Can Dehydration Cause Anxiety?

Can Dehydration Cause Anxiety?

If you don’t drink water throughout the day, chances are, you’re dehydrated. And if you’re feeling anxious on top of that, you may be wondering if dehydration can cause anxiety, or exacerbate it. In severe cases, dehydration can affect your physical, mental, and emotional health, and even cause feelings of stress and anxiety. Read on to learn more about the connection, and why dehydration can cause anxiety.

Related: What are the 6 Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Symptoms of Dehydration

Note that if you are dehydrated, it’s important to rectify the situation immediately. As we’ll get into below, water makes up most of your body, and it’s necessary for many bodily functions to occur. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, try drinking some water to relieve them:

  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Feeling tired
  • Headaches
  • A dry mouth
  • Dark-colored, strong-smelling urine
  • Less frequent urination
  • Confusion

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety can bubble up at any time, and there are specific symptoms to look out for. When you have an understanding of the symptoms you’re experiencing, you arm yourself with knowledge that you can use to better understand what is happening within your body. Some symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Nausea
  • “Pins and needles” feeling
  • Feeling restless or unable to sit still
  • Headaches
  • Backaches, or other aches and pains
  • A churning feeling in your stomach
  • Sweating or hot flushes
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Sleep problems or feeling tired
  • Panic attacks
  • A sense of dread

Can Dehydration Cause Anxiety?

Up to 60% of your body is made of water, and that means that water is critical to your functioning properly. Dehydration can affect many bodily functions that, when left unchecked, could cause anxiety. Notice how the symptoms of dehydration and anxiety overlap? That means your anxiety could be amplified when you’re dehydrated.

Additionally, dehydration can affect the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. These can include:

  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine

All of these play a role in whether you feel anxious or depressed, or whether you feel fine. 

When you’re not drinking enough water, you can begin to feel anxious because your body is trying to tell you there’s something wrong. This is a go-to response from your body, which is why you may hear advice like, “eat well,” “drink water,” and “exercise,” when you’re experiencing a decline in your mental health. It’s because your body only knows of a few ways to get your attention when something is wrong, and anxiety is one of them.

Other Causes of Anxiety

Although dehydration can cause anxiety, there are a number of other reasons you may be feeling anxious. These causes could explain frequent recurring anxiety, panic attacks, or even some general low mood. If you’ve been drinking enough water and you’re still having symptoms, consider one of these causes as the root:

  • Past trauma
  • Neglect
  • Being bullied or socially excluded
  • Experiencing racism
  • Grief
  • Current trauma
  • An overload of work or schoolwork
  • Lots of change or uncertainty
  • Long working hours
  • Being out of work
  • Money problems
  • Housing issues or homelessness
  • Worrying about the environment (sometimes called climate anxiety)
  • Feeling lonely or isolated
  • Being on new drugs or medication, including recreational drugs and alcohol

How Much Water Should I Drink?

If you do think dehydration causes your anxiety, or if you struggle with getting enough water in, you’re likely wondering how much water you should be drinking every day. We’ve all heard the standard an 8 ounce glass of water 8 times a day rule, which is a really great starting point if you struggle to stay hydrated. The benefits of drinking water can include:

  • Moving waste through the body more efficiently
  • Keeping temperature normal
  • Lubricating and cushioning joints
  • Protecting sensitive tissues, like facial tissue

But how much water do you actually need? Studies have produced varying recommendations, but one thought is to simply drink when you’re thirsty. If you have a disorder like ADHD, though, it can be hard to “feel” thirsty. The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

  • 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water per day for men
  • 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water per day for women

If you fall into neither of those categories, try to drink somewhere between that range, depending on the size of your body. If you’re larger, you may need to drink more, but if you’re smaller or shorter, you may need to drink less. Also bear in mind that these measurements include fluids found in your food, which amounts to about 20% of your fluid intake. Doing the math, that works out to be about 9.2 to 12.4 cups per day that you need to drink.

Final Thoughts

Staying on top of all your needs can be challenging, especially when you already have anxiety. But yes, dehydration can cause anxiety, so it’s important to drink as much water as you can to fend off those physical symptoms. 

If you’re still experiencing anxiety and need some help to cope, consider speaking to a professional. At Modern Era Counseling, our team of therapists have backgrounds that range from depression, to eating disorders, to LGBTQ+ concerns, to anxiety. Give us a call at (704) 800-4436 or click here to get matched with a therapist and start your journey today.

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