Anxiety disorders affect 23 million Americans. This number has continued to rise over the last few decades. Anxiety can range from excessive worry and self-doubt to fears and phobias to obsessively checking and rechecking things. People with “panic attacks” know that anxiety can bring on feelings that one is going to die or “go crazy”. The intense fear of things “being out of control” overlays the quality of life for millions of people every day.
Anxiety disorders can be very successfully treated, in fact, they are one of the most treatable emotional illnesses. While anyone close to someone with an anxiety disorder can tell you, logic and trying to reason with a frightened person will almost never work (and can actually make anxiety worse because the sufferer may stop talking about the discomfort) there are many successful and researched methods to treat anxiety. Therapy, life-style changes, herbal supplements and medications all have been shown to be effective.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is usually done by a psychologist, and involves teaching a person how to relax in the face of their fear. This is first done by teaching relaxation techniques and then combining these with aspects of the fear in an anxiety disorder. When a person can create a sense of physical calm and relaxation in the body whenever wished, they then can carry with them a tool to cope with the fear of repeat anxiety. CBT also includes education about the thoughts, physical reactions and emotions connected with anxiety.
Many life-style factors can contribute to anxiety disorders. Caffeine addiction cannot only look like an anxiety disorder, but can make a tolerable level of anxiety, horrific. Caffeine creates much the same effect in the body as do the chemicals released by the body when experiencing fear. When the mind notices the body reacting with increased heart rate, sweating, sleep disturbances, etc. one may interpret these physical symptoms as anxiety and create a “panic attack” of fear that there is something physically wrong with one’s body.
Sugar and a high carbohydrate diet can create mood swings in people, which also contribute to a person experiencing anxiety at a much higher level. Along with swings in blood sugar, When blood sugar is low, and a person thinks a fearful thought, the cortisol, insulin and adrenaline released by the body cannot be easily metabolized and increase physical symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, feelings of unreality, heart racing, sweating, etc. Eating healthy food every three hours and lowering refined sugar and flour in the diet can go a long way toward getting a handle on an anxiety disorder.
Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, or early morning wakings will leave a person at high risk to develop anxiety. Given enough sleep deprivation, the most normal person will develop increasing anxiety to the point of delusions and hallucinations. Regular restful sleep in essential in the treatment of anxiety. Yet when someone is fearful, sleep can be a difficult thing to get control of. Many natural substances such as Melatonin and Valerian Root may help a person get more sleep.
Laughter and being around unconditionally accepting friends and family can also create endorphins that lead to a sense of well-being and less anxiety. Exercise can help relieve stress that is held in the body and release chemicals that create a sense of feeling good.
Many herbal remedies have been suggested for anxiety. These include; chamomile tea, Kava Kava, Valerian, and lavender. Some less known herbal remedies include; California Poppy, Hops, Passion Flower, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Geranium, Sweet Marjoram, Neroli, Petitgain, and Bergamot. It is important to check with your primary care giver before starting any herbal program. It is wise to inform him or her of any herbal supplements you may be trying (there may be contraindications or drug interactions.) Once you are certain it is safe for you to add herbal remedies to your diet, make sure you consult with a qualified nutritionist to learn what form of the herb is best suited for you and the quantity and frequency recommended.
Many symptoms of anxiety disorders are being successfully treated with medications. Antidepressants that help restore neurotransmitters and benzodiazepines (mild tranquilizers) are available by prescription. While many of these medications may have side effects, there are holistic treatments to help people cope with these as well.
Remember, you are responsible for your emotional and physical health. Gain all the information you can and ask the questions you want answer to. Anxiety is very treatable, and there is no reason a person should suffer without treatment.
© 2017 Lois Nightingale, Ph.D.
Lois V. Nightingale, Ph.D. Psychologist, PSY 9503 Licensed Marriage Family Child Therapist, providing counseling to individuals, families, couples, children and teens in Yorba Linda, and Orange County, California
For more information about treating anxiety call the Nightingale Center at