Low Blood Sugar and Panic Attacks: How Are They Related?

Panic attacks can be a very scary experience. They are often accompanied by symptoms such as heart palpitations, trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, and a feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks can happen to anyone, but people with certain medical conditions may be more susceptible to them, such as those with low blood sugar.

What is Low Blood Sugar?

Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, occurs when your blood glucose levels drop below normal levels. Typically, the body maintains blood glucose levels within a narrow range to ensure that the brain and other vital organs receive a steady supply of energy. When this supply is interrupted, the body can begin to malfunction.

Low blood sugar can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Skipping a meal or eating a meal with insufficient carbohydrates
  • Exercising too much without consuming enough carbohydrates beforehand
  • Taking too much insulin or other diabetes medications
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Inherited disorders of glucose metabolism

What Are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are an intense surge of fear or anxiety that can occur suddenly and without warning. They are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, tremors, shortness of breath, and a feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and they can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Trauma
  • Phobias

The Link Between Low Blood Sugar and Panic Attacks

Low blood sugar can trigger a panic attack in people who are susceptible to them. When your blood sugar drops too low, your body perceives this as a threat to survival and activates the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones. These hormones can cause many of the physical symptoms associated with panic attacks, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and tremors.

In addition, low blood sugar can affect the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can increase the risk of developing panic disorder. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that allow nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other. When neurotransmitter levels are imbalanced, it can lead to a variety of mental health issues, including panic disorder.

How to Manage Panic Attacks Caused by Low Blood Sugar

If you are prone to panic attacks and have low blood sugar, there are some steps you can take to help manage your symptoms:

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly, and make sure they stay within the recommended range
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of complex carbohydrates
  • If you have diabetes, follow your treatment plan closely and talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications if necessary
  • Avoid skipping meals or going too long without eating
  • If you are going to exercise, be sure to eat a small snack beforehand to prevent your blood sugar from getting too low
  • Learn relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, to help manage your anxiety

Conclusion

Low blood sugar and panic attacks are closely related. When your blood sugar drops too low, it can trigger the release of stress hormones and neurotransmitters that can lead to panic attacks. If you have low blood sugar and are prone to panic attacks, it is important to manage your blood sugar levels carefully and take steps to prevent them from dropping too low. With proper management and treatment, you can reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and improve your overall quality of life.

FAQs

FAQs: Low Blood Sugar and Panic Attacks

1. How are low blood sugar and panic attacks related?

Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, can trigger panic attacks in some people. When blood sugar drops too low, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to raise blood sugar levels, which can lead to symptoms such as rapid heart rate, sweating, and shaking. These physical symptoms can be similar to those experienced during a panic attack, leading some people to believe they are experiencing an attack when in fact their blood sugar is low.

2. What are the symptoms of low blood sugar?

Symptoms of low blood sugar can vary depending on the severity and duration of the episode, but may include dizziness, confusion, irritability, weakness or fatigue, blurred vision, headaches, and hunger. More severe symptoms can include seizures, loss of consciousness, and even coma. If you suspect you have low blood sugar, it’s important to check your blood glucose level with a glucose meter and treat accordingly.

3. How can low blood sugar be prevented?

Preventing low blood sugar is key to avoiding the associated symptoms and potential panic attacks. It’s important to maintain a balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats, and to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day. Monitoring blood sugar levels regularly can also help identify any patterns or triggers that can lead to drops in blood sugar. Managing stress, getting enough sleep, and staying physically active can also help prevent low blood sugar episodes. If you are taking diabetes medication, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about appropriate dosing to avoid low blood sugar.


References

1. Strachan, M. W. (2018). Hypoglycaemia and cardiovascular risk: is there a connection? Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 20(5), 1095-1102. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/dom.13198

2. Gold, S. M., & Goldstein, D. S. (2017). Glucose dysregulation and panic disorder in cardiovascular disease: insights from the flashbacks and emotional memories (FEM) study. Psychopharmacology, 234(21), 3259-3267. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-017-4727-5

3. Hiebert, L. M., Trefry, M. G., & Lumley, M. A. (2018). The effect of acute hypoglycemia on mental performance and emotion regulation in healthy adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 93, 126-131. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.03.017