It may be tempting to answer the question posed in the title by saying that the jury is still out, so to speak. But basing the answer on reports from women who have used birth control pills might give the impression that there is a strong connection between birth control pills and panic attacks.

Some women state, without hesitation, that the hormone changes induced by birth control pills contributed to anxiety, depression or even a true panic attack. Other women emphasize that a female who feels extremely anxious or panics after starting birth control is not alone. Many women seem to be convinced that the cause of their panic attacks is purely hormonal and that adding birth control pills intensifies the symptoms.

One of the first steps toward achieving a balance between birth control pills, anxiety and panic attacks is increasing the intake of B vitamins. Studies have shown that these vitamins do help with mood change, tension and anxiety. Doctors have also prescribed one of the effective anti-depressants, which can help with anxiety and the feelings of helplessness and loss of control.

Some women have found that the only way to eliminate the panic attacks and extreme anxiety was to stop taking birth control pills altogether. Others have found that one type of birth control pill contributed less to anxiety and tension than another did. A small percentage of women even reported that certain types of birth control pills immediately led to significant mood swings and episodes of unusual irritability.

With all of this in mind, what is the connection between hormones and panic attack? Better yet, can doctors and medical researchers make a connection? Studies conducted in the past decade or so have shown that panic attacks are not necessarily the result of a situation or circumstances that come upon us suddenly. The causes can be very physical and may be anticipated.

Extensive studies of estrogen levels in women have shown that panic attacks are much more likely in women who have low levels of this essential hormone. A 1996 study indicated that estrogen levels in the brain may be the primary factor in behavioural changes and mood changes.

Birth control pills introduce certain amounts of estrogen and progesterone into the body for the purpose of preventing ovulation. The connection has been made between estrogen levels in the brain and the proper function of the brain. Some research indicates that significant changes in estrogen levels, even increased levels, might be difficult for the brain and nervous system to handle properly.

Birth control pills change a woman’s hormonal level for a short period of time but the change seems to be enough to trigger anxiety and panic attacks. Some women are concerned about the potential for long-term changes in hormones that might make them prone to future panic attacks. In summary, there does seem to be a connection between birth control pills, anxiety and panic attacks, though the effects vary from one individual to another.


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Lucas Beaumont
Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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