Is Anxiety Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D Supplements. Gel Capsules in Focus, Natural Sources of Vitamin D In Background

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Share with a friend!

Before we chat about this, please remember that I’m not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor before adding any supplements or medication to your daily regimen.

Let me give you a little background on my story…

I’m pretty sure my anxiety started as early as my senior year of high school, though I didn’t know it may be anxiety until it happened when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, 15 years ago. I wasn’t officially diagnosed with anxiety/panic disorder until I saw the third psychiatrist in 2018. At that time, I had been working from home for approximately 9 years and spent 90% of my days indoors, in my home. That’ll be important to remember later on in this post.

The more I spoke to doctors, the more I was convinced that my anxiety was either a result of a medical issue (a symptom vs. a condition) OR had to do with a hormone imbalance. My OBGYN brushed it off and didn’t seem to think that it was hormone related at all. But two different general physicians agreed with those theories, though both believed that either diabetes or a thyroid condition was likely the cause of my anxiety symptoms.

My personal experience with physicians hasn’t been the most positive. They tend to form an opinion when they speak to me about my symptoms. They come up with their diagnosis, test for only those things and give me hope that I don’t have to live with this disorder for my entire life. When the tests don’t confirm that their diagnosis was right, they don’t continue looking for the actual problem. They just send me on my way with my negative results in hand and no more answers than I had before I saw them. I believe this has a lot to do with the stigma attached to mental health issues.

It’s all in your head.

Sound familiar?

The last doctor I saw in 2017, seemed genuinely interested in helping me figure out what was wrong. She sat with me for over an hour and listened and told me she would do everything she could to get me back to my “normal” self. Like the first doctor, she tested for diabetes and thyroid issues. I waited for those test results (though I knew they had previously come back negative).

I waited. I left messages. I called daily. Weeks later, the doctor finally called me back and said that both tests were negative and the only thing that my blood test showed was a vitamin D deficiency, likely because I rarely left the house due to my anxiety and because I had been working from home for 8 years. She told me to pick up some supplements at the local pharmacy and have a nice day.

I was disappointed that this doctor, who seemed to really want to help me, had given up because her initial diagnosis was wrong. And as upset as I was, I took Vitamin D supplements (when I remembered to), though I never went back to see her again. In fact, I haven’t been to a general practitioner since. I just lost hope that I would find one who would actually help and without medical insurance, I was tired of paying out of pocket for nothing.

Fast forward to early November of 2019… one of my friends sent me the following message:

… A friend of mine posted about how she was feeling super anxious and depressed all of sudden starting last year. She always had mild anxiety but it started becoming way worse. She went to a wellness dr and her bloodwork showed low Vitamin D. She also changed her diet to a clean “anti-inflammatory” diet. She said she had never felt more mental clarity. The weird thing is that a couple of years ago my doctor told me to take Vitamin D because mine was borderline low. I did for awhile and then when the bottle was done I never replenished. Lately, like the last 8-12 months I’ve been super stressed and anxious. I haven’t done any research but worth looking into.

I never thought that my Vitamin D deficiency could be connected to my anxiety disorder. The doctor never specifically said that, so I assumed they were unrelated. But when I received that message, I realized that there were at least two other people with the same results and the same issues as me. I couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t a coincidence.

I started reaching out to people that I know, that suffer from anxiety and depression. One after another, most confirmed that they were told that they had a vitamin D deficiency by their doctors too. A total of 11 people that I personally know.  Imagine how many more are out there.

I reached out to a therapist (who also suffers from anxiety) and asked her if she had ever heard of a connection between a vitamin D deficiency and anxiety. Her response shocked me.

I have!! Actually I went to an integrative doctor who tested my blood for deficiencies and I was severely deficient in Vitamin D! I’ve been trying to do more research.

After 12 people confirmed this connection, I decided to put up a poll on Instagram, trying to find more.

results from an instagram poll whether or not people with anxiety also have a vitamin d deficiency

I reached out to the people I personally know that selected “no” and they all admitted that they hadn’t been to the doctor for bloodwork in a while, so they actually aren’t sure if they have a deficiency (though a few said they were going to check at their next appointment). It wouldn’t surprise me if many of them come back with results that confirm a vitamin D deficiency. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency.

1 billion.

For now, let’s focus on that 52% that tapped “yes”. 52% of the people that took the poll on my Instagram stories have:

  1. Had bloodwork taken within the last few years.
  2. Were told by a physician that they have a Vitamin D deficiency.
  3. Suffer from anxiety and/or depression.

THIS CAN’T BE A COINCIDENCE.

I started researching various articles on the connection between the two. I was shocked to see how many there are. I gathered as much as I could during my online research and here is what stood out:

Vitamin D plays an important role in mood regulation, as well as nerve and brain health.

  • A 2015 review study reports that people with symptoms of anxiety or depression had lower levels of calcidiol, a byproduct of vitamin D breakdown, in their bodies.
  • A 2017 study found that taking vitamin D supplements improved both depression and anxiety in women with type 2 diabetes.

The body makes vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. People can get more vitamin D by spending more time in the sun, eating foods rich in vitamin D or taking vitamin D supplements. But if we aren’t exposed to sunlight enough, because anxiety keeps us indoors, we very likely will have a Vitamin D deficiency.

People who live in the colder climate states, tend to report that their anxiety and/or depression is worse in the winter.  This is better known as SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder featuring symptoms of depression that occur during the dark times of the year when there is very little sunshine. Several studies have suggested that the symptoms of SAD may be due to a sudden drop in Vitamin D levels, which may affect serotonin levels in the brain.

Did you hear that? Vitamin D is connected to serotonin. The main purpose of SSRI’s (antidepressants) are to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.

So lack of vitamin D = less serotonin? Less serotonin = depression. Did I understand that correctly?

That’s not all.

Vitamin D is also the only vitamin that is a hormone. After it is consumed or absorbed in the skin, vitamin D is transported to the liver and kidneys where it is converted to its active hormone form. Earlier, I spoke about my anxiety possibly being a result of a hormone imbalance… it’s possible that it’s all connected.

Various studies confirm the link between low vitamin D and mental illness. These studies provide evidence that optimizing vitamin D levels may improve positive psychological well-being:

  1. A a Study in the Netherlands found that low levels of vitamin D correlated with symptoms of major and minor depression in 169 individuals ages 65 or older.
  2. An English study that included 2070 people age 65 and older concluded that vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression in northern countries, although major depression was only seen in individuals with the most severe deficiencies.
  3. In one study, adults with vitamin D deficiency who received high doses of the vitamin saw an improvement in their depressive symptoms after two months.
  4. A small study with nine women, all of whom were vitamin D deficient or insufficient, found that a daily dose of 5,000 IU of vitamin D significantly improved their depression symptoms.

What can you do?

I suggest that you get an annual checkup and bloodwork to make sure that your Vitamin D levels are where they need to be. Too much could also be harmful. So again, please consult a physician before adding Vitamin D supplements to your daily regimen. The good news is, fixing a Vitamin D deficiency is simple, easy and can have big benefits for your physical and mental health.

What’s my plan?

I’m going to be more consistent in taking my Vitamin D supplements daily. I’m scheduling an appointment with a new, local physician to get an updated blood test. I’m going to make more of an effort to feed my body what it needs to function both physically and mentally. Because even though I often find myself without hope that I’ll ever live an anxiety-free live, I am not giving up. And I can’t help but think that if I can just fix this deficiency, I can start to feel better again.

When I was diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency, I had no idea that it was related to my anxiety disorder. Turns out, they very well could be related. Here's what I've learned.

Share with a friend!

Image

Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

Leave a Reply


  1. This is quite a revelation! Thanks to you for doing the due diligence and brought this up in such detail. Now never going to miss my regular sit in the outdoors when is the sun is at its prime.

  2. I absolutely love EVERYTHING on your site, but thank you for sharing. I need to make sure Im getting bloodwork done for atleast once a year

  3. I never thought about the correlation. I’m glad you shared this, it really makes you think. I probably need to listen to what my body is telling me more often.

  4. This is really helpful. I will definitely share this with my friends. Thanks for this article.

  5. Everything in this physical world is connected. I call indoors the four walls, squares, boxes. Where in nature do we see squares? I say this to say not only is our diet linked to our mental health but our connection to nature which provides food for us and sustains us. Unpredictable circumstances, like anxiety, can make it very challenging to get out and soak up some sun for example. This is certainly a thought provoking discussion. I am happy you found some healing, Heather. All the best <3

  6. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. It is so frustrating when doctors do not listen to your concerns. I am pretty sure I have a Vitamin D deficiency based on all that you explained and the way my anxiety makes me feel.

  7. This is a very informative post Heather! Just this morning I was reading another article about types of issues lack of Vitamin D may be linked to.

  8. Before I made a habit of meditation, I was suffering from anxiety. I didn’t expect this info. Thank you for sharing this, truly. I‘ll research more about vitamin D..

  9. anxiety is a culprit, and to eliminate or avoid it, we must take care of ourselves. thanks for this information and highlighting the importance of vitamins to our body. 🙂
    Cha at Little MisadvenCHA

  10. This is good to know. I will have to discuss this with my doctor on my next visit. If my depression is caused by this vitamin deficiency, I would rather take that than a gazillion other pills.

  11. This is quite interesting and a wake call. My daughter has been suffering from anxiety since she was in elementary school. Every time she went for a check-up, the Vitamin D topic would come up.

  12. In Oregon you give it to babies from birth on and we take it daily. There’s just not enough sun here year round to get enough. Even if we do go outside. I’m sorry it took so long to diagnose.

  13. Oh I totally agree with this! I live in a colder climate that doesn’t have much sun and this makes me wonder. I should definitely get my vitamin levels checked out.

  14. That is some pretty great information. Anxiety can take effect on anyone it would seem.

  15. I absolutely believe that a Vitamin D deficiency can effect our mood…any vitamin deficiency will effect us. Such a great read and important reminder to get out for some sunshine and make sure we’re getting proper nutrients.

  16. i’m sorry you’ve had tough experiences w/ doctors. i have too. they often lump you in a category like fibromyalgia. thankfully i have found great doctors since. and i hadn’t put two and two together but i stopped needing my therapist after i found these other doctors. 🙂

  17. It sure could be. I don’t go a day without taking my Vitamin D3. I’ll almost swear to it, it’s made me a better person since I started taking it over 3 years ago.

  18. I have heard there may be a correlation between anxiety and depression before and it makes sense- vitamin D does a lot of work for the body. I bet it is just nice to have a plan that may actually resolve your anxiety.

  19. I certainly think you are onto something. I can definitely attest that being in a cooler climate with shorter days and spending more time inside gives me more anxiety. Great read!

  20. Just shared this with my mom who will find it really useful. Thank you so much for this

  21. I never thought about this actually. My friends has their own 2 cents regarding the matter. Vitamin D is absolutely important.

  22. Vitamin D deficiency is a serious concern. Glad that you could figure out your problem and are taking steps to make it better!

  23. Anxiety linked to vitamin D deficiency? I admit that I did not know this connection, but I am always open and interested in finding out more. Health is an important thing.

  24. Now I learn so much from your post. I didnt take vitamin D but try to stay under the sun during the morning.

  25. That is an interesting point. I have a deficient in Vitamin D and anxiety. I should look more into this.

  26. Wow,that’s a very informative post,I could’nt really imagine how that was connected but I believe it,as well as having hyperthyroidism can be due to lack of iodine. Thanks! I guess I have to add Vitamin D to my daily supplements.

  27. I take Vitamin D daily and it does help. I spend a lot of time indoors as well and don’t get enough exposure to natural Vitamin D.

  28. I’ve heard that a Vitamin D deficiency can screw up a lot of stuff. I believe it can be linked to anxiety, makes perfect sense to me. That’s why I use my light therapy in the winter season here in NH.

  29. Heather,
    I am so happy you dug deep and deeper to get to the root, though it took you years.
    I really can associate with your work you had to do to discover, to find, to pinpoint to the problem’s root.
    Hugs, my awesome Hero. Love the post and the info that will help someone else out there looking for answers.

  30. I found myself on a similar boat years ago with our firstborn. I wasn’t taking in the right vitamins and felt my body go through some changes. Since then, I’ve been on top of my vitamin intake.

  31. I actually have a referral for labs sitting on my kitchen counter. I am curious to see if I have a Vitamin D deficiency. My anxiety has been so bad lately.

    1. Post
      Author
  32. I have been reading a lot about supplements lately. I just started taking some D and B vitamins and have noticed an increase in energy so far.

  33. I do believe there is a link. We need the sun’s vitamin D so when we can’t be outside we need to make sure we supplement.

    1. Post
      Author
  34. Oh wow! I had no idea that vitamin deficiency of any kind could contribute to anxiety. I think this is going to help a lot of people.

  35. I would have never made a connection between anxiety and vitamin D deficiency. I emailed your post to a family member who suffers from anxiety.

  36. This is a fascinating article, I deal with this myself sometimes and have wondered what I can do to help improve my mood. I know I get low on iron sometimes but never thought about Vitamin D, I will have to work some into my diet and see if things chance. Thanks for writing this up.

  37. I don’t suffer from anxiety, but I do know that when my Vitamin D levels are low, I struggle in a lot of areas of my life. I’m super proactive about taking Vitamin D and spending time outdoors every day. It makes a huge difference! I’m glad you’re finding answers!

  38. Very interesting post on vitamin D deficiencies and links to anxiety. Thanks for sharing! I try to keep up with my vitamins.

  39. This is my first time hearing this. It’s amazing how many disorders can be linked to a nutritional cause.

  40. I believe it. I also have seen friends who are vitamin D deficient become depressed. It is amazing what the sunshine vitamin can do. I also hope that your post give more people a better understanding of their bodies. Thanks for sharing.