Treating Anxiety with Natural Medicine

A lot of people are anxious and fearful right now. We’ve recently received election results, and whether we’re happy or sad about them, this is a period of adjustment and change. It’s also the holiday season, and there can be stress surrounding traditional preparations, family drama, and difficult memories. Anxiety is a common struggle for people even during regular times of the year, triggered by all kinds of things, including problems at work, low self-esteem, bad traffic, negative news stories, relationship difficulties, or health concerns. It can keep us from enjoying life and being productive.

What Is Anxiety?

Merriam-Webster defines anxiety as a feeling of fear or nervousness. Normal anxiety is the body’s reaction to stress. It helps us stay alert and ready to act so we can work to solve problems and respond in difficult situations. Anxiety disorders, however, occur when the fearful and nervous feelings become overwhelming, causing us to shut down and become unable to deal with our problems. These conditions include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety, and specific phobias. They can be caused by inherited genes, traumatic events, or a combination of personality and personal experiences. Anxiety disorders may differ from person to person, but they all interfere with the way a person experiences daily life.

How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders display themselves in a variety of ways.

The following is a list of common symptoms of anxiety, both physical and emotional

• Racing heartbeat
• Shortness of breath
• Nausea
• Sweating
• Insomnia
• Headaches
• Frequent bowel movements
• Fatigue
• Restlessness
• Irritability
• Feeling tense and jumpy
• Feelings of dread
• Always predicting the worst
• Panic attacks
• Phobias of specific triggers
• Chronic worrying about everyday life
• Inability to concentrate on or finish daily tasks
• Irrational worries
• Isolation

If you have one or more of the above symptoms on a regular basis, you may struggle with anxiety. It is important to address the root cause of anxiety, no matter the level of severity, before symptoms become more serious and detrimental.

Is Anxiety the Same as a Panic Attack?

Anxiety can include general feelings of fear that build up to incapacitate a person, but panic attacks are another way anxiety exhibits itself. These attacks involve intense feelings of fear or terror that occur suddenly, overwhelming a person. Panic attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. They can be triggered by specific places and events or without any warning. If a person experiences panic attacks on a regular basis, he or she may have panic disorder.

Panic attacks may include several of the following symptoms

• Heart palpitations
• Violent shaking
• Chest pain
• Choking or shortness of breath
• Numbness or tingling
• Suddenly extremely hot or cold
• Dizzy or lightheaded
• Fear of dying
• Feeling detached from self
• Fear of losing control

Many people say their panic attacks feel as if they are having a heart attack. Both anxiety and panic attacks can inhibit people from carrying out daily life. Panic attacks can be more intense and frightening in the moment, while general anxiety is often more chronic in nature.

How Do I Treat Anxiety and Panic Attacks Using Natural Medicine?

Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants are often prescribed by psychiatrists. These medications may be appropriate for short term use and can be effective in treating anxiety, but they also can have harmful side effects. People looking to ease themselves off of prescription anxiety medications should consult with a naturopathic doctor to develop a proper supplementation plan to fit their needs. Natural methods for treating anxiety can help people manage their anxiety while avoiding these negative effects.

Anxiety and worry are feelings that can overwhelm our reason, leading us to catastrophize and believe the worst will happen. With help, it can be possible to retrain our brains to worry less often. Naturopathic doctors and counselors can help teach patients techniques to acknowledge and deal with worries and other emotions in healthy ways. Deep breathing exercises, Biofeedback technique, meditation, yoga, and other natural methods can also help relieve anxiety by lowering blood pressure, controlling heart rate, and teaching the body to use oxygen more efficiently. Naturopathic doctors also recommend specific herbs and supplements to treat anxiety.

Common natural treatments for anxiety symptoms

• Lavender essential oil calms the mind and nerves.
• Chamomile, as a tea or a supplement, soothes many anxiety symptoms.
• Amino acid supplementation to support neurotransmitter activity in the brain
• L-theanine, found in green tea or as a supplement, helps decrease heart rate and blood pressure, helping people stay alert and relaxed.
• Hops extract can be used as a sedative to help anxious people get enough sleep at night.
• Valerian root is an herb that is used as a sleep aid.
• Lemon balm in small doses helps reduce stress and anxiety and can also aid sleep.
• Passionflower can reduce symptoms of anxiety.
• Omega-3 essential fatty acids (like fish oil) taken on a daily can decrease anxiety.

Talk to a naturopathic doctor before taking supplements and herbs to ensure safe doses and to avoid interactions between different treatments.

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