Natural treatment of Anxiety Disorders
Stress and worry are a part of life, but when anxiety - a feeling of apprehension or fear - develops and becomes overwhelming to the point it is disabling, an anxiety disorder may be responsible. These anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses, affecting at least 10 percent of people in Western countries, including children and teenagers.
The causes of anxiety disorders are not completely known. They frequently develop after emotional neglect in childhood or stressful and traumatic events, and may continue for years after the initial event. They also do seem to run in families and some may be due to chemical imbalances in the brain; for example, some cases of OCD are blamed on an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin.
A physical disorder, such as an overactive thyroid gland, or the use of drugs like corticosteroids or cocaine, can produce the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Types of anxiety disorders
There are six major types of anxiety disorders
1. Generalized anxiety disorder
2. Anxiety attacks (Panic disorder)
3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
5. Social anxiety disorder
6. Post-traumatic stress disorder
While it is not always possible to prevent anxiety disorders, teaching people to discern true risk from fears is central to prevention and treatment. In addition, some studies have shown the benefit of regular exercise and the use of relaxation methods such as meditation. Avoid caffeine, illegal drugs, and stimulant-containing over-the- counter cold medication, which can all worsen the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Diagnosis is based on symptoms. A thorough physical examination can rule out any other possible causes. More than one mental illness can exist at a time; anxiety disorders may accompany depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, or another anxiety disorder.
• GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
Twice as many women as men suffer from this constant, excessive worry and nervousness that lasts six months or longer. At least three of these symptoms must also be present for a diagnosis: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension and sleep problems.
• OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER
Disturbing, anxious thoughts or images are obsessions, while the rituals to get rid of them are called compulsions. These thoughts and rituals feel our of control and may take up at least an hour a day, inter- fering with daily life. For example, a person with OCD may have an overwhelming fear of germs, and consequently wash their hands hundreds of times a day. OCD affects men and women equally and usually starts in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood.
• PANIC DISORDER This disorder is characterized by panic attacks that strike without warning, causing feelings of terror and physical symptoms of chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal pain, feelings of unreality, and a fear of dying that may mimic a heart attack. Twice as common in women than in men, it often develops during late adolescence or early adulthood. Around one-third of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia, a fear of being in situations where escape or help may be un- available or embarrassing if a panic attack were to occur. Some people with panic disorder may become housebound, although this condition is one of the most treatable of the anxiety disorders.
Do your symptoms indicate an anxiety disorder ?
If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
· Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
· Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
· Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake?
· Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way?
· Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?
· Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
· Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
Emotional symptoms of anxiety
· Feelings of apprehension or dread
· Trouble concentrating
· Feeling tense and jumpy
· Anticipating the worst
· Watching for signs of danger
· Feeling like your mind’s gone blank
· Physical symptoms of anxiety
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include
· Pounding heart
· Stomach upset or dizziness
· Frequent urination or diarrhea
· Shortness of breath
· Tremors and twitches
· Muscle tension
Many anxiety disorders can be treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Other techniques may also help.
• MEDICATION Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants, are commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders, but they can take two to three weeks to be effective and some- times may make symptoms worse at first. They are often used for generalized anxiety disorders and OCD. Other antidepressants such as the tricyclics or MAO inhibitors may be used in some cases.
Antanxiety drugs such as the benzodiazepines are often used for anxiety, but can lead to drug dependence and must be tapered off. Buspirone, a non-habit- forming antianxiety drug, takes two weeks to be effective. Other drugs that may be prescribed include beta-blockers, antihistamines and certain sedatives.
• PSYCHOTHERAPY Cognitive behavioural therapy is effective for many anxiety disorders. The cognitive therapy portion changes thinking patterns that in turn change reactions to feared situations. The behavioural therapy portion works to decrease avoidance of feared situations and allow patients to learn first-hand that such situations can be successfully handled.
People with OCD are often treated with 'exposure and response prevention' by exposing them to their fear while providing help in coping with the resulting anxiety. Exposure therapy carefully uses repeated imaginings in a safe environment to help the patient gain control of the fear. Desensitization uses a more gradual response and involves relaxation training.
• GROUP THERAPY This type of therapy may help individuals with generalized anxiety disorder realize others also experience the same excessive worry.
• MUSIC THERAPY Studies show that music therapy can enhance mood and illicit the relaxation response, a physical state characterized by a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension. Listening to music that is a personal preference has a more beneficial effect on the outcome.
• MEDITATION Mindfulness meditation, a type of meditation in which attention is focused on physical sensations in the present, may help reduce feelings of anxiety. Some studies show changes in brain wave patterns.
• HYPNOTHERAPY Hypnosis can reduce anxiety, especially that suffered before medical or dental procedures. It may be used as an adjunct therapy along with cognitive-behavioural therapy. While there is ample anecdotal evidence, no reliable research studies have compared hypnosis alone to antianxiety medication.
• YOGA Several studies have shown yoga effective in treating anxiety. Commonly used has been Kundalini meditation and relaxation. However, more studies are needed.
• RELAXATION Regularly practised relaxation techniques reduce anxiety and are especially helpful when used with desensitization therapy for panic disorder or phobias.