With the season of common colds and flus fast approaching, you’re likely thinking about getting a flu shot. However, there have been various reports and blog posts showing a link between the flu shot and an increase in anxiety and depression. Now, if you’ve already been pricked with this vaccination, there’s no need to panic. Pardon the pun. If the flu shot has never caused your anxiety or depression to worsen before, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you recently got the flu shot for the first time, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to have an increase in anxiety and depression. The flu shot and anxiety connection is there but don’t let it freak you out if you already had the shot. There are some things you should know before panicking and/or choosing the flu shot.
Recurrence of Panic Attacks after Influenza Vaccination
One of the most interesting studies I came across that linked the flu shot and anxiety together was conducted by Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci in November of 2016. The researchers tested in South Korea, so I’m not sure that the findings relate to the entire world. However, the annual flu shot has been reported to generally be the same across the globe. That’s also not to mention that the flu shot does change each year, so it could be different for 2017.
The Increased Panic Attacks
The researchers, who run an outpatient clinic, came across two people who experienced increased anxiety with the flu shot. The first patient was a woman in her 50’s who has had panic disorder since 2004. She was on anti-anxiety medications for years and never had a problem. However, in 2014, her anxiety symptoms (feelings of choking, palpitations, chest tightness and tingling sensations) were aggravated just days after receiving the flu shot.
A man in his 40’s was the second patient who experienced worsening anxiety after receiving the flu shot. He was diagnosed with panic disorder in April 2014 and was receiving treatment that alleviated his symptoms. However, come November, he was experiencing an increase in anxiety symptoms directly after he received the flu shot.
Two cases. Just two cases. The link between flu vaccination anxiety is barely there.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization also reported on the flu shot and anxiety, stating that clusters of anxiety-related reactions have followed the flu vaccination in several countries.
Interestingly, they also found that several different vaccinations have been linked to an increase in anxiety, such as:
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Tatanus vaccine
- Oral Cholera vaccine
- HPV vaccine
- H1N1 influenza vaccine
Now, I’m not going to get into the debate as to whether people should be vaccinated or not. That’s a personal choice and perspective. However, studies have shown anxiety to increase after different types of vaccinations. Although, one must consider how many people didn’t experience any reaction to the flu shot or other vaccinations.
The Real Cause of Anxiety Increased
Another interesting thing about the report is that is suggests the severe anxiety reactions post-vaccinations is actually the result of the stigma, and not the vaccinations.
There’s only a handful of reports in the entire world that showed an increase in anxiety after vaccinations, and not just the flu shot. So, the risk is pretty close to being non-existent.
Calm Clinic Findings
Calm Clinic brings a different approach to the topic of the flu shot and anxiety. In fact, it states that anxiety can be increased by the flu virus, as opposed to the shot itself. So, this basically says that the sickness can make anxiety worsen but that it can’t cause anxiety.
As for the flu shot and anxiety, there’s no mention of that.
The flu shot doesn’t cause anxiety and the flu doesn’t cause anxiety. However, if you have anxiety, you can feel worse if you get the sickness. Thus, one may argue that this is a reason to get the flu vaccination.
Threads of Anxiety and the Flu Vaccination
There are also various threads online of people sharing their experience with the flu shot and anxiety. However, it’s important to keep in mind that anyone can write anything on the internet. If your mind is vulnerable, you’re likely better off not reading these threads as they aren’t necessarily reliable sources.
Final Thoughts on The Flu Shot and Anxiety
My final thoughts on the flu shot and anxiety? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yes, there are reports showing an increase in panic disorder but only for a handful of people in the entire world.
No Proof Showing The Vaccination Caused the Anxiety Increase
That’s also not to mention that there’s no way to prove the flu vaccination even caused the anxiety to increase. There are several other factors that may have contributed, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, personal issues, etc.
Consider Your Personal Mental Health
Due to the information I found regarding the flu shot and anxiety, the almost non-existent risk shouldn’t be a reason to avoid the flu vaccination if you want to get it. However, it’s also important to consider your own mental health. If your mind is going to take this information and convince your body to experience a reaction, the flu shot probably isn’t a great option for you.
On the contrary, if you’re going to take this information with a grain of salt (and your anxious mind will do the same), the choice is up to you.
At the end of the day, the flu shot and anxiety really has no connection. It comes down to your personal mental health and panic disorder; the flu shot has little to do with it.
Instead of worrying about the vaccination, I recommend focusing on things to improve your anxiety. Get out and try something new this winter season; find something to be happy and excited about; exercise and eat well. These are the things that truly matter. Focus on what’s going to make you better.