Therapies That Can Help Relieve Anxiety

Tao Newsletter

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension, fear, or worry which is often accompanied by physical sensations such as nausea, palpitation, chest pain and shortness of breadth. It is a common psychological complaint. It may interfere with the ability to work or to carry responsibilities in various aspects. Severe anxiety has a serous impact on daily life.

Anxiety can also be described as a complex combination of emotions of fear and worry. It is a panic attack, which may be commonly caused by life style changes or stressful events. Anxiety can vary greatly and can be a short (acute) or long term (chronic). Effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available, and research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., with 40 million (18.1%) of the adult U.S. population (age 18 and older) affected.

Causes for Anxiety

Primarily, anxiety may be caused by a mental condition, a physical condition, effects of drugs, or from combination of these. However some common causes can be outlined as followings.

  • Fear-relationship and situation that contribute to insecurity
  • Stress at work or school
  • Emotional trauma
  • Side effects of medications
  • Financial stress
  • Use of illicit drug, such as cocaine
  • Symptoms of medical illness
  • Lack of oxygen (eg. high altitude sickness. Emphysema, pulmonary embolism)
  • Diet: Excess sugar, chocolate, highly acidic foods, nutritional deficiencies of B vitamins and magnesium
  • Psychiatric disorder such as depression

Types of Anxiety

There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with its own characteristics. Some of them are as followings:
Panic Disorder: Panic disorders may be characterized by heart-pounding terror that strikes suddenly and without warning. One can’t predict when a panic attack will occur. Fear of dying, sweating, feeling of unreality, hot flashes, or going crazy are major symptoms associated with panic disorder. It involves sudden, intense and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: The condition can be appeared with the symptoms like exaggerated worry, tension, irritability, restlessness, staying asleep, trembling, and sweating. This is a type of anxiety which most people experience in their lives. This kind of disorder has recurring fears or worries.
Phobias: Phobias are a sort of irrational fears that lead people to avoid specific things or situations which ultimately may elicit anxiety. Phobia occurs in various forms like social phobia, which is a fear of being extremely embarrassed in front of other people.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Post-traumatic stress disorder can be occurred to the people if they have experienced in a traumatic occurrence which might be life threatening. It can result from terrifying experiences like rape, kidnapping, natural disasters or wars. Difficulties in concentration, insomnia, nightmares are some of the common symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: It is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of anxiety range in intensity and depend upon the causes and risk factors. Generalized symptoms can be observed as followings:

  • Palpitations (rapid or irregular heart beat)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breadth
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Chills or hot flushes
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness)
  • Severe worry and tension for no clear reason
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sex drive
Treatment

If the symptoms are so severe and are interfering with the personal, social and professional life and depressive, one should go for proper treatment. Researches have shown that behavioral and cognitive therapy can be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders. Behavioral therapy involves using techniques to reduce or stop the undesired behavior associated with these disorders. Cognitive therapy guides patient to learn and understand how to change thought pattern to reduce likelihood of occurrence and the intensity of reaction. Besides, use of medications is another alternative for the treatment. The drugs of class benzodiazepam such as diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, etc are used. Similarly a new anti-anxiety drug, buspirone and anti depressive drugs are now used. Some types of anxiety disorders are best treated with a combination of medical treatment and psychotherapy.

Alternative treatment approaches such as acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicines, Bach flower therapy, nutritional and vitamin supplements, etc are now widely used to help relieve and treat anxiety symptoms. Natural supplements like ginseng and valerian have been used successfully as anxiety treatments. Some of the common natural treatments can be outlined as followings:
Nutrition and Diet Therapy: Eliminating foods that may worsen anxiety like alcohol, coffee, sugar, maple syrup, cow’s milk products, etc could be the first step for the treatment. Diet containing foods rich in B vitamins, such as whole grains, nuts, green, leafy vegetables, nutritional yeast, eggs are helpful. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid has found to play a major role in the physiology of anxiety and is helpful. Nutritional supplements used for anxiety includes pantothenic acid, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B complex.
Herbal Therapy: The herbal medicines are found to be effective and used commonly as they have stress reducing properties and offer calming relief of anxiety. Most commonly used herbs in the treatment of anxiety are Kava-kava (Piper methysticum), Valerian Extract, Borage juice, Fennel, California Poppy, Lemon balm, Mullein, Meadowsweet, Oats, Peppermint, etc.
Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy with essential oils is very effective in the treatment of anxiety and associated stress management. Scents of vanilla, orange blossom, rose, lavender, etc have a noticeable calming effect.
Hydrotherapy: It can alleviate the tension, nerrvouseness and other symptoms that accompany anxiety attacks. Warm bath with herbs or essential oils like lavender, geranium can help soothe anxious state of mind.
Stress-Reduction Techniques: Mind/body breathing exercises, physical exercise, yoga, tai chi, self-hypnosis, massage, meditation, and biofeedback are some of the stress reduction techniques used for anxiety.

References
  1. Anxiety Disorders Association of America (AADA) http://www.adaa.org/AboutADAA/PressRoom/ Stats&Facts.asp
  2. http://www.patienthealthinternational.com/ article/501559.aspx
  3. Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anxiety# Anxiety_Disorders
  5. National Mental Health Information Center (http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/publications)
  6. http://www.holisticonline.com
  7. APA Health Center (http://helping.apa.org/articles/article.php?id=46)
  8. National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/adfacts.cfm)
  9. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/healthtopics.html
  10. Stout J.L. Natural Treatments for Anxiety. Retrieved from http://www.pioneerthinking.com/jls_anxiety.html
  11. National Mental Health Association (http://www.nmha.org)

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