Here’s How Sugar Makes Your Anxiety Worse

We’ve all heard that misery loves company, and apparently, anxiety loves sugar. While sugar often earns a bad rep for the harmful effects it can have on our bodies physically, it turns out that too much of the sweet stuff actually wreaks havoc on our mental states, as well.

If you are someone who suffers from anxiety, eating too much processed sugar could be exacerbating your symptoms. Here’s the scoop.

Dropped Ice Cream Cone on the ground with text overlay that says: "How Sugar Makes Your Anxiety Worse"

How much sugar is too much?

Sugar is tricky, because it lurks in many of the foods you buy at the grocery store without clearly announcing its presence. The truth is, sugar masquerades under many different names (such as molasses, corn syrup, maltose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, syrup and more), so you might be consuming added sugars without even knowing it.

According to the American Heart Association, American women should aim to eat no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day, while American men should aim to eat no more than nine teaspoons—about 100 and 150 calories per day, respectively. However, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

man eating sugary treats while woman looks at him judgementally

The link between sugar and anxiety

When we eat sugar, the dopamine receptors in our brains light up like a sky full of fireworks, and we feel bursts of pleasure and contentment. That’s why that first bite of a chocolate bar feels so rewarding and satisfying.

Unfortunately, those calming and soothing feelings are somewhat of a fallacy. The momentary high you feel from eating sugar is quickly followed by what is commonly referred to as a “sugar crash.”

man sitting, wearing yellow T-shirt while eating a tasty vanilla ice cream outdoors in the park, in a warm day of summer (Funny attractive young man sitting, wearing yellow T-shirt while eating a tasty vanilla ice cream outdoors

What is a sugar crash?

After you consume processed sugar, your body goes into overdrive and releases insulin in order to help absorb all the excess glucose running through your system and re-stabilize your blood sugar levels. The amount of work it takes for your body to do this is pretty significant—which is why you’re left feeling sort of cranky, deplete, and even nervous for no apparent reason.

Too much sugar can lead to brain fog or feelings of fatigue, which in turn can impair your body’s ability to cope with stress. If you’re an individual who suffers from feelings of anxiety, too much sugar can therefore make you feel panicked, worried or fearful.

In other words, sugar could be fueling your negative feelings, rather than abating them.

Young woman with sensitive teeth and cold ice cream on color background

Will eliminating sugar cure anxiety?

Cutting sugar out of your diet will not magically cure anxiety or panic disorders. You should seek help from a therapist or support group for severe anxiety.

What it can do is help you mitigate your symptoms and even minimize them in certain situations. Understanding the link between processed sugar and anxiety gives you more tools in your arsenal to proactively combat triggers in your day-to-day life.

If you’re interested in minimizing your processed sugar intake and monitoring how you feel, you could try eating a diet that is designed to keep your blood sugar levels stable, and track how anxious you feel. Check out this list of different foods that you can eat to lower your blood sugar.

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64 comments

Pietro Maiorana
Pietro M3 days ago

Abbasso lo zucchero :(

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Chad A
Chad A4 days ago

Thank you.

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Judith Hannah
Judith Hannah5 days ago

Thankyou

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Peggy B
Peggy B15 days ago

Spam flagged.

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Peggy B
Peggy B15 days ago

Noted

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Sandra V
Sandra V18 days ago

Thanks

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Sandra V
Sandra V18 days ago

Thanks

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Amparo Fabiana C
Amparo Fabiana C28 days ago

Still working on my weekly ice cream, difficult to leave my weekly. Chocolat, but I used stevia on my coffee. No more cakes or pastry. That chocolate ice cream though.

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Linda Wallace
Linda Wallace29 days ago

Thank you

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn P29 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

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