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What is The Commonly Mistaken for Anxiety?

Feelings of worry, panic, tension, and unease are hallmark symptoms of anxiety disorders. However, many other conditions mimic anxiety and are frequently misdiagnosed or overlooked. What else could your anxiety symptoms indicate? Here are some common conditions often mistaken for anxiety.

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland regulates metabolism within the body. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism affect hormone levels in ways that can mirror anxiety disorder symptoms. These include:

  • Nervousness, panic attacks, and feeling “on edge”
  • Heart palpitations and high blood pressure
  • Trembling, headaches, numbness
  • Difficulty concentrating, mental confusion
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue despite insomnia

Testing thyroid hormone levels via simple blood screens can confirm or rule out a thyroid disorder. Proper treatment to regulate thyroid function will resolve the anxiety-like symptoms.

Excess Stimulant Intake

Consuming too much caffeine, certain medications, illicit drugs, and stimulants “revs up” the body, triggering feelings identical to anxiety:

  • Jitters, tremors, and feeling “wired”
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate and chest pain
  • Panic attacks, especially with cannabis use
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness, chills, and sweating

Cutting out stimulants provides rapid relief from the symptoms they mimic. However, long-term stimulant abuse can potentially exacerbate underlying anxiety.

Menopause and Perimenopause

Dramatic hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause and menopause often create anxiety-like symptoms, including:

  • Hot flashes, night sweats, and chills
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory lapses
  • Irritability and nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Panic attacks

Hormone therapy and certain antidepressants can stabilize moods. Lifestyle adjustments also minimize discomfort during hormonal changes.

Atrial Fibrillation

This heart arrhythmia causes sensations frequently confused with anxiety:

  • Heart palpitations – feeling the heart beat rapidly, flutter, or pound
  • Chest tightness and discomfort
  • Shortness of breath and dizziness
  • Sweating and chills
  • Lightheadedness and confusion

Monitoring the heartbeat pattern via EKG can confirm atrial fibrillation. Medications or cardioversion procedures can restore normal heart rhythms and end the symptoms.


Asthma causes the airways to constrict and swell, producing shortness of breath. Asthmatics often mistake anxiety as the cause of discomfort. Symptoms like:

  • Chest tightness and difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid, shallow respiration

Usually respond promptly to bronchodilator inhalers rather than anti-anxiety interventions. Wheezing and coughing are additional clues pointing to asthma.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD causes gastric acid to rise up into the esophagus, producing burning sensations reminiscent of anxiety:

  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Burping or sour taste
  • Shortness of breath

Antacids and proton pump inhibitors relieve the heartburn, chest discomfort, and nausea of GERD. Dietary adjustments help manage its anxiety-mimicking symptoms.

Cardiac Conditions

Heart problems like angina and heart attack present similarly to anxiety:

  • Chest tightness, pain, pressure
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Sweating and chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and weakness
  • Nausea

Cardiac tests like EKGs, cardiac enzyme blood tests, and stress tests confirm whether symptoms stem from heart troubles rather than anxiety. Prompt heart treatment is crucial.

Adrenal Fatigue

When the adrenal glands become depleted, they are unable to properly regulate cortisol and the stress response. Hallmark symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Nervousness and agitation

Adrenal support through rest, reduced stress, adaptogenic herbs, and specific nutrients can help repair the overtaxed glands.

Electrolyte Imbalance

Low levels of key electrolytes like potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium alter nerve functioning, potentially inducing:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness, spasms, cramps
  • Headaches and confusion
  • Heart palpitations
  • Vertigo
  • Anxiety

Consuming electrolyte-rich foods and supplements swiftly resolves the imbalance and associated discomforts.

Candida Overgrowth

Excess yeast in the digestive system releases toxins into the bloodstream that can generate anxiety-like symptoms:

  • Brain fog and difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches and lightheadedness
  • Irritability, mood swings, depression
  • Fatigue
  • Skin reactions and oral thrush

Anti-fungal treatments and dietary changes restore healthy intestinal flora balance and resolve the symptoms.


Many medical conditions mimic the feeling of anxiety through their overlapping physical and mental symptoms. Everything from thyroid disorders to stomach issues to sinus infections can leave you feeling on edge. So don’t automatically assume everyday anxiety is at fault. Getting the right diagnosis leads to the proper treatment to provide genuine relief. If you aren’t responding as expected to standard anxiety interventions, engage your healthcare provider to investigate other potential sources behind your symptoms. This comprehensive approach ensures you get the appropriate care for resolving your discomforts.