What can cause anxiety hot flashes?

Pensive girl having anxiety think of chocolates
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Overview

Anxiety can cause hot flashes by triggering intense heat waves, causing you to sweat and feel flushed. This overlap of symptoms between anxiety and hot flashes can create a vicious cycle of discomfort. Hot flashes are often linked to menopause and perimenopause, but can anxiety cause hot flashes as well? Absolutely. Anxiety induces a rush of adrenaline, increasing your heart rate and body temperature, which can mimic the symptoms of a hot flash.

This physiological response explains why anxiety, hot flashes, and sweating occur. Both emotional stress and panic attacks can induce these symptoms, making it essential to understand the triggers and manage them effectively. Strategies like deep breathing, mindfulness, staying cool, and professional help can mitigate the effects. While menopause and hormonal imbalances are common causes, anxiety-induced hot flashes are significant and manageable with the right approach.

What are hot flashes?

Hot flashes are sudden feelings of intense heat, often accompanied by sweating and a flushed face and neck. Common during menopause and perimenopause, they feel like you’ve just stepped into a sauna and can also cause night sweats. These symptoms are likely due to decreasing estrogen levels, which affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Besides menopause, hot flashes can also be triggered by anxiety, stress, or other factors. 

You may also experience heart palpitations, dizziness, or lightheadedness during a hot flash. While hot flashes are most commonly associated with perimenopause and menopause, they can also occur due to other reasons, including anxiety and stress, highlighting the broad impact of these hormonal and emotional shifts on the body.

A researcher and GP at the National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. Lawrence M. Nelson, says, 

“Hot flashes are one of the main symptoms of primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), which must be mentioned to the doctor”.

Anxiety hot flashes can trigger panic attacks. Sudden intense heat and flushed face can be a sign

What do anxiety hot flashes feel like?

Anxiety hot flashes feel like sudden waves of intense heat, often accompanied by sweating and a flushed face. Other symptoms include feeling agitated or restless, being “on edge,” having a fast heart rate, quick or shallow breathing, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, and trouble concentrating. During a panic attack, these feelings intensify, leading to rapid breathing (hyperventilation), a pounding heart, a choking sensation, sweating, trembling, intense panic, and an urge to escape. Panic attacks can be triggered by specific worries or occur unexpectedly.

Can anxiety trigger hot flashes?

If you experience anxiety, you know it can feel like a fire drill going off in your head, turning even the smallest worries into major catastrophes. During these stressful times, it’s common for anxiety to trigger physical symptoms throughout your body, including hot flashes.

A study suggests that anxiety may be a strong predictor of hot flashes. The study highlighted that individuals with somatic anxiety symptoms—physical reactions to anxiety-like stomach aches, headaches, and dizziness—had a higher chance of experiencing hot flashes. This indicates that the body’s physical response to anxiety plays a significant role in triggering these sudden heat waves.

However, the study also found that more emotional-related anxiety or general worry didn’t have as strong a link to hot flashes. In other words, simply feeling nervous about something like a job interview typically isn’t enough to cause a hot flash. The connection to hot flashes is particularly notable during intense anxiety episodes, such as panic attacks, where the heart rate and breathing rate can spike dramatically.

Panic attacks are especially prone to triggering hot flashes due to the significant increase in physiological stress. During a panic attack, your body undergoes a heightened state of arousal, which includes rapid breathing (hyperventilation), a pounding heart, a choking sensation (globus pharyngeus), sweating, trembling, intense feelings of panic, and a strong urge to escape.

Here are some common physical symptoms of anxiety that may also be associated with hot flashes:

  • Heart palpitations: A rapid or pounding heartbeat that can make you feel like your heart is racing out of control.
  • Upset stomach or nausea: Feelings of discomfort in your stomach, often accompanied by nausea or digestive issues.
  • Muscle tension: Tight or tense muscles can lead to aches and pains throughout the body.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or feeling like you can’t get enough air, often resulting in rapid, shallow breaths.
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy: A dizziness or light-headedness that can make you feel unsteady or faint.

If anxiety is a significant trigger for your hot flashes, consider strategies to reduce anxiety, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, and seeking professional support.

How do you treat hot flashes from anxiety?

Managing anxiety during menopause is crucial not just for your mental well-being but also for alleviating hot flashes. Here’s a holistic approach to address both the physical and emotional symptoms:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Take advantage of structured talk therapy like CBT. It helps correct harmful thinking patterns, easing psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety by calming the nervous system.
  • Medications: Explore medication options under the guidance of your healthcare provider. Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, or beta-blockers can effectively reduce anxiety and subsequently lessen hot flashes, but always prioritize professional advice.
  • Mindfulness and meditation: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Activities like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or journaling can soothe the mind, lower heart rate, and mitigate anxiety symptoms.
  • Rest and sleep: Prioritize quality sleep to manage anxiety and hot flashes. Establish a bedtime routine, create a conducive sleep environment, and consider daytime naps to compensate for any sleep disturbances.
  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity trains your body’s thermoregulatory system, improving its ability to adapt to temperature changes and potentially reducing hot flash frequency. However, be cautious not to overexert yourself during workouts.
  • Seek social support: Don’t hesitate to lean on your support network. Whether it’s confiding in a trusted friend, family member, or therapist, sharing your anxious feelings can provide valuable support and perspective.
  • Talk therapy and relaxation techniques: Explore talk therapy options to address underlying causes of anxiety in a supportive environment. Integrate relaxation techniques like yoga, tai chi, or spending time in nature to alleviate anxiety and its impact on sleep and concentration.

By integrating these strategies into your daily life and seeking professional support when needed, you can effectively manage anxiety-induced hot flashes and enhance your overall quality of life during menopause.

If you are feeling suffocated and anxious. It might be a panic attack that needs immediate care.

How long can anxiety hot flashes last?

Anxiety-induced hot flashes are unmistakable—they hit suddenly, engulfing you in heat and often leaving you feeling dizzy and sweaty or even chilled. These episodes can vary in duration, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to up to an hour. However, it can feel like an eternity in the midst of one.

Can menopause cause anxiety?

The relationship between anxiety and menopause can be likened to the age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer is it can go both ways.

Anxiety can trigger a hot flash. And the opposite is also true — a hot flash can lead to feelings of anxiety. The sudden rush of warmth and other physical symptoms of hot flashes can be really distressing.

When hot flashes strike suddenly, they can catch you off guard, leading to understandable feelings of anxiety or nervousness. Research supports this link, with a study following 436 premenopausal women for six years finding that those with anxiety were 3 to 5 times more likely to experience hot flashes.

In essence, if something else triggers a hot flash, it can set off a chain reaction, causing feelings of anxiety as well. Moreover, prolonged experiences of hot flashes can lead to anticipation of future episodes, further exacerbating anxiety.

Hot flashes can induce both physical and emotional anxiety. Common signs of non-physical anxiety symptoms include feelings of nervousness, trouble sleeping due to racing thoughts, and obsessive, worrisome thoughts.

How to tell apart anxiety from menopause?

Research highlights a strong association between anxiety, menopause, and hot flashes. A 2016 study observed 233 menopausal females over 14 years, revealing that those with somatic anxiety were three times more likely to report moderate to severe hot flashes.

  • Symptom confusion: Somatic anxiety, characterized by physical symptoms, can be mistaken for perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms, leading to confusion. Both conditions may coincide, causing anxiety about hot flashes or preexisting anxiety exacerbated by menopausal changes.
  • Identifying menopausal symptoms: Doctors typically diagnose menopause based on symptoms or blood tests. Common signs include irregular periods, vaginal dryness, dry skin or hair, and mood swings. Hot flashes triggered by factors like spicy food, alcohol, hot weather, or hot showers also indicate menopause.
  • Potential causes of early menopause: Factors like smoking, family history, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases affecting the ovaries, HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, pelvic radiation therapy, or surgeries impacting the ovaries or uterus can also cause early menopause.

To differentiate between anxiety and menopause-induced hot flashes, consider various factors:

  • Age: Hot flashes typically start in the 40s, whereas panic attacks often commence before 25. Mid-to late-40s with no history of panic attacks suggest perimenopause.
  • Location of symptoms: Menopause-related hot flashes usually affect the face, neck, or chest, while panic attacks may induce sweating on palms or underarms.
  • Triggers: Both panic attacks and hot flashes can occur without warning. However, panic attacks often follow recognizable patterns, while hot flashes are primarily about the physical sensation of heat.
  • Emotional state: Panic attacks entail a deep sense of fear or impending doom, while hot flashes predominantly cause discomfort due to physical heat sensations.
  • Impact of anxiety on menopausal symptoms: Long-term studies reveal that high anxiety levels during menopause correlate with increased hot flash frequency. Treating underlying mental health concerns can significantly reduce hot flash intensity and frequency, even during menopause.
  • Distinguishing symptoms: Hot flashes in individuals under 40 without other menopausal symptoms, those with a history of anxiety disorders, or those not experiencing reproductive changes are more likely due to anxiety than menopause.
Menopause can trigger anxiety hot flashes due to hormonal imbalance. The good news is it is treatable. No need to stay anxious.

Consult a doctor

Besides anxiety and menopause, several other medical conditions may trigger hot flashes or an overall feeling of being excessively warm. These include hyperthyroidism, certain medications—especially those affecting blood vessel dilation or hormones like estrogen—and infections, which can induce fever or alternating sensations of heat and cold.

Therefore, it’s crucial to consult a doctor if hot flashes occur frequently, especially if they occur outside of anxious moments, such as during sleep. A doctor can conduct tests to rule out other underlying conditions and offer support in finding suitable treatment options for anxiety, if necessary. Seeking professional guidance ensures proper diagnosis and effective management of symptoms.

FAQs anxiety hot flashes

Can anxiety cause hot flashes and night sweats?

Yes, anxiety can trigger hot flashes through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the release of stress hormones like cortisol. This can raise body temperature as part of the body’s fight or flight response, even in the absence of immediate danger.

What does menopausal anxiety feel like?

Menopausal anxiety is characterized by feelings of stress, fearfulness, or tension. It can appear in the form of physical symptoms such as palpitations and can exacerbate symptoms like hot flashes.

How many hot flashes per day are normal?

Hot flashes typically occur at least once daily, with about a third of women experiencing more than 10 hot flashes per day. While some may experience mild flashes, others may have more severe episodes that significantly disrupt daily life, including nighttime occurrences.

Can hot flashes mean something serious?

Research indicates that women experiencing hot flashes may have an increased risk of heart disease and greater bone loss compared to those without hot flashes. Monitoring and addressing hot flashes may be important for overall health and well-being.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

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  • Uptodate. Menopausal hot flashes
  • Freedman RR. Menopausal hot flashes: mechanisms, endocrinology, treatment. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Jul;142:115-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2013.08.010. Epub 2013 Sep 4. PMID: 24012626; PMCID: PMC4612529.
  • Freeman EW, Sammel MD. Anxiety as a risk factor for menopausal hot flashes: evidence from the Penn Ovarian Aging cohort. Menopause. 2016 Sep;23(9):942-9. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000662. PMID: 27433864; PMCID: PMC4993654.
  • Lugo T, Tetrokalashvili M. Hot Flashes. [Updated 2022 Dec 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539827/

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