When does anxiety become a problem?
We will all experience anxiety at some stage of our lives, but some of us will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. For a diagnosis to be made, the anxiety must have a disabling effect on a person. There is a set criteria for the diagnosis, which states that anxiety can be considered pathological when “the anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.”
Public Enemy #1
The most common anxiety disorder is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in which excessive anxiety or worry occurs for more days than not for at least six months.
The person finds it difficult to control the worry.
The anxiety and worry are accompanied by at least three of the following symptoms:
- Feeling restless or “on edge”
- Being easily fatigued
- Have difficulty concentrating or experiencing mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- leep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless or unsatisfying sleep)
The anxiety, worry and accompanying symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment.
How do we treat anxiety?
Medical treatment for 50 years was to prescribe benzodiazepines.
Now the first-line treatment is to prescribe antidepressants, in particular, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
The use of benzodiazepines is reserved as a second-line treatment or for short-term adjunctive treatment alongside antidepressants to cover the lag time before SSRIs become fully effective.
However, remission rates for people on these medications are just 38%, and up to 30% of people do not respond at all.
The biggest concern is the side effects of the medications.
The role of natural therapies in curing anxiety
There are many causes of anxiety, and many ways in which natural therapies can help people with the condition.
For example, neurotransmitters are chemical substances released at the end of a nerve fibre. There are several neurotransmitters which, when in deficiency, can contribute to anxiety disorders. Our bodies make neurotransmitters from nutrients obtained through our diet. If our diet is lacking in protein, good fats and vitamins and minerals, our bodies cannot produce what is needed and health conditions result.
There is also much research on the role of good bacteria in the pathogenesis of many health conditions including anxiety and depression.
Good bacteria can be obtained through supplementation or eating probiotic foods such as yoghurts, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. A balance between supplementation and food sources is best as variety is key to a well-functioning gut, and mental health.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to aid anxiety and depression. Most of us do not get enough of these healthy fats. Good sources of omega-3 include oily fish like sardines and salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil (also called linseed) and chia seeds.