Most of us suffer from fear and anxiety at one time or another throughout our lives. Feelings of apprehension and unease in stressful situations are common. Click to Read More
You may, for example, feel tense and anxious before an important business meeting or a medical procedure, or while walking through a dangerous part of town. In these cases, anxiety is normal and useful – it makes you more alert and careful in a stressful or dangerous situation. The nervousness and fear typically disappear once the cause is removed.
Millions of people, however, experience feelings of worry and anxiety that cannot be linked to any apparent cause. A sense of apprehension or unease which does not go away and which has no identifiable trigger may point to anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be acute and overwhelming, as in the case of panic attacks; or chronic, where symptoms are less severe, but prolonged.
CAUSES OF ANXIETY AND NERVOUSNESS
Genetics seem to be an underlying factor in of anxiety and stress; it has a tendency to run in families. Research has shown that the hereditary influences linked to anxiety disorder are also related to major depression. Both conditions are connected to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrin, chemicals found naturally in the brain, and approaches to treatment are often similar.
Environmental triggers such as stress or emotional trauma can set off bouts of anxiety and intensify the symptoms. There are many causes which can induce symptoms of anxiety disorder.
- Job-related or financial stress
- Break-up of a relationship
- Hidden trauma (such as suppressed memories of past violent acts)
- Death of a loved one
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
- Amino acid deficiencies
- Food allergies
- Use of drugs and alcohol
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
There is a long list of symptoms associated with anxiety disorder, and they are expressed both emotionally and physically. Many of the signs of anxiety, particularly the physical effects, are frequently mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. It is not uncommon for a person suffering from anxiety to repeatedly seek treatment for external symptoms without realizing that they are all connected to their anxiety disorder.
Conversely, some symptoms of a more serious illness (a heart attack, for example) can be mistaken for signs of anxiety, such as heart palpitations, chest pains, and shortness of breath. It is important to evaluate these symptoms carefully to ensure that they are properly treated.
SOME COMMON PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY ARE AS FOLLOWS:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Increased blood pressure
- Pupil dilation
SOME OF THE EMOTIONAL EFFECTS OF ANXIETY DISORDER:
- Feelings of terror for no apparent reason
- Sensation that one’s life is in danger
- Fear or hopelessness for the future
- General, undefined apprehension
With acute anxiety, the onset of symptoms can be sudden and often debilitating – this is what is known as a panic attack. The victim experiences sudden and irrational fear, frequently with severe physical symptoms. They may feel like they are about to lose consciousness or die. These bouts generally last from a minute or two to a couple of hours.
In chronic cases, the symptoms are less dramatic, but they continue for an extended length of time – hours, weeks, or months. Anxious feelings tend to feed into themselves and can often be self-perpetuating. Many people who experience panic attacks live in fear of having another panic attack; in extreme cases, they become afraid to leave their homes.
Chronic anxiety may be more difficult to recognize, since the signs can easily be mistaken for some other ailment. A person may simply think of themselves as a “worrier,” without being aware that there is an underlying physiological (and treatable) cause to their malaise.
Although there is no single definitive laboratory test for diagnosing anxiety disorder, there are various neurochemical and physiological factors which influence anxiety. Lab tests are available which can pinpoint deficiencies that lead to anxiety. Amino acid tests, nutritional tests, vitamin analysis, and even food allergy tests can indicate problem areas which are likely to stimulate anxiety.
There are also tests which can be used to rule out serious medical conditions, such as heart disease; these include blood tests, urinalysis, and EKG tests.
In addition, mental health professionals have a series of checklists of symptoms which can be administered to determine whether anxiety disorder is an appropriate diagnosis.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY AND STRESS
There are any number of natural remedies which are useful in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and stress. From dietary supplements to herbal teas to aromatherapy, a wide array of natural products are available online or in retail stores. Consulting with a health care professional who specializes in natural remedies can help you to choose products that work for you.
Since anxiousness can sometimes be traced to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the diet, taking supplements is often necessary to maintaining a sense of well-being. Vitamins B, B1, B6, and C are known to be important in maintaining nervous system health and regulating anxiety.
Similarly, insufficient levels of the minerals magnesium, calcium and selenium are linked to feelings of anxiety. Iron deficiencies (anemia) can also cause anxiety, as can certain amino acid deficiencies. Lab tests are useful in pinpointing exactly what is missing from your system and determining which supplements will be of help to you.
Herbs have long been used for promoting physical and mental health. The essential oils used for aromatherapy contain herbal extracts which produce a sense of calm and well-being; these are highly effective in treating anxiety symptoms. Herbal teas which promote relaxation are widely available; herbs such as lavender and chamomile are well known to alleviate anxiety.
Managing the stress in your life is critical to maintaining your emotional health. Taking the following steps to reduce the stress you face every day will improve your outlook, alleviate symptoms of anxiety, and benefit your overall state of health.
- Make sure you are getting enough rest. Sleep is important in maintaining your physical health and reducing stress levels.
- Avoid caffeine and other artificial stimulants. Caffeine can induce panic attacks, increase feelings of anxiety, and cause heart palpitations. Limit your intake of coffee, teas containing caffeine, chocolate, and soda.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs. Alcohol can exacerbate feelings of anxiety; recreational drugs such as marijuana also intensify anxiety and can trigger panic attacks.
- Watch what you eat. Foods high in fat and simple sugars place additional stress on the body, while a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber replenishes nutrients which are depleted by stress.
- Exercise. Any form of physical exercise is rejuvenating and beneficial to mental health, even simply taking a walk. Try to work exercise into your routine at least three times per week – you will notice a difference in how you feel.
- Practice a relaxation technique. Finding a relaxation method that works for you is important in eliminating anxiety. Meditation, listening to music, and breathing exercises are a few ways of promoting relaxation.
- Manage your time. A hectic schedule with no time for relaxation is a tremendous factor in increased stress levels. Try to identify activities which you can eliminate and give yourself time to relax.
- Change your employment. Although an extreme measure, if your job or career is causing you too much stress, it may be time to consider a change in order to improve your physical and mental health.
- Talk with friends and family. Maintaining close personal contacts and communicating are vital to improving your stress level.
- See a therapist. Many people find talk therapy to be an appropriate tool in identifying stressful areas of their lives and developing coping strategies.
If you are experiencing the effects of stress and anxiety, you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you address and treat your symptoms and improve the quality of your life.