Anxiety is defined as "an unpleasant emotional state ranging from mild unease to intense fear". Some anxiety is normal, higher levels of anxiety can be uncomfortable and lead to significant health problems. Anxious individuals usually have a constant feeling that something bad is going to happen. A chronic state of anxiety may lead to panic attacks.
- Chest palpitations
- Feeling of tightness or inability to take in enough air
- Tension in the muscles of the back and neck
- Muscle spasms
- Excessive sweating
- Dryness of the month
- Digestive disturbances
- Constant need to urinate or defecate
- Panic attacks
Anxiety may arise from a range of factors including:
- Nutrition: avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar and refined carbohydrates appears to play a key role in reducing anxiety.
- Nutritional deficiency of the B group vitamins, and the minerals magnesium and calcium.
- Environmental: heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium and aluminium), pesticides and herbicides have an affinity to the nervous system.
- Social pressures: factors such as job pressures, family pressures and the stress of modern day living will all contribute to anxiety.
- Hypoglycaemia: the brain requires a constant supply of blood sugar. A drop in blood glucose levels results in the release of hormones which increase blood sugar levels. Depending on the individual's symptoms, hypoglycaemia can include anxiety, irritability, fatigue and headaches.
- Allergies: from both food and environmental factors have been linked to increased anxiety, depression and a general feeling of fatigue.
- Hormonal factors: are known to influence mood. Anxiety is a common symptom of premenstrual syndrome. Anxiety, irritability and emotional instability due to PMS are strongly associated with excess oestrogen and decreased progesterone during the premenstrual phase.
B group vitamins are of benefit in times of nervous tension and anxiety when B group vitamins and vitamin C are depleted. For best results choose one with added magnesium which assists in muscle relaxation.
- Suitable stress management techniques such as counselling, meditation, massage and yoga will help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
- Maintaining your physical health also benefits mental health. Avoid alcohol, caffeine (coffee, cola, chocolate), refined carbohydrates, sugar and foods that cause allergies. These substances will lead to an increase in the symptoms of anxiety.
- Exercise is invaluable as a supportive treatment plan for anxiety. Exercise increases endorphin production in the blood (endorphins are naturally occurring morphine-like substances that help the body deal with anxiety).
- Aromatherapy massage or bathing with essential oils such as lavender, geranium, rosewood, orange, bergamot, ylang ylang are indicated for anxiety as they help to reduce stress.
Promoting a healthy lifestyle and diet is very important in the treatment of anxiety. Particularly important is to stop smoking, reduce excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption as well as avoiding food allergies.
These lifestyle changes will help to reduce anxiety, as will the addition of exercise, a healthy diet and nutritional and herbal supplements. A program which includes appropriate relaxation techniques and the support of counselling (if needed) will go a long way in the treatment of anxiety.
The use of medication alone is not an effective solution for anxiety. Naturopaths and other health care professionals will provide support and help to devise a treatment plan aimed at resolving the underlying problem.
This may involve a combination of counselling, nutritional support, herbal medicines and supplementation, changes to lifestyle and an exercise plan.