Brain Facts

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Endocrine Diseases and Conditions Associated with Anxiety Symptoms

The first step in defining whether an anxiety disorder is due to a general medical condition is to establish the presence of a general medical condition that is often associated with the production of anxiety symptoms. The DSM-IV defines the most common endocrinological conditions associated with anxiety states as hyper- and hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, pheochromocytoma, and hyperadrenocorticism. Anxiety may also occur following the exogenous administration of estrogens, progesterone, thyroid preparations, insulin, steroids and birth control pills. Popkin, in addressing the issue of endocrine disorders presenting with anxiety, suggests that anxiety states frequently occur in association with adrenal dysfunction, Cushing's Disease, Carcinoid syndrome, hyperparathyroidism, pseudohyperparathyroidism, hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, pancreatic tumors, pheochromocytoma and thyroid diseases including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and thyroiditis. Popkin cautions that prospective, carefully controlled studies on the etiology of anxiety in these conditions are lacking. The studies that are cited are almost exclusively case reports. He argues for more structured and careful research into the organic basis of these conditions.

Jefferson and Marshall identified hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia, pheochromocytoma, and hyperadrenalism as the medical illnesses most often associated with anxiety symptoms and most frequently misdiagnosed initially as a primary anxiety disorder.

Hall et al in a study of medically induced anxiety disorder found thyroid disorders, i.e., hyper- and hypothyroidism and thyroiditis, to be the most frequent medical conditions misdiagnosed as primary anxiety disorder. Other common medical causes for anxiety in their study included hypoglycemia, Addison's and Cushing's Disease, hyper- and hypoparathyroidism, and diabetes mellitus. Rarer causes included various virilizing tumors and hypo- and hyperpituitarism.

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