Here's a piece of good news for people struggling with anxiety disorders: These conditions can be treated. However, you will have to choose your treatments wisely, since conventional recommendations can potentially cause further damage to your body.Instead, learn these natural remedies and treatment protocols that you can follow to help with anxiety relief.
Why Benzodiazepines Are Bad News for Anxiety Disorder Patients
Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Xanax and Valium are often prescribed to people with anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, these medications have side effects that you shouldn't be exposed to.Benzodiazepines exert a calming effect and enhance the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GAMA) in a manner similar to those of opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis). This then activates another hormone in your brain called dopamine, usually associated with gratification.Common side effects for benzodiazepines include memory loss, hip fractures, impaired thinking and dizziness. Even worse, these medicines can be equally addictive since they share identical brain "reward" pathways to both opioids and cannabinoids. There are symptoms for benzodiazepine withdrawal, such as:1
✓ Extreme levels of anxiety
✓ Perceptual distortions and sense of movement
✓ Depersonalization and derealization
✓ Visual and auditory hallucinations
✓ Distortion of body image
✓ Tingling, numbness and altered sensation
✓ Formication (skin crawling)
✓ Sensory hypersensitivity to either light, sound, taste and smell
✓ Muscle twitching and jerking
✓ Tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears)
✓ Psychotic symptoms
✓ Confusion and delirium
SSRIs Can Severely Damage Your Health Too
In some cases, particularly for those with social anxiety disorder, antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs may be prescribed. These drugs, known by names such as Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro, inhibit serotonin (a neurotransmitter) from moving back into the nerve endings. This reuptake then allows serotonin to be readily available and used by your brain.
Just like benzodiazepines, you're better off not taking SSRIs. Research has proven that people who took SSRIs had a higher risk of developing mania and bipolar disorder.
Meanwhile, antidepressant intake during the second and/or third trimesters of a pregnancy was also connected to a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children — and that's already after maternal depression was considered.7 Other health risks that could arise because of SSRI intake during pregnancy include:8,9,10,11,12
✓ Low birth weight
✓ Preterm birth
✓ Fetal death
✓ Infant death
✓ Neonatal seizures
✓ Need for mechanical ventilation
✓ Higher risk of clubfoot
✓ Persistent pulmonary hypertension
✓ Lower Apgar scores at birth
✓ Lower language competence of the child at 3 years old
✓ Higher risk of the child developing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Complications that have been linked with SSRI intake include a higher risk of bone fractures,13 increased death rates (particularly for women), thicker arteries that could result in both heart disease and stroke,14 violent behavior and even suicidal thoughts.
Stimulants Won't Help Solve Anxiety
Prescribing stimulants like Adderall for anxiety disorders is becoming more common nowadays, especially among students. Adderall is an amphetamine that has a chemical makeup similar to methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstacy) and is said to improve attention and focus.15
However, Adderall will not work for anxiety disorder patients. Data released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2011 revealed that Adderall, along with other drugs like Ritalin, Vyvanse and Strattera, were responsible for around 23,000 emergency room visits during that year.16 Adderall could also increase your risk for heart problems, high blood pressure and stroke.17
Even more alarming is the fact Adderall is on the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Schedule II list of substances, along with heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. These drugs have a high risk for abuse and could result in psychological and physical dependence.
How to Overcome Anxiety Effectively: Use Natural Methods
Instead of resorting to these potentially harmful medicines, try these alternative remedies for anxiety disorders, ranging from meditation to relaxation techniques to healthy lifestyle changes:
• Aromatherapy: Various essential oils have been heralded for their healing properties against many diseases, and anxiety disorders are among them. Some anxiety-busting essential oils that you can utilize include:18,19,20
✓ Roman chamomile
✓ Rose-scented geranium
There are four ways that you can use these oils at home:21
◦ Indirect inhalation of the oil via a room diffuser or by placing drops nearby
◦ Direct inhalation using an individual inhaler, with drops floated atop hot water
◦ Aromatherapy massage, by diluting the essential oils with a carrier oil
◦ Topical applications by mixing the essential oil with lotion, bath salt or dressing
• Exercise: Research has shown that exercise is just as efficient as antidepressants when it comes to helping people who are depressed or anxious. Working out increases your body's endorphin ("feel good" hormone) levels and assists in normalizing insulin and leptin signaling.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), particularly the Peak Fitness method, is arguably the most ideal exercise that you should be doing. This exercise is characterized by doing 30 seconds of all-out and maximum effort, followed by a 90-second rest period for a total of eight repetitions.
Super Slow strength training is another type of exercise that you should try. It pushes you hard, working your muscles to the point of being unable to do another repetition. Super slow strength training is also safer compared to other types of strength training, and enables your body to build more muscle in a shorter period of time.
A form of psychological acupressure, EFT is based on the same energy meridians that are used in traditional acupuncture, minus the needles. Instead, you use your fingertips to tap and stimulate different energy meridian points in your body. At the same time, you also speak custom-made verbal affirmations to yourself.2
People with anxiety disorders can benefit from EFT as it was shown to increase positive emotions like hope and enjoyment, and lessen negative emotional states, anxiety being one of them. EFT also targets two parts of your brain, namely the amygdala and the hippocampus, that help you decide whether an object is a threat or not.23 Your body's levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, also decrease.24
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): The main goal of this type of therapy is to reclaim control of reactions toward stress and stimuli, and lessen the feeling of helplessness that goes with it.25 Moreover, CBT deals with present problems that you are facing instead of bringing up past experiences, and searches for practical ways to enhance your state of mind.26
CBT involves sitting down with a therapist or mental health professional for a session that lasts for 30 minutes up to an hour. These sessions could be held once a week or once every two weeks. A typical course of treatment involving CBT lasts for five to 20 sessions.27 According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the four steps involved in CBT:28
◦ "Identifying troubling situations or conditions in your life
◦ Becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these problems
◦ Identifying negative or inaccurate thinking
◦ Reshaping negative or inaccurate thinking"
Aside from basic CBT techniques, there are other psychotherapy methods that your therapist can do, such as Systematic Desensitization, Exposure and Response Treatment, Modeling Treatment and Anxiety Management Therapy.29
• Following a healthy diet: This means consuming high amounts of fresh, GMO-free and organically grown vegetables, moderate portions of high-quality and grass-fed meat and substantial amounts of healthy fats. You could also add these herbs for effective anxiety relief: passionflower, lavender, lemon balm, ashwagandha and l-theanine.
Some people might also benefit from taking natural supplements for anxiety. According to CalmClinic, herbal supplements include kava, passionflower and valerian root, all of which may be helpful for anxiety. If you're advised to take vitamin or mineral supplements, magnesium, B vitamins, GABA, 5-HTP and melatonin are potentially effective options.