Can Iron Deficiency Cause Psychological Problems?

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Woman speaking with a psychologist. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Maintaining proper iron levels in your body is important because iron carries oxygen throughout your bloodstream. Most people get enough iron through their diet, but if you have some types of iron deficiency, your body may find it difficult to absorb iron through food. One possible effect of having a low iron count is the development of psychological problems.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a psychological issue that can stem from having low iron levels. If you have low iron levels, it could trigger panic symptoms, leading to a panic attack. Panic attack symptoms include feelings of dread, fear of dying, chest tightness, headache, fear of fainting, choking symptoms, muscle weakness, insomnia and visual disturbances. In some cases, low iron levels can lead to irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias, notes the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. A fast or irregular heart rate can trigger a panic attack, especially if you think it could lead to a heart attack or heart failure. Once your iron levels are brought into a normal range, most irregular heart rhythms and signs of panic subside.

Depression

If you have any type of iron deficiency, one psychological symptom could be signs of depression. While an iron deficiency may not be the sole cause of depression, it can cause symptoms similar to depression such as a lack of appetite, irritability, extreme fatigue, headaches and mood swings, explains MayoClinic.com. Having a broad range of symptoms, especially before diagnosis, can be troubling and lead to feelings of sadness, helplessness and depression.

Mental Disturbances

There are certain mental disturbances you may experience if your iron count is low. The National Anemia Action Council explains that you may feel dizziness which can make you feel like the room is spinning or you are off-balance. Feelings of unsteadiness can trigger feelings of paranoia and motion sickness, making you unable to complete average tasks. You may also have forgetfulness, trouble concentrating on the task at hand as well as finding it difficult to perform simple mental tasks such as reading, getting projects done and staying focused on others around you.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome occurs when you begin to experience unpleasant sensations in your legs such as pulling, creeping, throbbing, crawling and sometimes stabbing pain that occurs mainly at rest. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explain that iron deficiency can trigger restless leg syndrome. Over time restless leg syndrome may trigger psychological issues such as insomnia, stress and anxiety over going to sleep and getting enough rest.

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