The Unseen Connection: Can Dehydration Cause Anxiety?

This article will reveal the often-overlooked connection between dehydration and anxiety. You will get answers to questions like “Can dehydration cause anxiety,” and the strategies for staying hydrated and managing dehydration-causing anxiety situations. 

Dehydrated woman


Does dehydration cause anxiety? Dehydration is when your body does not have enough fluid to conduct normal processes. It can cause serious ramifications throughout your brain and body. Likewise, anxiety is when you are excessively anxious, fearful, or nervous, and anxiety can be linked to several triggers. Understanding the link between dehydration and anxiety can help you take better care of your mental health. 

What is dehydration?

Dehydration takes place when you lose more fluids than you give up. An easy way to think about it is sweating very heavily and losing a lot of fluid but not drinking anything.

When your body doesn’t have enough water and fluids, it can’t carry out normal functions, and you get dehydrated. Dehydration can be a dangerous condition. A lower volume of water can cause unexpected side effects throughout the body. 

  1. Dehydration takes water away from the rest of your body as your brain tries to maintain normal functions.
  2. Dehydration can compromise blood pressure, leading to clotting and problems with viscosity.
  3. Dehydration can result in temperature changes, shock, and fainting.
  4. Dehydration can impact your digestion, causing constipation, indigestion, and acid reflux.
  5. Dehydration can lead to toxicity in the kidneys as toxins that accumulate naturally aren’t able to be flushed.

Most people focus only on the physical effects but what about the mental effects? New researches indicate that even mild dehydration can change your mood, your energy, and your ability to think clearly. This means there is a way to experience dehydration, causing anxiety. 

A man suffering from anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal part of life, but sometimes we can experience too much anxiety. Anxiety and stress get you out of bed every day to make sure you get to work on time so you can keep your job and pay your bills. 

This type of anxiety has a direct cause, and it’s considered acute. But sometimes, that anxiety doesn’t have a direct cause, and it doesn’t go away.

Anxiety can be a legitimate mental health disorder with many forms, such as:

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder
  2. Phobias
  3. Panic attacks
  4. Social anxiety

Anxiety can cause feelings of restlessness, churning in your stomach, sweating, irregular heartbeat, headaches, aches and pains, irritability, light-headedness, and inability to catch your breath.


Can dehydration cause anxiety?

Yes, in some cases, dehydration causes anxiety. Several studies demonstrate a link between anxiety and depression, though, at this point, many of them are mild links.

Dehydration does this by increasing your risk of anxiety, so the more you are dehydrated, the more you are at risk for developing anxiety or having an anxiety attack. 

  • Studies in 2018, with over 3,000 adult participants, found that people who stayed hydrated had a lower risk of anxiety compared to those who didn’t. 
  • In 2015 one study of women found that dehydration was associated with greater levels of tension, depression, and confusion.
  • In 2014 one study found that drinking lots of water helped individuals feel calm, relaxed, and confident, but by comparison, those that were dehydrated felt much less calm and less confident. People participating in the study noted that when they received an increase in water, they felt a higher level of happiness.
  • A study in 2011 found that men who were dehydrated struggled with increased tension. 


Dehydration and anxiety prevention and management strategies 

If you are worried about dehydration causing anxiety, there are some prevention and management strategies you can use.

Consume enough water

Firstly, set up a way to ensure you are consuming enough water. This looks different for everyone. 

  1. It might include setting a few timers on your phone or your watch to remind you to drink water. 
  2. For some people, it might be drinking a full glass of water before every meal.
  3. Others might need to get a personalized water bottle that can be easily transported, left in the car, or left at the office to encourage hydration.

In addition to changing your schedule to consume water and avoid dehydration and anxiety regularly, you’ll need to be cognizant of times when you lose more water. Remember the example above of sweating too much but not replacing that lost water?

If you are out in the sun, sweating heavily, exercising, or doing anything else that causes you to lose a lot of water, you’ll need to be aware of that loss and increase your hydration strategies to compensate. You should be consuming enough water on a daily basis to compensate for the water you lose.

Sleep well

Some research indicates that bad sleep leads to increased anxiety during the day, so if you sleep poorly, staying hydrated might only decrease your risk of developing anxiety by a fraction, whereas that poor sleep could lead to increased anxiety despite your best efforts to stay hydrated.

A good anxiety and dehydration prevention and management strategy is to get good sleep. Ensuring you get good sleep requires good sleep hygiene, which includes:

  1. Keeping your room dark when you sleep
  2. Keeping the room cool
  3. Avoiding screens one hour before bed
  4. Not having stimuli in the area, including phones and devices
  5. Going to sleep at the same time each day and waking up around the same time

Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and meditation can help you manage anxiety symptoms no matter when they arise. There are several forms of meditation, including:

  1. Walking meditation
  2. Seated meditation
  3. Driving meditation
  4. Eating meditation

While many people picture someone seated perfectly still with their eyes closed, you can find ways to meditate while walking, while doing light physical stretches or Tai chi, or even driving. It’s important to find time to meditate every day, even if you are not currently experiencing anxiety and dehydration symptoms.

Mindfulness and meditation can teach you to be present at the moment and bring your focus back to your breath whenever you feel like getting out of hand or out of your control. 

Hydrated man

Summing up

Can dehydration cause anxiety? There is a potential connection between dehydration and anxiety. It is important to prioritize hydration for better overall well-being and mental health. With a holistic approach to managing anxiety and maintaining optimal hydration levels, you can control both anxiety and dehydration side effects.