What is anxiety?
We all encounter stress and anxiety from time to time. The body responds to stress as a life-threatening situation and releases hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol to respond to the threat. The thing is, though, that the threat doesn’t have to be real. It can be imagined or perceived. For example, thinking about sky diving can cause some people to experience fear and anxiety. There is no physical experience here, just imagined.
Anxiety is really just an overexcited defence mechanism designed to keep us alert in the face of danger. It heightens the senses and enables us to look for escape routes. But it can become debilitating if it continues unabated. If feelings of anxiety persist, they may lead to panic and interfere with a person’s ability to function properly at work, school, or social functions.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Common symptoms of anxiety include the following.
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feeling of doom
- Gut problems – constipation and or diarrhoea
- Disturbed sleep
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Constant worry
- Withdrawing from social engagements
What are the types of anxiety?
There are several types of anxiety disorders; here are a few.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves persistent, uncontrollable worry about everyday issues such as work, money, health. The worry is usually disproportional to the reality of the situation and can affect one’s physical health.
Social Anxiety Disorder involves avoiding social situations for fear of embarrassment, being judged by others, or being rejected by the group.
Panic Disorder involves episodes of sudden panic or irrational fear. They are usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, rapid breathing and dizziness.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by irrational and unwanted thoughts and impulses that become obsessions. These thoughts drive the individual to perform repetitive behaviors, which become compulsive, as a way to deal with them.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder involves disturbing memories and flashbacks following a traumatic event. This condition is often associated with returned military personnel, but it can affect anyone who has been traumatized.
How is anxiety diagnosed?
Anxiety can de be diagnosed by your doctor based on your symptoms and with the use of a detailed mental health questionnaire. One of the key criteria is how the condition affects your ability to function at work, school, or socially.
How is anxiety treated?
Your doctor may prescribe medication to improve your serotonin levels and provide a mental health plan in association with a psychologist.
From a Naturopathic perspective, detailed case history and review of body systems will be taken. This will include a review of the client’s diet and lifestyle. Diet plays a major role in mental health, as numerous studies have established. Where necessary, herbs may be prescribed to nourish the adrenal glands, reduce stress and improve cognition. An assessment of neurotransmitter status may also be undertaken and supplements used as precursors to neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Serotonin and GABA may be prescribed.
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