Panic Attack, Hyperthyroid, or Hormonal Imbalance?

Most moms I know are a little anxious…..if they’re unmedicated, at least.  If you’ve been experiencing more anxiety than usual, panic attacks, or you’re constantly feeling “on edge,” there could be plenty of reasons for this.  Before you jump to the doctor for a quick Xanax prescription, be sure you’ve identified the real problem.Stress, Hypothyroidism, and Hormonal Imbalance:  Which One Is it?

Few people understand that panic symptoms can be caused by underlying medical problems. The obvious problem would be a cardiovascular issue, which is often ruled out with a routine medical exam. The less than obvious culprits are rarely accurately identified, and many women go through rounds of cognitive behavioral therapy for panic disorder without ever realizing that the actual underlying problem is a thyroid issue or low hormones.

Many women that I see in my own practice suffer from panic symptoms, and the majority of those have blown their adrenals out from chronic stress. In fact, it’s been estimated that 1 in 4 women suffer from adrenal fatigue. This means that your adrenal glands got tired of putting out stress hormones during a very stressful time in your life. Chronic stress, inadequate sleep and nutrition, and lack of activity can predispose women to adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue can negatively affect thyroid functioning and female hormonal levels. Some women develop a hyperactive thyroid or thyroid disease that causes this gland to function improperly. This can trigger bodily symptoms which are very similar to panic symptoms. This cluster of problems can also lead to imbalanced hormones.

Women with higher estrogen levels are prone to depression. High estrogen levels typically cause sore and engorged breasts, water retention, weight gain, and low mood. Women who have low progesterone levels, however, are prone to anxiety. In my practice, I have seen a trend that has led me to wonder if women with a history of miscarriage and recent childbirth are prone to low progesterone. Those with anorexia nervosa, especially women who run on asphalt pavement day after day, tend to also have lower progesterone levels.

I recommend to all women experiencing panic symptoms to consider getting their adrenals, thyroid, and female hormones tested. Adrenals are the toughest to test, as the medical community only has cortisol “norms” based on Addison’s disease. It can be done with a simple saliva test. Thyroid functioning and female hormonal levels can be tested fairly easily as well, and some people prefer to do these types of tests in the privacy of their own home. Home test kits for all of this can be found at or It is recommended, however, that you consult with a physician with whom you feel comfortable about the results for professional guidance in correcting the problem.