What role do hormones play in anxiety symptoms?

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While neurotransmitters help transmit signals along nerve pathways, other chemicals, called hormones, carry messages to organs or groups of cells throughout the body. Imbalances of certain hormones increase the risk for anxiety and may induce anxiety symptoms.

These hormones circulate in a pathway called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which influences mood. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain located above your brainstem, the pituitary gland sits below your brain, and the adrenal glands are located atop your kidneys. Together these bodies govern a multitude of hormonal activities in the body and may play a role in anxiety disorders. The autonomic nervous system, which triggers the fight-or-flight response and directs functions throughout the body, is responsible for the function of the HPA axis.

When you're faced with a threat, the HPA axis allows you to respond quickly. However, in some people with anxiety disorders, this system remains in overdrive.

The hypothalamus secretes corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a hormone vital to rousing your body when a physical or emotional threat looms. This hormone follows a pathway to your pituitary gland, where it stimulates the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which pulses into your bloodstream. When ACTH reaches your adrenal glands, it triggers the release of cortisol, a steroid hormone. The rise in cortisol prompts a cascade of reactions in your body, including a rush of energy and alertness. This enables you to respond quickly to a threat. Normally, a feedback loop allows the body to disable these defenses when the threat passes. But in some cases, the floodgates never close properly, and cortisol levels rise too often or simply stay high.

Continue Learning about Endocrine System

Endocrine System

Your endocrine system works with your nervous system to control important bodily functions. The endocrine systems responsibilities include regulating growth, sexual development and function, metabolism and mood. The endocrine syst...

em also helps give your body the energy it needs to function properly. Endocrine glands secrete hormones into the bloodstream. Hormones are considered chemical messengers, coordinating your body by transferring information from one set of cells to another. Your endocrine system health can be affected by hormone imbalances resulting from impaired glands. A hormone imbalance can cause problems with bodily growth, sexual development, metabolism and other bodily functions. Endocrine system diseases or conditions include diabetes, growth disorders and osteoporosis.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.