What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety encompasses feelings of worry, nervousness, or dread. Although unpleasant, occasional bouts of anxiety are natural and sometimes even productivity. By signaling that something isn’t quite right, anxiety can help people both avoid danger and make important and meaningful changes.
However, persistent, pervasive anxiety that disrupts one’s daily life, whether at school, work, or with friends, can be the mark of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders manifest in different ways and are often diagnostically distinct. Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic state of severe worry and tension, often without provocation. Panic disorder refers to sudden and repeated panic attacks—episodes of intense fear and discomfort that peak within a few minutes. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is marked by intrusive thoughts or compulsions to carry out specific behaviors, such as handwashing or checking and rechecking to see if a door is locked. Post-traumatic stress disorder may develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
Anxiety is often accompanied by depression, and the two share an underlying genetic architecture.
Beyond genetics, childhood experiences such as early trauma or parental overprotection can play a role in forming an anxious disposition. In people with anxiety disorders, the brain circuitry that controls the threat response seems to go awry. The amygdala, a structure that detects danger, can become overactive, triggering a threat where none exists.
Individuals suffering from anxiety may feel restless, on edge, and irritable. They may have difficulty concentrating or controlling their emotions. Physical symptoms can also include fatigue, trembling, trouble sleeping, stomachaches, headaches, and muscle tension.
Anxiety often involves worrying to an intense, excessive degree. Those worries can apply to any aspect of life, from social situations and family dynamics to physical health and professional concerns.
A person’s angst or dread can be drastically out of proportion to the actual challenges he or she is facing. People may also irrationally believe that the worst-case scenario is inevitable.
Medication can help patients control their anxiety, but they cannot cure the underlying condition. Clinicians may prescribe fast-acting benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium for limited periods of time. These are the classic sedating anxiolytic drugs that will make you feel good, relaxed, happy, and care-free. However, these are quite common drugs of abuse because they are very effective and addictive. They easily cause drowsiness similar to drunkenness. And if combined with alcohol, they are potentially lethal. Withdrawal symptoms are terrible: Severe anxiety, the opposite of its treatment effect, can always be expected when discontinuing them abruptly after one month or longer of consistent use, even to the point of seizures.
SSRI antidepressants such as Lexapro, Paxil, and Zoloft are usually the first choice by physicians because they are not sedating, but getting past the first few weeks of side effects is the challenge for many patients. They often require weeks or even months of treatment until you see the desired effect. When side effects do occur, they commonly include insomnia, feeling “zoned out” emotionally (but less anxious), reduced sexual function and even weight gain. Almost all patients feel increased anxiety, confusion or dizziness if they go off the medication suddenly. There have even been some reports of suicide due to withdrawal.
Beta-blockers offer another short-term solution. These block the effects of adrenaline that causes the fight-or-flight response to stress, especially performance-anxiety effects like racing heart, muscle tension, and trembling. Side-effects are often fatigue, sedation and sometimes depression.
All of these drugs will potentially (and do) interact with other prescription medications. That’s because these are all unnatural to your body, and they go through your liver’s detoxification system, creating more unnatural metabolites. Who knows how much unnatural metabolites stay in your body tissues (mostly fat) and how much you can eliminate? Many of these metabolites eventually cause chronic inflammation.
Safe And Effective Natural Options
- GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid): The main neurotransmitter in the brain that blocks nerve excitability and, therefore, has anti-anxiety and nerve-calming effects. GABA is a major calming brain chemical or neurotransmitter. Clinical studies show that the natural form of GABA can decrease the brain’s stress-related beta waves and increase the production of its alpha-waves, creating a profound sense of physical relaxation while maintaining mental focus. At 750 mg twice daily, it helps lower anxiety and can also help block nerve pain.
- L-Theanine is an amino acid derived from green tea (Camellia sinensis) known to reduce the emotional and physical response to stress. L-Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in green tea and is a derivative of glutamic acid, a major neurotransmitter in the brain. It is known for its calming effects in the brain and has been shown to support concentration and focus while it reduces irritability and low mood states. It directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, giving the body a sense of deep relaxation and mental alertness without drowsiness. L-Theanine enables the body to produce other calming amino acids, such as dopamine, GABA, and Tryptophan, and helps with concentration, focus, deep muscle relaxation, and improved quality sleep.
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): An antioxidant herb that can help reduce anxiety, panic attacks, phobia, and depression. In one study, ashwagandha for five days had anxiety-relieving effects similar to the benzodiazepine medication lorazepam and antidepressant effects similar to the TCA antidepressant medication imipramine.
- Kava Extract supports a sense of emotional well-being and relaxation in times of mild stress without creating sleepiness and has GABA-like effects. Kava is used to treat both insomnia and anxiety.
- Probiotics: The link between gut health and anxiety, which is called the gut-brain axis, has been shown to be improved when you take probiotics. People who suffer from anxiety also suffer from gastrointestinal orders too. Probiotics act to increase the level of tryptophan which helps make serotonin, the happy hormone.
- 5 HTP: Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, appetite, and sleep. Lowered levels of serotonin may cause depression, obesity, insomnia, or otherwise interfere with our functioning at our peak levels, both mentally and physically. 5 HTP will safely and efficiently boost our serotonin levels and help reduce depression, obesity, anxiety, and migraine headaches. 5 HTP CAN NOT BE TAKEN WHILE TAKING PRESCRIPTION ANTI-DEPRESSANTS.