A few years back, when I served in the military, we had a pretty rough day to day lifestyle.
We had a tight schedule, very little free time, and very angry commanders to deal with.
This was during boot camp, so we naturally got better since then, but it was still a chore.
One thing in particular that I recall from those days is how we had to carry a military flask with us at all times.
Those things were old, heavily used and disgusting.
During those days we had a lot of “drinking breaks”.
We were instructed to just start drinking out of our flasks, and not to stop until our commanders said so.
As you can imagine, nobody really liked taking a drinking break, but we had at least four or five of these every day.
All of us were fully hydrated at pretty much any given moment, perhaps a bit too hydrated at times.
The alternative, however, would be much worse for us.
Dehydration is a very real problem, one that many of us struggle with daily without even realizing it.
60% of the human body is composed of water, losing even a relatively minor percentage of that can have a considerable impact on your overall condition.
So why do so many people suffer from constant dehydration?
The western lifestyle promotes dehydration
In this day and age, we live in a world of relative luxury, the kind of luxury that humans didn’t have up until now.
That, of course, is all well and good, but this very lifestyle has certain negative effects on our health.
One example of these effects would be dehydration.
After all, more and more people drink soft drinks instead of water, and the standard western diet contains more salt than ever before.
As a result, more people than ever are constantly dehydrated.
This condition has a variety of effects, but how does it affect our mental health?
Dehydration and Anxiety: What is the connection?
Most people would probably tell you that not drinking enough water is bad for you.
It is common knowledge that dehydration can make you feel dizzy, give you a headache or even render you unconscious.
As it turns out, dehydration can also alter your mood, affect your fatigue and make you angry.
The problem is not only that dehydration can cause anxiety, but anxiety can also cause dehydration.
The two are linked one to another but that only makes the problem easier to solve (but more on that later(.
That being said, why does dehydration cause anxiety?
Even mild dehydration can affect your mood
As it turns out, dehydration can vastly affect your mood.
Not only that but dehydration makes it much harder for you to think, focus and control your emotions.
Mild dehydration is defined as an approximately 1.5 percent loss in normal water volume in the body.
Even such a relatively minuscule loss can have varying effects on your mind.
One study from the University of Connecticut attempted to assess the extent of these effects.
In that study, they gathered 51 participants, 26 men, and 25 women. These participants were all relatively average in terms of overall daily exertion, they weren’t athletes nor were they couch potatoes.
Each participant was evaluated 3 separate times, with 28 days separating between each evaluation.
They were all required to walk on a treadmill to become dehydrated.
After that, they all took cognitive tests, measuring a variety of functions such as reaction time, memory and reasoning.
The tests concluded that, in women more so than in men, dehydration can cause changes in mood.
The effects were less severe among men, with men struggling more with memory and thinking than with emotions.
The reason for that is that dehydration physically alters the brain.
Our brain is composed of 75% water, and when we are dehydrated it actually shrinks!
This change limits our cognitive function and makes us more susceptible to mood swings, irritability and an overall lack of focus.
Another possible explanation is that dehydration increases the lactic acid concentration in the bloodstream and the brain.
The problem here is that increased acidity in the nerve junctions of the brain stimulates the fear and anxiety response.
All in all, these changes in your body can force you into a state of excessive stress and anxiety.
Furthermore, some of the more physical changes can actually increase the prevalence of panic attacks that you may experience.
In fact, dehydration by itself can outright trigger of panic attacks!
Dehydration can trigger panic attacks
When it really comes down to it, anxiety is excessive, uncontrollable stress.
In other words, one way to overcome anxiety would be to learn to manage your stress.
That way, even if you won’t be able to treat your anxiety, you will still be able to cope with it.
Once you do that you’ll be able to function properly without any crippling limitations.
As we have established, dehydration pretty much throws that out of the window.
You see, panic attacks need to have triggers, and some of these triggers have to do with your body telling your brain that you have a problem.
These attacks can be triggered by something as little as an increase in your heart rate, dizziness or even a headache.
As we have established, these are all symptoms of dehydration.
Dehydration decreases your blood pressure, making you feel lightheaded, dizzy, and unfocused. It can also cause headaches and fatigue.
To put it simply, those of us with panic attacks should be particularly careful to stay hydrated at all times.
Although hydration alone won’t be enough to prevent all panic attacks, it should make them much less frequent.
Stress and anxiety can cause dehydration
Thus far we have discussed how dehydration can cause anxiety and stress to varying degrees.
Dehydration affects both the body and the mind in similar ways to stress, with physical symptoms to match anxiety and mental symptoms that are difficult to handle.
However, that’s not all.
Stress and anxiety force you to expand water out of your body without even noticing.
One of the symptoms of anxiety is excessive sweating, making it a leading cause of dehydration among anxiety sufferers.
Aside from that, anxiety causes dehydration in a hormone-based way as well.
Whenever you are in a state of stress and anxiety, your adrenal glands produce cortisol at a greater level.
Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone, and it is the driving force of your anxiety.
This increased production in the adrenals can eventually make them exhausted, leading to adrenal insufficiency.
The problem is that the adrenal glands also produce a hormone that’s called aldosterone.
Aldosterone helps regulate your body’s levels of fluid and electrolytes.
In other words, once you reach adrenal insufficiency your body will produce aldosterone at a much lower rate.
As a result, this can cause dehydration and low electrolyte levels.
In this particular case, drinking more water is only a short-term solution, and getting rid of your stressors is the only way to go about this problem.
So how can you overcome dehydration?
Luckily for us, dehydration is a very treatable problem by itself.
Drinking more water is the most obvious solution, seeing that hydration is the opposite of dehydration.
Another Viable thing to do is to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
These fruits and vegetables have a substantial amount of fluid in them, making them great for hydrating your body.
Avoiding soft drink and alcohol is also recommended.
Sugar is noted to contribute to dehydration and alcohol decreases the body’s production of the anti-diuretic hormone, which is used by the body to absorb water.
Lastly, there are also the effects of age to consider.
When you get older, your body has a much more difficult time conserving water. Not only that, but your sensation of thirst also declines with age.
Keeping note of how much water you consume daily becomes more important as a result of that.
Stress and dehydration create a cycle
Stress can cause dehydration, and dehydration can make you more stressed.
Both problems feed off one another, but simply drinking more water should put a stop to that in many cases.
In other cases, however, dehydration might be augmenting your anxiety, and not really causing it.
One such example would be when dehydration acts a symptom of anxiety – In this case, although it makes it worse, treating dehydration isn’t going to help you with anxiety.
In those cases, anxiety is the real problem. Luckily for you, I got the solution.
I would recommend checking out the Panic Away Program, it offers the best methods of self-help with anxiety and panic that I know of, so you should definitely give it a try.
Before you do that, however, here’s a quick question for you – Do you drink enough water?
Many people are suffering a constant sense of dehydration without even noticing, so we can all use some more self-consciousness regarding our drinking habits.
Make sure to write down your answers in the comment section below, I read every single one of them.
If you got any questions that you’d like to ask me personally then please contact me by email.