Can Anemia Affect Your Emotions?

· April 8, 2017
Anemia doesn't just affect your energy levels. It also can affect your emotions and relationships. Learn how this condition affects your emotions in this article!

When you’re sick, your symptoms can affect your mood and how you interact with the people around you. When it comes to anemia, there are psychological consequences that can change your day-to-day life. Today, we’d like to take a look at them in this article by asking: can anemia affect your emotions?

What is anemia and why does it manifest?

Before talking about anemia’s emotional effects, it’s a good idea to learn a bit about what it is. Basically, anemia is a condition that stems from a lack of iron in your body. The medical definition of the condition is: “a low concentration of hemoglobin in the blood”.

Detecting it requires a blood test. Laboratory analyses can also show other changes in your blood flow, such as lower amounts of red blood cells or reduced hematocrit levels. However, there are other clear signs that can help you detect it.

Anemia isn’t a disease, it’s a condition or deficiency.

A lack of iron can cause iron-deficiency anemia. This type is often an effect of gastrointestinal conditions or blood loss (for example, from an accident or very heavy menstrual periods).

When you’re anemic, you’re low on energy

Anemic woman yawning.

Fatigue is one of the clearest indicators that point to a lack of iron in your bloodstream. However, the apathy goes further than just wanting to stay in bed on a rainy day or having trouble getting up with your alarm.

People who suffer from this condition are often unable do an activity without working themselves up to it. They sometimes even lack the strength to carry out daily tasks. If this is you, you might have succumbed. How else can anemia affect your emotions?

Check out another article: Things to Keep in Mind to Increase Your Energy Every Day

Other signs of anemia are:

  • A pale face
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Nails that break easily

Some people also use a technique to determine if they have low red blood cells levels: lifting up the bottom eyelid and looking at the inside surface. If it’s very white, it means you probably have anemia. Of course, this isn’t scientific, but it can be pretty accurate.

Some consequences of being anemic are neurological disorders such as changes in your vision or headaches, vertigo, insomnia, and irregular menstrual periods.

How can anemia affect your emotions?

Can anemia affect your emotions

Lack of iron obviously has consequences for your physical health, but this condition may also cause emotional or psychological problems.

Feeling unwell can make you feel bad about yourself and the people around you. In addition, anemia can also lead to indecisiveness and feeling unsure about what you want in life.

As if that weren’t enough, you may also feel like there’s no motivation or challenge great enough to get you out of bed.

You don’t feel like doing anything, but you don’t have any other symptoms that point to a particular health problem. Often, you just “don’t feel like” moving.

You may not even be able to identify why you’re like this. Consequently, this may put you in a bad mood. It can also lead to frustration with yourself for never being up for anything.

Discouragement and apathy are two direct consequences of anemia. This, without a doubt, affects all areas of your life.

Maybe what up you used to love doing is now twice as hard. Perhaps what used to “kept you grounded” now just feels like a burden or obligation. So how else can anemia affect your emotions?

Anemia and work problems

Everyone sometimes has trouble getting up early, getting their work done, and dealing with their boss. However, for people with iron deficiency, this becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Irritability, trouble concentrating on your job, and issues communicating or being proactive are all warning signs you shouldn’t ignore.

For example, you might get distracted easily, not be able to find a word or do easy math in your head, or forget what you were about to do. All of these may be related to the lack of energy associated with anemia.

Read this, too: 9 Easy Solutions for Anemia

How anemia affects your personal life

A sad anemic woman.

A lack of iron doesn’t just go away when your workday is over. Oftentimes, the situation just feels worse at home.

Cleaning, making dinner, exercising, family get-togethers, classes… it may all seem too much to juggle.

It gets harder and harder to find enough motivation to get off the couch or out of bed on the weekends, even if the sun is shining outside and you have an interesting day ahead of you.

If you’re a family member of someone with these symptoms, your first step is to insist that they get a medical exam to diagnose their condition. 

Meanwhile, you can help them start with little things that will give them energy: a light walk in the park, a little music, a dessert, fruits and vegetables that are rich in iron, etc.

These things will revive their energy and make them feel able to enjoy what’s around them. Can anemia affect your emotions? No more than if you let it.

  • Kim, J., & Wessling-Resnick, M. (2014). Iron and mechanisms of emotional behavior. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.07.003
  • Chen, M. H., Su, T. P., Chen, Y. S., Hsu, J. W., Huang, K. L., Chang, W. H., … Bai, Y. M. (2013). Association between psychiatric disorders and iron deficiency anemia among children and adolescents: A nationwide population-based study. BMC Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-13-161
  • Jáuregui-Lobera, I. (2014). Iron deficiency and cognitive functions. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S72491
  • Beard, J. L., Hendricks, M. K., Perez, E. M., Murray-Kolb, L. E., Berg, A., Vernon-Feagans, L., … Tomlinson, M. (2005). Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition. The Journal of Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/135.2.267