Dehydration happens when you don’t take in enough fluids. It can affect how your body functions. In severe cases, it can also affect your mental and emotional health, causing feelings of stress and anxiety.

Read on to learn more about the effects of dehydration and what you can do to prevent it.

Symptoms of dehydration 

When you think of dehydration, the first symptom that may come to mind is thirst. However, thirst isn’t the best early indicator of your body’s need for fluids. In fact, by the time you start to feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.

Dehydration symptoms vary by age. Common symptoms for children include:

  • Irritability
  • No tears when crying
  • No wet diapers for 3 hours or more
  • Dry mouth
  • Sunken eyes and cheeks

Symptoms commonly seen in adults include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Extreme thirst
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dark-colored urine

Can dehydration cause anxiety? 

A 2009 study at Tufts University found that inadequate hydration can negatively affect mood.

In the study, researchers looked at the effects of mild dehydration on college athletes doing intense aerobic activity. Results showed that active college athletes were more likely to experience fatigue, confusion, tension, and anger than those who were fully hydrated and engaging in similar activities.

Additionally, dehydration stresses the body, lowering blood pressure and making your heart beat faster. It can make you feel dizzy and lightheaded, which may mimic symptoms of anxiety.

If you start to feel anxious or experience other mood changes, try drinking water. If that doesn’t help, you may want to explore other causes.

Other causes of anxiety

Though dehydration may be linked to anxiety, there are a number of other potential causes of anxiety, including: 

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Caffeine
  • Negative thinking
  • Crowded spaces
  • Conflict or stress
  • Health issues

Figuring out what’s making you feel anxious can be challenging, but understanding your triggers can help you cope. If you believe you may have an anxiety disorder, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider or a mental health professional.

How much water should I drink? | Prevention

The best way to prevent anxiety caused by dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Daily intake recommendations vary from one person to the next, depending on:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Activity level
  • Overall health 

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the recommended water intake per day is:  

  • 3.7 liters for men
  • 2.7 liters for women

If drinking plain water doesn’t appeal to you, consider adding lemon, lime, or another fruit for some natural flavor. Sparkling water, caffeine-free tea, and milk are also good options.

Takeaway  

Proper hydration is essential for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Dehydration can sometimes cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and fatigue. To avoid dehydration, be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day.

If you’re feeling anxious and think you might be dehydrated, try drinking some water. If your symptoms worsen, there may be another reason behind your anxiety.