Anxiety Symptoms Associated with Medical Conditions and Drug Use

Certain medical conditions can produce anxiety symptoms and panic attack symptoms, as can the use of drugs. Here are your need-to-know basics.

drugs cause anxiety diagnoses cause anxiety

In addition to albuterol, salmetrol , corticosteroids, and theophylline are asthma medications that are known to cause anxiety.

© Denys Prokofyev |

It’s normal to feel anxiety symptoms when diagnosed with a serious disease. Some drugs can also produce anxiety—both legal drugs that are used to treat certain medical conditions and street drugs used recreationally.

Several medical conditions produce biological changes in the body that can result in anxiety symptoms. These include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Infection
  • Thyroid problems, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome and other types of gastrointestinal distress
  • Some rare forms of cancer, which stimulate the release of stress hormones
  • Premenstrual syndrome

It can be difficult to determine whether there’s an underlying medical cause for your anxiety. You may not be having any symptoms other than anxiety itself. That’s why it’s important to see your doctor if you experience a surge in your anxiety that does not appear to have any identifiable cause.

Of course, the stress of being seriously ill can also produce anxiety. It is pretty normal to feel excessive anxiety if you are diagnosed with a serious disease. That doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence, however. Your doctor should be able to prescribe treatments to help relieve your anxiety while you come to terms with your diagnosis.

Drugs That Can Produce Anxiety

In other cases, people with medical illnesses may experience anxiety as a side effect of the medication they are taking. Some of the medications most likely to produce anxiety as a side effect (either while you are taking it or for a period after you stop taking it) are:

  • Asthma medicines (e.g., albuterol)
  • Blood pressure medicines (e.g., methyldopa)
  • Hormones, including oral contraceptives
  • Steroids (e.g., prednisone)
  • Thyroid medicines
  • Antidepressants (especially when first taking or stopping them)
  • Decongestants (e.g., pseudoephedrine)
  • Drugs containing caffeine (including some headache tablets and weight loss preparations)
  • Stimulants (including those taken for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)

Drugs that are used to treat anxiety, such as the benzodiazepine class of drugs (e.g., Valium, Xanax), can also have the opposite effect and produce anxiety. This is most likely to occur if the drugs are used improperly or for too long. That’s why it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully if you are prescribed an anxiety-relieving drug.

Anxiety Associated with Substance Abuse

Just as with medications, several illicit drugs can produce anxiety. It is also quite common to experience significant anxiety while undergoing withdrawal from a substance of abuse, including alcohol. Drugs of abuse that can cause anxiety include:

  • Cocaine
  • Crystal meth
  • Marijuana
  • Speed
  • Alcohol
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)

Originally published February 2016.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Alison Palkhivala

Alison Palkhivala is an award-winning writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle, nutrition, health, and medicine. She has authored the Belvoir special report Overcoming Depression and the University Health News book … Read More

View all posts by Alison Palkhivala

Enter Your Login Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.