Hypermobility can make you Anxious!

A few weeks back, I was listening to the BBC Radio Four programme “All in the Mind”. The program included a curious piece on Hypermobility – the ability to bend your joints or fingers much further than normal – what we sometimes call being “double-jointed”.

Yet it tuned out that people who are Hypermobile are seven times more likely to experience anxiety or panic attack then the average!

You can listen the programme here – https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000q8z7 the item on Hypermobility can be heard from 17:30.

So why are some people hypermobile… and what has this got to do with anxiety?

Well, it turns out that folk who are hypermobile have connective tissue is more stretchy than normal.  Connective tissue is what binds a person together… quite literally.  This stretchiness is caused by a variation on the Collagen within the body.

I found a piece in Scientific American which provides a possible link to anxiety (here):

Joint hypermobility may be associated with an exaggerated fight-or-flight reaction. Jessica Eccles, a psychiatrist and researcher at the University of Sussex, and her colleagues uncovered a simple yet powerful mechanism behind the link: the collagen abnormalities that make joints especially flexible seem to affect blood vessels, making patients prone to an accumulation of blood in the veins of the legs. This pooling may lead to exaggerated cardiovascular responses to maintain the output of blood from the heart. When the heart has to work extra hard just to circulate blood, it brings the entire body to the verge of a fight-or-flight reaction, requiring very little to set off panic.

Eccles hypothesizes that these patients might benefit in particular from beta blockers, drugs that ease anxiety by reducing symptoms of the body’s fight-or-flight response.

It’s as if Hypermobile people become prone to frequent “apparent fight or flight sensations” and that this increases levels of anxiety.

So, what’s the takeway here?  Well, if you are hypermobile then be aware that you are more prone the feeling anxious, and that such feelings are completely normal for those with this condition.  You might also consider building up your resilience through mindfulness practice – so that you are able to observe such emotions and allow them to dilute rather than responding to them with panic or anxiety.