Here’s some 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 cause further damage to your body.
How to Overcome Anxiety Effectively: Use Natural Methods
There are safe and holistic remedies for anxiety disorders, ranging from meditation to relaxation techniques to healthy lifestyle changes. These may address mental health problems better than conventional drugs:
• Aromatherapy: Various essential oils have been heralded for their healing properties against many conditions, including anxiety disorders. Some anxiety-busting essential oils you can utilize include:1
The National Cancer Institute suggests four ways to use these oils at home:2
◦ Indirect inhalation of the oil via a room diffuser or sprinkling a few drops in certain areas
◦ Direct inhalation by adding a few drops of your chosen oil above 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 wound dressing
• Exercise: Exercise may be just as efficient as antidepressants in helping people with anxiety disorders. Working out assists in improving your mental health by promoting creation of new neurons and GABA-linked neurons that may assist with promoting calmness3 and raising levels of anti-stress neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and anandamide.4 In particular, anandamide was said to be effective in blocking instances of pain and depression.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises may work for people who wish to improve their mental and physical health. There are many HIIT workout protocols you can look into, but the Nitric Oxide (NO) Dump developed by Dr. Zach Bush remains as one of the most efficient. For more information on how to do the NO Dump, read "Incorporate the Nitric Oxide Dump."
• Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): This is an energy psychology tool that may help address anxiety and panic attacks.5 EFT is based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture, minus the needles. When you practice EFT, you use your fingertips to tap and stimulate different energy meridian points in your body while reciting custom-made verbal affirmations to yourself.
People with anxiety disorders can benefit from EFT as it was shown to increase positive emotions like hope and happiness, and lessen negative emotional states. EFT also targets two parts of your brain, namely the amygdala and the hippocampus, which help you decide whether an object is a threat or not,6 and assist with reducing levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.7
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): The main goal of this therapy is to reclaim control of your feelings toward commonly stressful thoughts and teach you how to think about positive ideas instead.8 As the U.K.’s NHS highlights, CBT deals with present problems you need to address and doesn’t focus on past experiences, and searches for practical ways to enhance your state of mind.
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, and patients may undergo five to 20 sessions to help address mental health problems.9 According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the four steps involved in CBT:10
◦ “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 utilize, such as systematic desensitization,11 exposure and response treatment (for OCD patients)12 or behavior modeling.13
What You Eat Is Extremely Important Too
If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety, consuming a diet with 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 is important in maintaining good health. You may also add these herbs for effective anxiety relief: passion flower, lavender, lemon balm14 and ashwagandha.15
WebMD notes that herbal supplements such as kava, German chamomile, ginkgo biloba, lavender, lemon balm and passion flower may be helpful for anxiety too.16
If you’re advised to take vitamin or mineral supplements, vitamins C and D, B vitamins,17 magnesium, zinc, iron, chromium18 and GABA19 are potentially effective options. Prior to taking any of these supplements, however, make sure to consult your physician to know your ideal dosage and learn about the possible side effects you may encounter.
Why Benzodiazepines Are Bad News for Anxiety Disorder Patients
Benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Xanax and Valium are often prescribed to people with anxiety disorders. However, you’re better off avoiding these drugs because they may cause vision problems, impaired coordination and dizziness.20
Studies have also shown that older adults who took benzodiazepines for three months or more increased their risk for Alzheimer’s disease by a whopping 51 percent compared to those who didn’t.21 Benzodiazepine use was also linked to a higher risk for dementia,22,23 especially among the elderly,24 and cognitive decline.25
Even worse, these medicines can be equally addictive since they share identical brain “reward” pathways to both opiates and cannabinoids.26 If you stop using benzodiazepines abruptly, you may be at risk for developing benzodiazepine withdrawal. Common symptoms include extreme anxiety, depersonalization and derealization, visual and auditory hallucinations, convulsions, muscle twitching and jerking, and psychotic symptoms.27
SSRIs Can Negatively Impact 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, which include Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro,28 inhibit serotonin (a neurotransmitter) from moving back into the nerve endings in your brain. This reuptake then allows serotonin to be readily available.29
Research has proven that people who took SSRIs had a higher risk of developing mania and bipolar disorder.30 Meanwhile, antidepressant intake during the second or third trimesters of a pregnancy was connected to a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children,31 as well as the possibility of neonatal seizures, breathing difficulties, preterm birth, or fetal or infant death.32
Other complications linked to SSRIs include a higher risk of bone fractures,33 increased death rates (particularly for women), thicker arteries that may cause heart disease and stroke,34 violent behavior and even suicidal thoughts.
Stimulants Won’t Help Solve Anxiety
Prescribing stimulants like methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine dimesylate and amphetamine to address attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is becoming more common, especially among students.35 These drugs may be recommended for adults, too, in order to address feelings of depression or anxiety that may occur alongside ADHD.36
One known stimulant is Adderall,37 which can increase your risk for heart attacks, high blood pressure and stroke.38 Adderall is also 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 may lead to psychological and physical dependence.39