Ventricular arrhythmias, Migraine, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Tumors of the Adrenal Gland


Dr. Richard C.W. Hall Publications

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s work background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of