Although anxiety is considered a normal reaction to stress and may help a person deal with a tough situation, it can develop into a disorder when it becomes excessive. When anxiety becomes excessive or irrational, it may fall under the classification of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in Australia. Nearly one in 10 people will experience some type of anxiety disorder in any one year.
Anxiety disorders can take several forms, ranging from a general feeling of apprehension, social phobia and compulsive behaviour to full-blown panic attacks. Other symptoms include irritability, sleeping problems, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, headaches, diarrhoea and nausea.
Adrenaline is the hormone of anxiety. Adrenaline stimulates the sympathetic (flight and fight) nervous system. Hence, the anxious person needs to devote time to support the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system to gain control. However, because the root causes of anxiety are complicated, methods to prevent and treat it vary from person to person. Anxiety is best managed using a variety of techniques that may include counselling, diet, herbs, supplements, breathing techniques and meditation.
Diet is a good place to start. Caffeine is a stimulant best avoided, especially in coffee and cola drinks. Also adrenaline also has the effect of spiking blood-sugar levels. To stabilise sugar levels, eliminate refined sugar from the diet. When anxious, breathing is fast and heavy. Controlling the breath reduces anxiety. Breathe slowly in and out of the nose. Take three long seconds to breathe in, down to the abdomen, then slowly release, over four seconds. Continue until calm descends.
Massage, meditation and the mineral magnesium all relax and soothe the nervous system. Herbs that are particularly effective for calming the adrenal glands and nervous system include kava, zizyphus, passionflower, licorice, withania and St John's wort. Formulations that contain these herbs include Ethical Nutrients Stress and Anxiety Relief, Caruso’s Anxiety Aid, Remotiv and Rescue Remedy Drops.
Doctors, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and your local community health centre can help diagnose and treat anxiety. They can also advise on the best treatments for you.