Does Dehydration Cause Anxiety?

The actions you take in your everyday life have the potential to impact your moods and anxiety levels. Who you talk to, what you eat, and even the clothes you wear can all have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing at any given time.

But what about the things you drink?

What is Dehydration?

Scientists agree that around two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. We use this water to flush toxins from our system, promote life-sustaining activities in our cell. Thus, keeping well-hydrated is important to our physical wellbeing. In fact, the human body is so reliant on H2O that we can only live three to four days without water.

If you don’t drink enough, dehydration can set in. When you’re dehydrated, you don’t have enough water in your body to properly fulfill its various functions. And, depending on how water-deprived you are, it’s possible to be mildly, moderately, or severely dehydrated.

Causes of Dehydration

There are several reasons a person may become dehydrated. Your body excretes (loses) water every day when you go to the bathroom, breathe, sweat, and cry. If you’re sick with a fever or diarrhea, or if you take certain medications, you may increase the amount of water your body loses in a day. If you don’t drink enough to replace the water you lose, dehydration may set in.

Signs of Dehydration

If you’re dehydrated, the first thing you’ll likely notice is that you’re thirsty. You may also have a dry mouth and a headache. Symptoms of more severe dehydration may include:

  • Dark yellow or brown urine
  • Muscle cramps
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sleepiness
  • Fainting

Now that we’ve covered what dehydration is and what causes it, it’s time to look at how dehydration impacts our mental health.

The Link Between Dehydration and Anxiety

As it turns out, not staying adequately hydrated can lead to feelings of anxiety, though it’s rarely the sole contributor.

In addition to those listed above, dehydration can also cause physical symptoms such as:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Physical tension
  • Low blood pressure upon standing

For many, these are also symptoms of anxiety. This means that even if you’re not anxious, dehydration can trick your body into thinking you’re having an anxiety attack.

Furthermore, dehydration can lead to anxiety by causing stress in the body. In fact, dehydration is one of the leading causes of physical stress, as it leads to increased levels of cortisol – the stress hormone. Both chronic and temporary bouts of stress can lead to increased levels of anxiety – and the longer you’re stressed, the longer you’re anxious.

Does Dehydration Cause Anxiety?

While not the sole cause, dehydration does cause anxiety indirectly. The mental and physical changes brought on by dehydration often mimic those of an anxiety attack, which can trick your body into thinking your anxious. And, for some, the body mimicking symptoms of anxiety may actually trigger full-blown anxiety.

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