In the middle of the brain, there is a small pine-cone shaped gland that researchers think affect certain hormones in the body.
The pineal gland is prone to cysts, which are typically asymptomatic. These cysts do not usually cause problems, but they can cause specific symptoms that interfere with daily life.
However, can pineal cysts cause anxiety?
If your doctor finds a pineal cyst, they may run other tests to ensure that it is not a tumor. Pineal tumors have vastly different treatment than cysts since they are not benign. The usual treatment for these cysts is no treatment at all.
While they are benign, pineal cysts can cause side effects. These symptoms are commonly mistaken for other conditions. Headaches, disruption in vision, and eye movement issues are just a few of these symptoms.
What is a Pineal Cyst?
To fully understand what a pineal cyst is, you must first be familiar with the pineal gland function.
This fingertip-sized gland lives deep in the brain's center. The purpose of this gland, however, is mostly unknown.
What is known about the pineal gland is that it plays a role in the regulation of some hormones. This pea-shaped secretory organ is best known for its relationship with melatonin. It can also affect menstrual cycles and fertility.
Melatonin plays a crucial role in sleep cycles and may even protect the heart from hypertension and atherosclerosis. The size of the pineal can indicate someone's risk for certain disorders that affect moods. One study found that there may be a higher risk of schizophrenia in those with pineal gland volume on the lower side.
More research on the pineal gland is necessary to understand its actual function. However, what we do know shows some insight into how it affects the rest of the body. This information is only a small part of the bigger picture of the pineal gland's purpose.
The cause of pineal cysts is unknown. Some theories hypothesize that hormonal changes have something to do with them, especially in younger women. Pineal cysts in women tend to fluctuate in size, but in men, they mostly stay stable.
How Pineal Cysts Affect Mental Health
The bigger the pineal cyst, the more likely it is to have symptoms. Larger cysts can cause symptoms that affect daily life for some people. From headaches to seizures, the symptoms you may experience depend on the size of the cyst.
Symptoms of Pineal Cysts:
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Memory loss
- Mood or personality changes
- Vision impairment
Researchers do not fully understand the ways pineal cysts affect your mental health, but the correlation is clear. The mood or personality changes that occur differ from person to person. Some can experience depression or anxiety, while others can be more susceptible to conditions like schizophrenia.
Melatonin plays a crucial role in mental health. Since the pineal gland deals primarily with melatonin, many issues can turn into problems with circadian rhythm. When the circadian rhythm is out of whack, it can cause issues with mental health.
So Can Pineal Cysts Cause Anxiety?
The answer: Somewhat.
They have the potential to lead to anxiety, along with other ailments such as depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.
Even though this is the case, it can take a long time to get to the point of diagnosis since it is not at the forefront of most doctors’ minds. When they consider mental health conditions, there are usually many more reasons they will defer to first.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is hard to diagnose a pineal cyst simply because they share signs with a multitude of other conditions. Several different tests need to happen before concluding that it is related to this gland. Accurate diagnoses will take time and may require MRIs, CT scans, biopsies, PET scans, or neurological exams of vision, muscle strength, the eyes, and reflexes.
A diagnosis of a tumor or cyst in the pineal gland may be overwhelming. Treatment depends on the individual case, and your doctor will consider the factors specific to your situation. It also depends on the size of the cyst.
Smaller pineal cysts commonly do not usually need any treatment and may even shrink on their own. Other cases may require radiation or surgery. Very few require surgery, however.
Doctors hypothesize that since women are more frequently affected by pineal cysts; hormonal changes play a significant role in how they form. The fact that pineal cysts in men mostly remain stable reinforces this theory.
Other treatment may include lifestyle changes such as trying to get a better night's sleep. You can achieve this by going to sleep earlier and getting the right amount of exercise no less than a few hours before bedtime. Other ways are to try yoga or journaling. Quitting smoking is useful, as well.
Another possible treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Your doctor can recommend a therapist who can get you started. The therapist may also assess your sleep to ensure there is not anything else causing complications.
There is not enough research on pineal glands to be sure of their exact function. What we do know, however, is that they play a role in melatonin production. This role suggests that the presence of a cyst on this gland also affects its function.
Symptoms of pineal cysts are commonly mistaken for other conditions. Because they share traits with these other conditions, misdiagnosis is likely. Pineal cysts are benign, so even if you have one, there is not much to worry about.
Pineal cysts have the potential to affect your mental health—the changes in melatonin production cause these effects. The domino effect of melatonin messing with your sleep cycle eventually causes complications with your brain chemistry. This is why we still ask the important question: can pineal cysts cause anxiety?
Even though these changes are mild, they can still cause problems in your daily life. Treatment for the anxiety or depression that it creates needs to be different than treatment for mental disorders that do not have anything to do with this gland. Your doctor will rule out any other potential causes for your symptoms before considering other reasons.