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How Does Anemia Affect Mental Health?

By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriter
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Different medical conditions, including anemia, can affect mental health. Anemia is characterized as a health condition involving a deficiency in hemoglobin, which helps red blood cells carry oxygen, according to an article on

Many women know how it can feel to lose too much blood during their menstrual cycles. Iron deficiency can be caused by heavier periods, and this can lead to anemia in some cases, according to an article on This type of anemia is referred to as iron deficiency anemia.

General mental health symptoms of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, headaches, difficulty thinking and concentrating, according to an article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website.

Nzinga Harrison, a board-certified physician who specializes in general psychiatry and addiction, said in an email that anemia can have comparable symptoms to some mental health disorders.

“Anemia is one of the most prevalent illnesses in America that has mental health symptoms,” Harrison said. “The most common symptoms are fatigue, loss of energy, difficulty sleeping, heart racing and light headedness. When you compare those to the symptoms we use to diagnose depression, you can see the overlap: loss of energy, fatigue, difficulty sleeping.”

Anemia and anxiety can share some similar symptoms as well.

“The racing heart symptoms and light-headedness can sometimes be indistinguishable from the anxiety symptoms associated with panic attacks,” Harrison said. “So overlapping are the symptoms of anemia and depression, that psychiatrists will routinely check a CBC (complete blood count) to rule out anemia as a cause of depression or anxiety in women (the group that has the highest prevalence of anemia).”

Anemia can even impede the recovery process for people who formerly abused drugs and alcohol.

“While it is widely appreciated by psychiatrists that anemia can contribute to depressive and anxious symptoms, it is dramatically underappreciated that anemia can put individuals who are in recovery from drugs and alcohol at risk for relapse,” Harrison said.

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EmpowHER Guest

Light bulb moment, I have suffered depression and anxiety since my first baby was born 27 years ago and have taken antidepressants since (26) years I have always been pale and hemorrhage with my last 2 baby's I was given iron injections and felt amazing for the past 2-3 years the anti depressants stopped working and after 3 different trials of ADs nothing helped I couldn't get out of bed I was suffering anxiety finally I went to a government funded psychiatrist twice I came away feeling more crazy than ever I booked into a private psych and she asked my GP for full bloo d tests guess what, GP tells me I'm severely anaemic . Finally I have an answer and will be going on a course of iron injections this week, finger s crossed for me xx

January 28, 2015 - 12:11pm

Very interesting article .Anemia is what I live with and all thoses symptoms is what I have I use to take Slow K medicine tablets but stop taking it,for whatever reason I can't remember but I know for sure that I felt much healthier when I took Slow K.I think with perimenopausal symptoms it could help a great deal because I am really going through a tough spell right now.

August 6, 2011 - 2:08pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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