Is it Anxiety?
Prior to doing any serious work on anxiety reduction, it is important to make certain the symptoms are coming from anxiety. Issues with breathing, heart rate, shakiness and feeling lightheaded are linked to a number of physical health concerns. These concerns must be explored and tested before any anxiety treatment begins. Consider the following:
Heart problems – People with anxiety present to emergency rooms every day complaining of heart related issues. They believe they are having a heart attack or that there is another malfunction with their heart. In many cases, an anxiety attack is the diagnosis, and the staff refers the patient to follow up with mental health care. Though it is less common, the opposite of this scenario is also true. Someone with a heart issue could mistake their symptoms for anxiety. In this case, the ER staff will complete testing that may include an EKG to study heart activity.
People with atrial fibrillation often complain of anxiety symptoms that actually stem from physical health concerns. The physical issues with the heart must be considered so that treatment is targeting the cause of the symptoms rather than the symptoms themselves. Your primary care physician is a clear first-line contact if you are concerned that your symptoms arise from physical problems.
Stimulants – What you put into your body has so much to do with how your body performs, operates and feels. Stimulants like sugar, caffeine, tobacco and other drugs are known to quicken your heart rate, raise your blood pressure and change your breathing patterns. If you only look at the symptoms, you or others could be led to believe that these are symptoms of anxiety.
Look deeper to gain increased awareness of the link between food, drink and drugs and your anxiety. If you drank a pot of coffee for breakfast, a 64-ounce cola fountain drink for lunch and another pot of coffee for dinner, your body is going to respond in dramatic ways. Similarly, if you take stimulant medication for another condition like ADHD, you may feel more jittery and sweaty during the day. Be sure to speak with your prescriber about the interaction between your medication and your anxiety symptoms.
Low blood sugar – Speaking of the interaction between food and anxiety, not eating the right foods can create the issue of low blood sugar. New understandings linking low blood sugar to anxious feelings are being explored. Low blood sugar is triggered by going extended times between meals. The problem is exaggerated when you eat sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods as these tend to provide fast-acting energy. Once the blood sugar peaks, it will begin to drop rapidly. This is sometimes referred to as “crashing.”
The high blood sugar feeling followed by the crash can cause symptoms of feeling uneasy, problems thinking clearly, feeling shaky and feeling unsteady. To remedy this, try eating more times throughout the day. Make foods that are high in protein and fiber part of each meal as these foods will help to regulate blood sugar throughout the day.