Anxiety Caused by Low Cortisol

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I often suffer from low cortisol and this results in anxiety! 

Well, I wasn’t going to write anything today but here I am at 2.30 in the morning unable to sleep and suffering from what I can only call severe anxiety. 

Why do I feel this way? I really don’t know but I do think it has a lot to do with my serious illness Adrenal Insufficiency. 

When my health goes downhill more than the usual (unwell me) I begin to feel extra anxious. It makes complete sense, to be honest. Adrenal Insufficiency is when the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough cortisol for the body to cope with stress. 

This can be any form of stress from emotional stress, good and bad, to physical stress. Walking up the stairs, falling over, feeling pain, hearing a sudden unexpected bang, or having a virus are all reasons, the body may require extra cortisol.

When you don’t get enough cortisol in the first place and are trying to replace what you need from hour to hour and day to day, it can cause great stress on the body. 

I am unwell every day. This is my life, however some days are a little better and some days a lot worse. I struggled with tooth problems, pains and infections for the past year and that has resulted in needing more steroid coverage each day to manage low cortisol symptoms. 


Symptoms of Low Cortisol

There are lots of symptoms of low cortisol. However for me it is very specific. My first symptoms are a feeling of anxiety! I feel confused, unable to think straight, to focus and concentrate. The anxious feelings and worry are difficult to recognise in the moment. I’ll find myself telling my husband, “there’s something wrong with me”, and ask him “what’s wrong”. I struggle to work it out and John will help me to be still and think. 

Usually we have a process. We check my adrenal pump for leaks. I need to make sure my medication is being received into my body. If that is okay, we check my skin for infections. 

When I get a fungal infection or a bacterial infection, I will become so so unwell. I won’t be able to walk. My blood pressure will drop, I will become incontinent, suffer stabbing pains throughout my body and have diaorreah. My arms and legs feel dead and I struggle to lift my body. (Luckily I can type laying down and I don’t have to lift my limbs.)

These are typical symptoms of low cortisol and whilst they don’t put me into hospital (due to increasing my dose via my adrenal pump), these symptoms keep me bed bound, sofa bound or house bound and I am very sick and unwell. 

My Adrenal Crisis Symptoms

The next stage and the stage I used to get to before my adrenal pump was the vomiting and diaorreah and that would lead to hospital admissions and adrenal crisis which can lead to death. 

Back when I was on steroid tablets, I would need an emergency dose of medication but the tablet would take an hour to take kick in. That would result in my health getting so bad, I’d head into the start of a crisis. I’d be rushed to hospital and it would take days to recover. 

The alternative to a tablet is an emergency injection, however they come in 100mg doses. If you have to have one, then you need to go to hospital to be monitored and for me, I never needed that amount so I would go from one extreme to the other, from low in cortisol to being wired and unable to sleep.

My body would feel like a wreck and I’d still be in pain and suffering and need to be in hospital but the doctors would only see that my blood pressure was back to normal and would not understand what I had been through or was going through,. 

Life With Adrenal Insufficiency Every Day

So now I have an adrenal pump and I can stop my symptoms from worsening suddenly by giving myself an emergency bolus of medication and increasing my daily dose for as long as I need. 

This stops me going into hospital, and allows me to recover in my own bed at home. The worry I have however is that my symptoms and health issues are so private at home, that my GP and the endocrine team assume all is okay. It is not. I am often unwell. I have a low immune system and always have a virus or infection or tooth pain. 

I usually have something going on with my adrenal insufficiency most days. When I have no major issue, I may get a period which has the same effect or something else will happen to make my cortisol levels go cray-cray. 

The reality is I am managing my health condition at home but I am very unwell. 

Having Anxiety Is No Fun

Whilst I try to deal with the day to day suffering which I experience, I often worry and become anxious. I know the anxious mind is a symptom of the body being stressed. It’s part and parcel of being someone with Adrenal Insufficiency and when I find myself this unwell, my husband helps me to work out what’s causing my low cortisol symptoms. 

Tonight it is stabbing pains in my body. This is one of my symptoms of not enough hydrocortisone in the body and so I have taken extra, yet I am now wired and unable to sleep which adds to the feelings of anxiety.

I got my first tummy infection in 4 months. I was using a protective blend of essential oils on my tummy to help prevent infections and I got a little slack and before I knew it, I have developed a new infection. These kind of infections are gross and can take one or two weeks to clear. 

In the meantime I am wiped out and suffering all sorts of symptoms. 

Stabbing Pains in My Body

The worst symptoms I am suffering at the moment is stabbing pains in the body. It’s hard to deal with and makes me feel awful. Being in pain is no fun and again it adds to my stress levels. It was my daughter’s birthday yesterday and I did what I could but I needed to sleep all day before she came home from school and then went back to bed at 6.30pm. 

I managed to be awake for a whole 3 hours. That is crazy but that is how tired and exhausted I was. Yet, I am now awake at a silly time. I will go back to sleep soon, once my pain medication kicks in.

However, I am feeling stressed I am anxious and my mind then wonders and worries about so much including earning a living, writing a blog, having enough money to cover daily expenses and all the worries of a mother with a tween and too many issues to deal with. 

I am stressed and writing this down is my therapy and stress relief. I hope it helps me in some way. 


About Angela Milnes

Angela Milnes is a Qualified Early Years Teacher who has specialised in Preschool and Kindergarten teaching. She has a wealth of experience teaching young children and is passionate about kids crafts and having fun as a family. Angela has also taught cooking skills and loves to share both family recipes and easy instant pot recipes here on The Inspiration Edit. Follow her on Pinterest!

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One Comment

  1. Sorry to hear about the anxiety Angela I am in exactly the same boat. Before Addison’s diagnosis I suffered for years from anxiety and panic attacks, now that I can increase hc a little it does help. I was bedbound for 4 years on too low a dose, I was never offered the pump. I think maybe I am on a little too much as I found using 6mg Prednisolone made me feel stronger than the hc but it does make you swell up more. god bless you and hope the anxiety passes. I am soft and use 5mg of hc in 20 min increments till the anxiety abates.
    Also I am very jumpy, if there is a noise I am out of my skin ! Also get quite bad tempered and tearful with this disease do you?

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