Anxiety, Alternative Therapies

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It is normal to experience anxiety once in a while. Many individuals feel nervous when they face a problem at work, before taking an important decision or before giving a test. However, individuals suffering from anxiety disorders develop excessive, intense and persistent fear and worry about situations of everyday life.

What is anxiety?

According to healthyplace.com, “I am terrified that even if I try my hardest, I still won’t be good enough.”

Anxiety is the presence of excessive, intense and persistent fear and worry of everyday situations. Many times anxiety disorders are characterized by episodes of development of sudden intense anxiety and terror or fear reaching a peak within a couple of minutes. These episodes of repeated anxiety are referred to as panic attacks.

The symptoms of panic and anxiety may interfere with routine activities, cannot be controlled easily and can last for a long duration. You may start avoiding situations or places to prevent the occurrence of these feelings. Symptoms of anxiety and panic may begin during childhood or adolescence and continue as an adult.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Some of the common symptoms and signs of anxiety are:

  • Feeling restless, nervous or tense
  • Feeling a sense of impending panic, danger or doom
  • Presence of increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Hyperventilation or breathing rapidly
  • Increased sweating
  • Trembling
  • Having difficulty in sleeping
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Having trouble in thinking about anything else other than the present thing you are worried about
  • Having trouble in concentrating
  • Having digestive problems
  • Feeling the urge to avoid triggers of anxiety
  • Having difficulty in controlling the symptoms of worry

What is the clinical classification of anxiety?

There are several kinds of anxiety disorders including:

  • Agoraphobia: It is a kind of anxiety disorder in which the person fear and avoid situations or places that may trigger panic and make them feel helpless, trapped or embarrassed.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD: It is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive and persistent worry and anxiety about events or activities-even routine, ordinary issues. The worry or anxiety is not equal in proportion to the actual issue, cannot be controlled easily and affects your physical well being as well. It often occurs in association with depression or other anxiety disorders.
  • Anxiety disorder caused due to a medical illness: It is characterized by symptoms of intense panic or anxiety that are caused directly by a medical illness.
  • Panic disorder: It is characterized by repeated attacks of feelings of intense fear and anxiety that peaks within a couple of minutes, also referred to as panic attacks. The patient may develop a feeling or sense of impending doom, chest pain, shortness of breath and heart palpitations (fluttering, rapid or pounding heart).
  • Selective mutism: It is a type of anxiety disorder in which children do not speak in certain situations such as in school, even though they are able to speak in other situations such as at their home with their family members. This type of anxiety disorder can interfere with work, school and social functioning.
  • Social phobia or social anxiety disorder: It is characterised by the development of feelings of fear and anxiety in social situations. The person suffering from this disorder avoids social situations as they feel self-conscious, embarrassed and concerned about being viewed negatively or judged by others.
  • Separation anxiety disorder: It is a type of childhood disorder that is characterized by the development of anxiety in children when they are separated from their parents or other people who play a role of parents in their lives. The anxiety in such cases is excessive for the developmental level of the child.
  • Specific phobias: They are characterized by symptoms of anxiety when a person is exposed to a specific situation or an object and has an urge to avoid it. Panic attacks may be provoked by phobias in some individuals.
  • Anxiety disorder due to substance abuse: It is characterised by the development of symptoms of intense panic or anxiety due to abusing drugs, consuming certain medicines, withdrawal from drugs or due to exposure to a certain toxic substance.
  • Other unspecified and specified anxiety disorder: These are terms used for phobias or anxiety that don’t fit in the exact category of any other type of anxiety disorder but the symptoms due to them are disruptive and distressing.

What are the statistics of anxiety in UK?

According to estimates, in the year 2013, there were approximately 8.2 million cases of anxiety disorder in the UK. Moreover, in England, females are almost two times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety in comparison to males.

What are the general treatments for anxiety?

The two main types of treatments provided for anxiety disorders are medicines and psychotherapy. The most benefit is obtained from a combination of the two types of therapies. It may require some trial and error to determine which type of treatments work best in a specific case.

Medicines

Several kinds of medicines are utilized to relieve symptoms of anxiety disorder, depending upon the type of anxiety disorder a person has and also whether they have any other physical or mental health problem. For instance:

  • Certain medicines used to treat depression are also utilized in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
  • Buspirone, which is a medicine to control anxiety, may be prescribed by your physician.
  • In certain circumstances, your physician may prescribe a sedative referred to as a benzodiazepine to relieve the symptoms of anxiety in the short term.

Psychotherapy

Also referred to as psychological counselling or talk therapy, psychotherapy is characterized by working with a counsellor or therapist to reduce your symptoms of anxiety. Psychotherapy can effectively treat anxiety.

CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy is the most effective type of psychotherapy that is used for treating anxiety disorders. It is usually a treatment of short duration. The focus of CBT is to teach the patient specific skills to improve their symptoms and gradually perform the activities they have avoided due to anxiety.

The patient is given exposure therapy under CBT, in which the person is gradually exposed to the situation or object that triggers their anxiety so that they can build confidence and manage the symptoms of anxiety and the overall situation.

Supplements used to treat anxiety disorder

There are various types of supplements that can be given to control the symptoms of anxiety. Some of these are described below:

Valerian root: Valerian is a type of sedative herb that has been utilized since ancient times to treat insomnia. Valerian root is obtained from valerian plant. Volatile oils are present in valerian root that are responsible for its ability to produce a restorative and calming effect on the central nervous system of the body. Valerian root is used widely by the physicians and general population due to its anti-anxiety capabilities. According to a review published in the International medical journal of experimental and clinical research, valerian root has been reported as anaxiolytic calming agent. According to another study published in the journal Neuropharmacology, valerian root causes an increase in the amount of a brain chemical referred to as GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), which helps in calming anxiety and regulating nerve cells. The ingredients valerenic acid and valerenol exert anxiolytic activity.

B-Vitamins: A water-soluble vitamin, Vitamin B is of 8 types- Vitamin B1, B2 and B3, Vitamins B5, B6 and B7, Vitamin B9 and B12. According to “Psychology today” Vitamin B is necessary for proper functioning of the brain and a lack of any of the B vitamin can result in symptoms of depression and anxiety. B vitamins naturally occur in beans, peas, spinach and other leafy, green vegetables, potatoes, banana, whole grains and liver. Vitamin B12 is present only in animal sources of food such as clams, mussels, oysters, liver, octopus, caviar, crab, fish, beef, lobster, poultry, lamb, eggs, milk and dairy products including cheese. According to a study published in the journal, Psychiatry research, consumption of B-complex showed greater improvement than consumption of Vitamin D in the symptoms of stress and anxiety in people following a natural disaster. According to a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Medicine, a significant effect of daily supplementation with magnesium and vitamin B6 was found on reducing anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, nervous tension, anxiety or irritability.

5-HTP: 5-HTP is a compound found in the body and made via a conversion from the precursor L-Tryptophan. It is a vital component in the body and its primary role is to produce neurotransmitters that regulate appetite, concentration, brain activity and sleep patterns. L-Tryptophan is present in foods including soy products such as tofu and soy beans, poultry, red meats, eggs, fish, oat bran, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, cheese, spirulina and dark chocolate. According to a study published in the journal International Clinical Psychopharmacology, 5-HTP showed a moderate reduction in the symptomatology of anxiety disorders.

Magnesium: Magnesium is a type of mineral that is vital to the functioning of the body. It helps in keeping blood pressure normal, heart rhythm steady and bones strong. Natural food sources of magnesium are nuts, peas, beans, soybeans, green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and whole grain cereals. Magnesium helps in calming anxiety symptoms by increasing the neurotransmitter GABA. According to a study published in the journal Neuropharmacology, magnesium deficiency induces anxiety. According to another study published in the Journal of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Medicine, a significant effect of daily supplementation with magnesium and vitamin B6 was found on reducing anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, nervous tension, anxiety or irritability.

Ginkgo biloba: The Ginkgo biloba plant has been thought to be one of the oldest plants on the earth, existing for over 200 million years. The active compounds of the biloba seeds are referred to as Bilobalides and Ginkgolides. These compounds claim to help maintain mental well being and memory function. They also protect from cognitive decline. Ginkgo biloba is rich in antioxidants. According to a review published in the journal Current drug metabolism, various preclinical and clinical studies have shown a positive effect of Ginkgo biloba to improve cognitive abilities in impaired individuals and reducing anxiety under pathological conditions. According to a review published in the journal CNS and neurological disorders drug targets, the potential use of Ginkgo biloba extract 761, alone or combined with current medical treatment is proposed in psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

Theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid that is present most commonly in leaves of tea and in small quantities in Bay Bolete mushrooms. According to research, L-theanine leads to relaxation and helps in the treatment of anxiety. According to a research published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism, L-theamine supplementation can assist in reducing acute stress and anxiety in people experiencing stressful situations.

Everyone suffers from feelings of anxiety once in a while. However, anxiety disorders cause severe distress that interferes with your daily life activities. There are several types of anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder etc. Two types of treatment are given for anxiety disorders. These are medications and psychotherapy. You can also take various supplements such as valerian root, B-vitamins, theanine, magnesium, 5-HTP and Gingko biloba to relieve symptoms of anxiety disorder.

 

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