Can anxiety cause your pupils to dilate?

by Rene Julyan phd

Anxiety is not a pleasant condition to have to live with and most of us will not wish our worst enemies to suffer from anxiety. One of the main responses of our bodies to anxiety is the “fight or flight” response which results in vast amounts of stress hormones being released into our blood stream. On of these stress hormones are adrenaline and adrenaline can cause your pupils to dilate.

Can anxiety cause your pupils to dilateThe purpose of adrenaline is to prepare your body to either fight or run from whatever it is that is threatening you. When your body produces adrenaline your heart pumps faster to supply your muscles with more blood, you begin to hyperventilate so that your muscles may receive more oxygen and your pupils dilate to allow more light into your eyes probably so that you can better see how to fight or where to run too.

Even though our body has a very clever mechanism to protect us from danger, this mechanism can get out of control which is exactly what happens with anxiety disorder. Despite the fact that you are normally not aware of any specific threat your mind, emotions and body reacts as if you are indeed threatened. When you are experiencing an anxiety attack these affects are at their worst. Knowing that you may look odd to the people seeing you with your sweaty skin, rapid breathing and dilated pupils will surely make you feel even more insecure and elevate your anxiety levels. If you consider the fact that dilated pupils are a symptom of drug abuse too it may further aggravate your anxiety out of fear that people will think you are doing drugs.

As you can see it is clearly a vicious cycle, and even if it may seem as if there is no way out, you should know that anxiety does not have to be a permanent characteristic of your life. Acknowledge that you suffer from anxiety and then from this starting point start taking small steps towards a complete recovery, even if it may take time and effort.

You can start by trying to control your breathing during an anxiety attack. Focus on taking long, deep breaths. This will help your muscles to relax and take your focus off of the approaching anxiety attack. If you are aware of the fact that your body produces too much adrenaline during an anxiety attack, steer clear of caffeine. Caffeine further boosts your adrenaline levels and can increase your risk of staring at people with dilated pupils and consequently becoming more anxious about it. For in case you did not know, coffee is not the only caffeine containing beverage. Tea and many other beverages also contain caffeine. By limiting your intake of these you can lower your adrenaline levels naturally.

As you can see it may take some sacrifice on your part to overcome your anxiety, but it is possible to win your battle against anxiety.

References:

Misselhorn Claudia. “Caffeine. How much is too much?” Dieticians at work. 2011. Dieticiansatwork.co.za (October 9, 2012). http://www.dieticiansatwork.co.za/articles/caffeine.htm

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