Panic Attacks – You may need iron!

Panic attacks are a form of an anxiety disorder in which the person exhibits a specific set of symptoms.   There are differences between anxiety attacks and panic attacks that involve the length and intensity of the symptoms.   People who suffer from anxiety attacks find that the symptoms come on more slowly than with panic attacks and the symptoms in anxiety attacks last longer than those in people suffering from panic attacks.

Research from the Mayo Clinic believes that between 10 and 20% of US citizens will have a panic attack at some point in their lives.

A panic attack happens with the natural flight or fight reaction kicks in at the wrong time.   This is an involuntary physiological response that happens when the body is preparing to deal with an emergency or dangerous situation.   When stress causes an increase in adrenaline it will cause the body to increase metabolism to quickly produce energy.   The muscles become tense, heart beat and breathing accelerate and the blood composition actually changes slightly.

At times outside of a dangerous situation these symptoms can be frightening and distressing.   A person experiencing these symptoms can find that thinking clearly is nearly impossible.

Panic attacks are usually intense, happen quickly and usually stop within 20 to 30 minutes.   Anxiety attacks will be less intense but will last longer periods of time.   They can happen at any time of the day, even the night during sleep.   The attacks are unpredictable and can happen several times a day or just once every couple of weeks.

There are triggers that can cause a panic attack or other physical symptoms that will then trigger a panic attack.   Iron deficiency is one of those triggers.   Panic attacks can be triggered by hypoglycemia and food allergies as well.   Caffeine can also bring on an attack — especially in an over-indulgence of the drug.

Certain types of anxiety disorders can run in families and be hereditary.   In some cases these are linked to a heart abnormality known as Mitral Valve Prolapse — more common in women than men.

When considering ways to cope with anxiety and panic attacks people must also consider not only coping mechanisms during the attack but also consider other physical situations that may trigger a panic attack.

For instance, low calcium and magnesium levels can trigger panic attacks or anxiety attacks.  A multivitamin with a mineral complex will help the individual meet their vitamin needs as well as for potassium and selenium, important for brain functioning.

Panic attacks are affected by nutrition more than was previously thought.   Today researchers know that anxiety disorders are affected by nutritional intake and the health of person’s body.   One of the actions that people who suffer from anxiety disorders can do to help their disorders is to watch their nutritional basis.

HealthStatus Team

HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our blood alcohol, body fat and calories burned calculators.

The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years.

Our team of health professionals, and researchers use peer reviewed studies as source elements in our articles.

Our high quality content has been featured in a number of leading websites, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Live Strong, GQ, and many more.
Follow us
Follow us

HealthStatus has been operating since 1998 providing the best interactive health tools on the Internet, millions of visitors have used our blood alcohol, body fat and calories burned calculators. The HealthStatus editorial team has continued that commitment to excellence by providing our visitors with easy to understand high quality health content for many years. Our team of health professionals, and researchers use peer reviewed studies as source elements in our articles. Our high quality content has been featured in a number of leading websites, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Live Strong, GQ, and many more.


  1. kathy hardiman Reply

    Did anyone proof read this article? I like many of the health status articles, but some are poorly written which leaves the reader doubting their validity. Do you have sources for low iron leading to anxiety disorders? I am licensed therapist and have never heard or read this. Thank you for your time.


    1. Theresa

      I can tell you yes low iron causes panic attacks and extreme nervousness. I have experienced it first hand. Iron anemia and b12 anemia can mimick panic disorder unfortunately unlike panic disorder untreated iron anemia can lead to death

    2. Alexandru

      I have experienced extreme anxiety behavioral problems for quite some time, meaning years. Recently I did some tests and fount out that my ferritin levels were very low. If anyone believes that iron deficiency is at the root of stress/anxiety, do this test, as doctors usually check sideremia levels which, although important, most of the people have normal levels. It’s something everybody should research on themselves. I am going to take Iron supplements for 3 months and test my sideremia and ferritin levels again.

      Good luck!

    3. Karissa

      What a God-send! I’ve been having panic attacks for almost ten days now and couldn’t figure out why. I just had a miscarriage and ended up in the ER because I lost so much blood. Inside of me, I knew the two had to be linked. I’ve been researching all week and this morning I went to the grocery store which would normally provide me with some comfort during my anxiety spell and it was worse. I came home and ate a nice lunch and there was a BIG difference. I have concluded hypoglycemia and low iron. Thank you so much for writing this article. What a relief!

    4. Nese

      I suffer with anxiety and oanic attacks.It may have various reasons but I believe iron deficiency is definitely one of them.I have been taking iron tablets for the last couple of weeks and the constant sense of fear in my stomach has left me.I am able to sleep without getting up with horrible panic attacks. I believe iron tablets are helping me.

    5. mike

      looks like you need to start reading more. Most all nutrients will cause some sort of brain disfunction, but you went to school where all they teach you is how to give people chemicals to mask the problem.

  2. D White Reply

    Anemic women who had recently given birth reduced their risk of depression and anxiety when taking an iron supplement. 2005 The American Society for Nutritional Sciences J. Nutr. 135:267-272, Feb 2005 Nutritional Epidemiology Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition

    Anxiety can be caused by worry and stress but can also be caused by hormone imbalances or nutritional deficiencies.

    Anemia can cause a rapid heart rate – similar to a panic attack.

    Therefore it is my opinion that if you are suffering from anxiety you may need to have some blood work done to determine if there is a physiological reason.

  3. Laurie Reply

    I have been suffering with major anxiety and panic disorder for about two years now. Had to leave my job of 12 years also had major depression and acute insomnia. I was taking a handful of meds everyday and nothing was helping I just stopped all my meds on my own cause why take them if there not working. I just saw my dr after a month of no meds and not I’m not doing well. She did some random blood work and saw I had very low iron. Could this be the reason all along and why don’t they test for vitamin def automatically when people present with these symptoms. I maybe could have be better two years ago? I don’t get it

    1. Emmy

      Hi Laurie, I too started having anxiety attacks & had to give up my job. My job consisted of driving all over town & I couldn’t drive anymore.. every time I would stop at a light.. the panic attack would start.. I went and had blood work done and found out I have low iron/anemia. I had to take 3 iron pills a day & it work the anxiety stoped… I could drive…. then I stopped taking the iron after I started feeling better & low & behold, the anxiety came back.. it’s an awful feeling & it can paralyze you. So I do feel there is a connection. Hope this helped.. Emmy

  4. Elfriede Rucker Reply

    My yearly physical exams always show me low in iron. I try to eat lots of spinach, almost daily spinach salads and I try to eat beef. But I eat lots of fish.
    Have started to take iron pills but don’t know how much I should take to help with the panic attacks I have several times a day.
    I also suffer from asthma and so have asthma attacks, not as frequent as panic attacks.

    Also, what else is helpful?

  5. Claudia Reply

    Hi all, after what I just went through, I firmly believe low iron IS MOST DEFINETELY a cause of anxiety/panic attacks! I recently went and got a blood test and turns out my iron was 8, apparently not the end of the world but certainly not good either. I have started taking Ferritin Grad C with 324mg of iron in it daily and within two days, I felt a million bucks compared to how I was feeling. I’m into my third week now and still feeling good. I have had 2 or 3 lapses in symptoms but everything else has mysteriously disappeared. My fear here is that perhaps the iron tablet is acting as a placebo effect in my head? I hope not. I haven’t been to get a follow up check yet but when I do, I hope to see the levels higher which hopefully will prove to me all my symptoms, were low iron related. Now, here is an in depth list of everything I have been feeling along with how long I’ve had them for….
    1. Unsteady balance like rocking on a boat, felt also when looking to the extreme right/left/up and down – 3 months. Gone. (Had 2 nightly sways return but gone after sleep)
    2. Tingling/ Numbing 4th and 5th finger of left hand (with extreme sensitivity to ulnar nerve near elbow) – 2 years
    3. Panic attack 6 months ago once, another 3 months ago. Subsequent feelings of panic and anxiety almost daily last 6 weeks, numbing and fast heartbeat. Not gone completely but for the most part.
    4. Heart palpitations – 12 months maybe more. On and off. Gone.
    5. Waking up at night gasping for air- 6 months. Gone.
    6. Skin colour had a yellowish look at times. Skin looks healthier now.
    7. Dark Circles under eyes – 10 years +. Not gone but a massive difference in tone.
    8. Petechiae – 5 years +. Have only had 3 instances, one maybe 5 years + ago and 2 in the last 3 months. Forearms and inner thighs. Not sure about this one as they always occur either on both arms or thighs at the same time so it could be something else I’m doing.
    9. Vision problems – 3 months. Im 38 years old so I’ve been told presbyopia (up close focusing) is starting to go anyway, but the level of discomfort this was causing prior to taking tablets is gone. I can even go as far as saying that I seem to be able to focus close again. This could be related to the fatigue I also had.
    10. Fatigue – 10 years ++. OMG the fatigue! It’s more than that. It feels like death but you put it down to work or bad sleep (which I also have) or something like that. Gone! Of course I still get tired esp late at night or when waking as I am not an early riser, but once I’m up and about, I don’t feel like shutting my eyes because I’m tired. This was also accompanied by a heavy head like it was made of a bowling ball and just wanting to drop and sag.
    11. Paranoia – 3 months. I have been known to freak out about health so before my blood test, and I am still struggling with this one although the level of paranoia has decreased to just thoughts now, I believed I had a brain tumour and/or HIV. Like I said, this may be something else in me that’s going on as I do tend to worry about health in general, but the level of it is what’s different.
    12. Irritability – 10 years +. We can all get annoyed but again, the level of annoy is the difference. Things still tick me off but I seem to be able to tolerate them better.
    13. Heavy periods – 5-10 years. I’ve had terrible heavy periods always, but mine would go as far as getting huge clots that would cause soaking my pants even with a fresh tampon in. I would say I could easily lose a glass full of blood a month if not more. Hard to say with this one if it’s iron or not as other times I had almost no period. Yet to be seen as it’s only early days.

    So a you can see, I think low iron affects more than just in making you feel tired. I figured because it affects the level of oxygen in your system, that in turn can cause anything in your body to start screwing up.

    1. Anon

      Everything you listed, I have experienced for years. Diagnosed low iron , when I’m mindful of diet and take supplement, all seems to be minimal.

      Thank you

  6. Jenni Reply

    Hi I know theses posts are a little dated but I’m going crazy and would love some advice. For 6 months I’ve been dealing with muscle cramping, numbness in feet and hands. We found out my B12 levels were extremely low so I’ve been taking the shots for about 4 months with no improvement. About 6 weeks ago I started waking up having panic attacks. And since then my symptoms get worse by the day. My ferritin was at 14 but iron was high at 190 so my doc just dismissed it. My neulogist was the one that said the ferritin is causing all my problems. I consistently started iron supplements and consuming more iron and with 3 weeks my iron levels dropped to 87 while ferritin went up to 20. I just received an IV iron infusion 3 days ago and my symptoms have been so much worse since then. The lightheadeness and anxiety just makes me feel like my whole body is jittery and the symptoms gets worse as the day goes on. How long before I notice the IV injection and has anyone else experience the symptoms worse at night?

  7. Carrie Reply

    I hope you are feeling better. I have been suffering from iorn deficiency anemia since 2013. Its been a long frustrating battle. I dont absorb iron well so I have had many infusions. From my experience after an infusion it will take about 4 weeks to really feel a difference. You will feel fantastic. For me it lasts a few months then I start to get panic feelings which tells me my ferritin is falling and i start the process all over again. For me ferritin level DEFINATELY plays apart in how I feel -if its below 50 I feel like crap. Im feeling the panc symptoms now and they are horrible. Due for another blood test in 2 weeks so we will see. Hang in there.

  8. Sadia Reply

    Hi. I have been experiencing similar problems. Had really low iron levels but ignored the symptoms. Have had an iron infusion two weeks ago but since having the infusion I have become very anxious and suffer from panic attacks. I have started to take Kalms and feel a little better but don’t know if that’s because of the placebo affect. Waiting for CBT. It’s such a horrible feeling and intensifies if I have to go out, especially when I have to pick up th children from school. Can anyone tell me if the anxiety will go away??!!

    1. Elle

      Hi i was wondering if your panic attacks went away. Did you have them before the transfusion?

  9. Elle Reply

    Hi I wanted to know if anyone had any updates on how they felt. Although my hemoglobin was normal I found out my iron saturation, iron serum were below range and my ferritin was a 10. I’ve been feeling awful lately like really awful extremely fatigued, very irritable can’t handle anything, the heart racing and palpitations, light headedness, tight chest amongst other things. It made my anxiety go thru the roof and turned into a depression. Since taking iron pills I am starting to feel better but the depression part is unrelenting. I feel like I have good days and bad days. I was originally taking floradix but I think it wasn’t working for me so I switch to ferrochel iron two weeks ago and I think that has been making a difference. If anyone can relate please respond. Thank you.

  10. Latoya Reply

    I am proof that is true!!!!! I had my first attack last summer while coming back home from vacation on the plane! It scared me to death!!!! No history of this at all!!!! I noticed as time went on, they started getting more frequent and severe. My worst was on a ride at a state fair and that is when I knew something was wrong since I have done thrill rides my whole life never had an issue.

    I finally found a doctor that listened to me and she was a God send. My ferritin was a 15 and I am suppose to be at 100!!! I am now one way to getting to myself again. I haven’t had a major attack in over tow months and my last check was 36 for my ferritin and my hemoglobin is no longer anemic! Other symptoms I had: RLS, irritability, constipation, insomnia, and lots of yawning. When your iron is low, your blood doesn’t get enough oxygen so it goes into survival mode by you having a panic attack to pump more oxygen to keep your body from shutting down! Listen to your body! Cause of my low iron is a tiny fibroid that was causing my periods to be heavy. Please do not ignore the signs! It will save your life!

  11. Zuzu Reply

    I definitely believe this. Iron helps with oxygen, and one precursor of panic attacks is difficulty breathing. Also people who have anxiety can have shallow breathing. I very recently began supplementing with blackstrap molasses to add some more iron to my diet, and right away felt like my breathing was better, as if I was getting more oxygen. Excess iron can be very bad, but I felt comfortable adding it to my diet as I have had heavy periods, and other symptoms, like pale lips, etc.

  12. Jennifer Mckenzie Reply

    Had quite sudden onset of high level anxiety/panic and recently had blood tests. Results were low ferritin and low vitamin d. Starting to feel better with the vitamin supplements. My GP was happy to prescribe anti depressants before the blood tests!!!! Always persevere if your gut tells uou something.

  13. Tammy Reply

    Hi. I was wondering what you took to raise your ferritin. Mine is 11 and my doctor said that’s normal. She said 11-306 is good but I feel terrible! Exhausted, anxiety and panic attacks. Don’t know what to take.. Thank you.

    1. Kathy

      That is not normal!! How can 11-300 be normal !! Ten years ago the values were 88-300. I have very low iron and it is debilitating! You know how you feel ! It is real ! Iron is necessary for every cell in your body and is necessary to produce neurotransmitters in your brain !

  14. Chris Reply

    I had anxiety and panic attacks and my doctors diagnosed me with general anxiety disorder my ferretin level was a 4 at the time dangerously low the doctors wanted to give me an infusion of iron, I started taking 2 tabs a day and within 2 weeks the anxiety and panic went away but the doctors never told about low iron and anxiety, I had to do my own research.

  15. Holly Reply

    Hi, I see no ones commented in a while but I need to talk to someone about what I?m going through which is a bit similar to you.
    Last year I found out I was pregnant, two months into it I started feeling like I was going to pass out a lot and mainly everytime I went to the shops. I then got a random numbness/tingly feeling from the right side of my lip to my chin. At three months I had a misscarriage and lost a lot of blood over a couple weeks. I had to have surgery because of blood clots and a week later I ended up in hospital three times as I couldn?t feel my body, couldn?t breathe properly etc. I had a ecg, mri & tests and they said my iron was a little low but it?s normal and everything was fine. Over weeks I got worse and I ended up going to a naturopath who told me I was severely anemic! My doctor just said it was depression & anxiety and I need to be on meds which I refused. Straight away I started taking natural medications and eating very healthy. I?ve never had anxiety or panic attacks before and all of sudden I got them, I feel anxious a lot, I?ve been home bound for nearly three months and it?s killing me, I do feel a lot better than I did a month ago( when I started taking natural meds). I don?t feel well enough to go out properly though,
    Does anyone think that anxiety can happen when your anemic and then go once you?ve gotten ridden of the anemia?
    I don?t want to believe I?ve got anxiety when I never use to have it!
    I see my naturopath in two weeks again

    1. Jenny

      Hi, I?m curious if you are any better after supplementing? My ferritin was a 4 and I?ve supplemented for two months now. I cannot wait to take new labs. I h e all the same symptoms you have plus more. I do good until my period rolls around and all hell breaks loose again. My next step is a transfusion if my iron levels don?t raise. I?m VERY ready to be over this! Hopefully, you are. better!

    2. Imogen

      Are you better now? I’m not a doctor but I am anemic, premed & spent a lot of time reading. It sounds to me like a potentially dangerous situation – did you ever see the actual lab results? Make sure you get the numbers and look up the ranges yourself. I’ve had 3 doctors flippantly and irresponsibly told me I’m “barely out of standard range” and wave it off when I felt exactly the way you did. One issue with anemia that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is that it’s always just how far you are outside of standard range that generates these symptoms, but also how quickly you lose the blood. The same quantity of blood loss can kill a person in a day may not feel like much of anything if it’s lost gradually over time. On paper, you’ll be anemic, but the experience of symptoms can be much more vague.

      Please always get your records from doctors and don’t just take their word for it. You should look at them yourself and get second opinions whenever you feel they haven’t addressed your concerns.

      Lastly, I urge you to consult a hemotologist, draw new labs and – if this is IDA – undergo iron sucrose infusions if you have not already done so. Naturopaths may be good for some things and I understand your reluctance to submit to America’s lucrative & poorly regulated pharmacological fetish, but there is really no cure for iron deficiency anemia except 1) iron – intravenous or oral* or 2) blood transfusions (not recommended).

      *dietary iron is a bonus, but don’t count on the minute quantity you can consume daily under best case circumstances to heal you with due expediency. For one, unlike oral iron, it isn’t concentrated and secondly, unlike intravenous iron, it relies on inefficient absorption. While IDA is a common condition, it can be severe if not treated and potentially places a lot of strain on your heart.

  16. Kath Dominey Reply

    Hi, l have been on iron for a month and my doctor said my levels have gone up but still feel awful, please could you help with this… thankyou

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *