Low Blood Sugar & Panic Attacks

Suddenly, you feel sort of woozy, a bit dazed. Something is a bit “off”, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.  Then, your heart starts beating faster, and you feel the need to sit down, sleep or vomit. It is as though your body is pleading for something, but what exactly does it want?  You continue to wonder as you begin to sweat. These symptoms are starting to worry you, what is wrong?


“Is this a panic attack?” you ask yourself.  After all, if you’ve experienced anxiety before then you will be familiar with these uncomfortable sensations.  You know what a racing heart and a dizzy head usually signify.  However, could potentially something else be amiss?  Quite possibly!


It could be Hypoglycemia? The word “hypoglycemia” is just a fancy way of saying “low blood sugar” and according to Edmund Bourne’s The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, hypoglycemia’s main symptoms (light-headedness, trembling, feelings of unsteadiness) overlap with the symptoms of panic.


Well, that spells trouble, doesn’t it? So…when you’re feeling unwell, how can you differentiate between panic and low blood sugar?  How can you know that what you are feeling is “just” a bout of low blood sugar that will disappear with a glass of orange juice, a sweet or a decent meal?


Well unless you have a glucose meter, you can’t. But you can calm your nerves a bit by learning about hypoglycemia, its causes, and ways to prevent it. So here we go;

Low Blood Sugar – What You Need to Know.

  1. A drop in blood sugar can occur in response to stress.
  2. When your brain isn’t getting enough sugar, your body tries to fix the problem. By sending signals to our adrenal gland to pump out adrenaline, a “fight or flight” hormone that, among other things, tells your liver to make more glucose (blood sugar).  This can cause you to feel even more anxious and aroused.  So the subjective symptoms of hypoglycemia arise both from a lack of blood sugar and secondary stress response mediated by the adrenal glands. 
  3. In a way, it is comforting to know that the panicky feelings caused by low blood sugar aren’t necessarily a panic attack — it’s our body’s way of correcting an imbalance.  It’s actually our body working for us, not against us.  So, now we have learned that stress can cause low blood sugar, and low blood sugar can cause panic symptoms, what can we do?
  4. You can avoid low blood sugar levels by eating the right food at the right times. Eliminating simple carbs and replacing them with complex carbs are a great start. Try replacing chocolate or sweets with fresh fruit, avoid foods that contain white sugar and try eating little and often.
  5. Eating food in this way can reduce hypoglycemia and, thus, the panicky sensations that can be associated with it.

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