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Home :: Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety Disorder - General or Social Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder & It's Treatment

Anxiety disorder is a far more common problem than was once thought. It can affect people in their teenage years through middle age and later. Anxiety disorder appears to affect twice as many women as men, though there may not actually be that wide a disparity between the sexes. Psychologists believe that men are far less prone to report or even acknowledge having a problem of this nature.

Anxiety disorder can be either acute or chronic. Acute anxiety disorder manifests itself in episodes commonly known as panic attacks. A panic attack is an instance in which the body's natural "fight or flight" reaction occurs at the wrong time. This is a complex, involuntary physiological response in which the body prepares itself to deal with an emergency situation. Stress causes the body to produce more adrenal hormones, especially adrenaline. The increased production of adrenaline causes the body to step up. Its metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to quickly produce energy for the body to use. In addition, the muscles tense, and heartbeat and breathing become more rapid. Even the composition of the blood changes slightly, making it more prone to clotting.

In the face of a threat such as an assault, an accident, or a natural disaster, this type of reaction is perfectly normal and helpful for survival. At other times, the symptoms caused by a surge in adrenaline can be distressing and frightening. A person having a panic attack often is over­whelmed by a sense of impending disaster or death, which makes it impossible to think clearly. Other feelings that can accompany a panic attack include shortness of breath; a smothering, claustrophobic sensation; heart palpitations; chest pain; dizziness; hot flashes and/or chills; trembling; numbness or tingling sensations in the extremities; sweating; nausea; a feeling of unreality; and a distorted perception of the passage of time. Eventually, the disorder can have other, cumulative effects, such as generalized aches and pains, muscular twitching and stiffness, depression, insomnia, nightmares and early waking, decreased libido, and abnormal feelings of tension with an accompanying inability to relax. Women may experience changes in the menstrual cycle and increased premenstrual symptoms.

Panic attacks are usually abrupt and intense. They can occur at any time of the day or night, lasting from several seconds up to half an hour. To the panic sufferer, it often feels as though they are much longer. A person having a panic attack often believes that he or she is experiencing a heart attack or a stroke. The attacks themselves are very unpredictable; some people experience one every few weeks, while others may have several a day. They are often triggered by stress (conscious or unconscious) or certain emotions, but may also occur in response to certain foods, drugs, or illness. Food allergies and hypoglycemia are both common among people with this disorder, and can promote panic attacks. An attack may follow ingestion or overindulgence in caffeine-based stimulants such as tea or coffee. Some attacks occur with no apparent cause. The unpredictability of the attacks makes them even more distressing.

Many people with acute anxiety disorder become fearful of being alone and of visiting public places because they fear having a panic attack. Of course this only adds to the level of anxiety and leads to their lives being abnormally restricted. Many psychologists believe that at least in some cases, panic attacks are self-induced; that is, the fear of a panic attack is the very thing that brings one about.

For years, panic attacks were dismissed as a psychosomatic phenomenon. However, repeated studies have shown that this disorder has a real, physical basis. Experts believe that panic attacks are caused principally by a malfunction in brain chemistry, wherein the brain sends and receives also"emergency signals." Hyperactivity in certain areas of the brain causes the release of norepinephrine, which causes the pulse, blood pressure, and breathing to become more rapid, producing the classic symptoms of a panic attack.

Chronic anxiety is a milder, more generalized form of this disorder. Many sufferers feel a vague sense of anxiety much of the time, but the intensity of the feeling does not reach the levels of those in an actual panic attack. They may feel chronically uneasy, especially in the presence of other people, and tend to startle easily. Headaches and chronic fatigue are common among people with this form of the disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder can begin at any age, but the onset typically occurs in one's twenties or thirties. Some people with chronic anxiety disorder also suffer from occasional panic attacks.

Anxiety disorder may be hereditary to some extent, as it seems to run in families. Some cases may be linked to a relatively harmless abnormality of heart function called mitral valve prolapse. Anxiety disorder manifests itself in different ways, but doctors agree that conflict, whether internal or interpersonal, promotes a state of anxiety

Anxiety disorder treatment

Suggested dosage
Vitamin C 5,000-10,000 mg daily
in divided doses.
Necessary for proper function of adrenal glands and brain chemicals. In large doses, can have a powerful tranquillizing effect and is known to decrease anxiety. Vital for dealing with stress.
Zinc 50-80 mg daily. Do not exceed a total of 100 mg daily from all supplements. Can have a calming effect on the central nervous system.
Chromium picolinate 200 mcg daily Chromium deficiency can produce symptoms of anxiety.
  • A body under stress is more vulnerable to free radical damage. Bilberry, ginkgo biloba, and milk thistle are rich in flavonoids that neutralize free radicals. Milk thistle also protects the liver.
  • Fennel relieves anxiety-related gastrointestinal upsets, reduces flatulence, and abdominal tension, and relaxes the large intestine. It is most effective when taken as a tea, before or after meals, and has no known side effects. Lemon balm and willow bark also soothe stomach distress.
  • St. John's wort can ease depression and restore emotional stability. Results in mood should be noticed in approximately two to four weeks.
  • Skullcap and valerian root can be taken at bedtime to promote sleep and aid in preventing panic attacks at night.
  • Include in the diet apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, brown rice, dried fruits, dulse, figs, fish (especially salmon), garlic, green leafy vegetables, legumes, raw nuts and seeds, soy products, whole grains, and yogurt. These foods supply valuable minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, which are depleted by stress.
  • Catnip, chamomile, cramp bark, kava kava, hops, linden flower, motherwort, passionflower, and skullcap promote relaxation and aid in preventing panic attacks. Caution: Do not use chamomile on an ongoing basis, as ragweed allergy may result. Avoid it completely if you are allergic to ragweed. Kava kava can cause drowsiness. If this occurs, discontinue use or reduce the dosage.
  • Try eating small, frequent meals rather than the traditional three meals a day.
  • To help manage an acute attack, use breathing techniques. Inhale slowly through the nose to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale from the mouth slowly to a count of four, and then do nothing for a count of four. Repeat this sequence until the attack subsides. Remind yourself that panic attacks last for a limited amount of time, and that the attack will pass after a few minutes. Although it is rare, some may last up to a few hours.

Considerations and prevention tips

  • Limit your intake of animal protein. Concentrate on meals high in complex carbohydrates and vegetable protein. a Avoid foods containing refined sugar or other simple carbohydrates. For a nutritional treatment plan to have maximum benefits, the diet should contain no simple sugars, carbonated soft drinks, tobacco, or alcohol.
  • Keep a food diary to detect correlations between your attacks and the foods you eat. Food allergies and sensitivities may trigger panic or anxiety attacks.
  • People with anxiety disorder, especially those who experience acute attacks, often seek medical assistance in hospital emergency rooms only to be told they are just suffering from stress and that everything will be fine with rest. In one study, up to 70 percent of people who had panic attacks were found to have seen ten or more different physicians before being correctly diagnosed.
  • Taking tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine hydrochloride (Janimine, Tofranil) or imipramine pamoate (Tofranil-PM) in the presence of low serum levels of iron may increase the risk of developing anxiety and jitteriness.
  • Recreational drugs such as marijuana can cause anxiety attacks.
  • Music can be effective in reducing anxiety.

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