Panic attacks are frightening events that seemingly arise from nowhere. Naturally, if you have a panic attack, the first thing you want to do is find out the reason, so that you can prevent such attacks in the future. A vitamin B-12 deficiency is one reason that people can have panic attacks. Adding B-12 to your diet to see if it eliminates panic attacks will not harm you and can only benefit your overall health.
Symptoms of B-12 Deficiency
A deficiency in vitamin B-12 can result in a variety of ill effects. Shortness of breath, nervousness, diarrhea and numbness and tingling of the extremities are some of the symptoms you might experience. Since the symptoms mirror those of a panic attack so closely, it might be difficult to determine if you are having a panic attack. When you have a panic attack, you might hyperventilate, which can result in a feeling of being unable to take a deep breath and numbness and tingling in your hands and feet. Panic can also cause the onset of diarrhea. Keep in mind that some symptoms of a panic attack, such as a racing heart, chest pain, sweating and nausea, are not symptoms of a B-12 deficiency.
Mental Health and Vitamin B-12
A study published in the "American Journal of Psychiatry" in 2000 found that women who are deficient in vitamin B-12 are more than twice as likely to experience depression as women who are not deficient in this nutrient. Depression can lead to the development of panic attacks. People who are not depressed can also develop panic attacks as a result of B-12 deficiency, however. B-12 is a vitamin that is essential for good mental health.
B-12 in Your Diet
Dr. Edmund Bourne, author of "The Anxiety and Panic Workbook," recommends that people who suffer from panic attacks take a B-complex vitamin each day, because stress can deplete the B vitamins, leading to a deficiency, which then leads to increased anxiety. Eat plenty of foods that provide B-12 in your diet as well. Eggs, dairy products, meat, poultry and seafood are the foods that provide vitamin B-12. For this reason, vegans can develop a B-12 deficiency and must be sure to supplement with B-12. A supplement that provides 5 to 10 mg daily is an appropriate amount; larger amounts are unlikely to be absorbed effectively.
Ways to Improve Anxiety
While a deficiency in B-12 can predispose you to developing panic attacks, this may not be the cause. Panic attacks can be triggered by a number of factors, including phobias, prolonged periods of stress and stimulants such as caffeine. If taking B-12 supplements doesn't decrease your anxiety, try other ways to address the problem. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, meditation, deep-breathing exercises and physical activity can all help reduce or eliminate panic attacks. Eat meals composed of whole foods, including plenty of vegetables. Eliminate sugar and other processed foods, which can stress your body, contributing to the development of panic attacks.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)
- "American Journal of Psychiatry"; Vitamin B(12) Deficiency and Depression in Physically Disabled Older Women -- Epidemiologic Evidence From the Women's Health and Aging Study; B.W. Penninx, et al.; May 2000
- University of Michigan; Anxiety Disorders; Michael Jibson; 2009
- McKinley Health Center; Vitamin B12 -- What Vegans Need to Know; May 28, 2008
- "The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook"; Edmund Bourne; 2005