What are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety is a normal response to stress that can serve a useful purpose: helping us avoid situations that threaten our sense of security. However, when anxiety occurs inappropriately in response to everyday events, it can become an anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders are constantly primed for disaster and may have difficulty coping with regular stressors.
There are different types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The altered neurotransmission present in anxiety disorders may be caused by impaired methylation reactions (disrupting neurotransmitter synthesis and leading to increased homocysteine levels) and hormonal imbalances.
Natural interventions such as S-adenosylmethionine and several amino acids may help optimize the stress response and support healthy neurological communication to relieve symptoms of anxiety.
What are the Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders?
- Sex – women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men
- Age – greatest risk of onset is between ages 10 and 25
- Experiencing a traumatic event can cause PTSD
- Lack of social connections
Note: People with anxiety disorders are at an increased risk of several medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, cardiac ischemia, and arrhythmia.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder?
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tense muscles
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty overcoming worries
- Symptoms of different kinds of anxiety disorders can vary, and may include panic attacks, compulsive behavior, dread of social interactions, and re-experiencing traumatic events.
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Anxiety Disorders?
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Behavior therapy
- Drug therapy:
- Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Azapirones such as buspirone (BuSpar)
- Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft)
- Beta-blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin)
- Pregabalin, an anticonvulsant drug that is also effective in treating anxiety
What are Alternative Treatments for Anxiety Disorders?
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
What Dietary and Lifestyle Changes May Be Beneficial for Anxiety Disorders?
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Moderate caffeine intake
- Yoga or Tai Chi
- Eat a healthy balanced diet – the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce mood disorders
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Anxiety Disorders?
- Amino acids. L-tryptophan, L-phenylalanine, L-tyrosine, L-lysine, and L-arginine levels have all been linked with symptoms of anxiety. Supplementation may reduce anxiety.
- B-vitamins. B-vitamins are cofactors in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Declining levels of B-vitamins can lead to increased homocysteine levels and anxiety—supplementation may help lower homocysteine levels and relieve anxiety.
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe is a methyl donor involved in the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. Supplementation improved disposition in depressed patients with HIV/AIDS.
- Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been linked with anxiety disorders. Supplementation may help reduce anxiety.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have a wide variety of health benefits; they have been shown to improve mood and symptoms of anxiety.
- Lemon balm. Lemon balm may suppress levels of stress hormones and promote neurogenesis. A combination of lemon balm and valerian was shown to improve symptoms of anxiety.
- Adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens such as Rhodiola rosea and ashwagandha have demonstrated anxiety-reducing effects in clinical trials.
- Probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to improve behaviors and symptoms related to anxiety, stress, and depression.
- Other natural interventions such as selenium, GABA, N-acetylcysteine, vitamin D, St. John's wort, and ginkgo biloba may help improve symptoms of anxiety.