Anxiety Disorder – Stop the Suffocation

Fear, apprehension, agitation, unease; these are the emotions which stem from a dark & suffocating place. Imagine suffering from a mental illness that can influence the way you think, feel & behave. Here are the facts and some relief, for the millions of people who suffer from an anxiety disorder.

When your body senses danger, it reacts by increasing your sense of alertness, which prepares you to react. Anxiety is a normal and necessary reaction and we all experience it from time to time, but when anxious feelings start to occur more frequently, last for extended periods, or interferes with your ability to perform daily tasks, it’s time to seek help.

Anxiety has a number of “cousins” including phobias, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder & obsessive-compulsive disorder. The defining factor which relates these disorders is the onset of anxious feelings when faced with a threat (either real or imagined) and this can bring about a variety of physical, emotional & behavioural symptoms. Some symptoms may include either one or a combination of (and are not limited to) the following…

  • Shallow breathing
  • Dizziness, shakiness, or tremor
  • Nail biting
  • Unrealistic fears of situations
  • Upset stomach or “butterflies”
  • Excessive worrying
  • Muscle tension
  • “Freezing” or feeling unable to act
  • Avoidance of a feared event
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Living in the future and expecting the worst possible outcome
  • Either loss of or increased appetite
  • Disturbed Sleep

The Cause

Theories of anxieties origins are thought to be the result or even the combination of biochemical imbalances in the brain (possibly genetic), subconscious conflicts arising from childhood trauma, to the favourable idea it is a learned response to unpleasant situations.

The Treatment

The good news is there are many reliable choices to treat your anxiety. These include…

  • Aerobic exercise to prompt the release of the bodies “feel good” hormones called Endorphins
  • Hands on therapies such as massage, acupressure & reflexology
  • Relaxation techniques including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi and visualization

It is common to combine psychotherapy (cognitive behavioural therapy is preferred) and medicinal treatment to provide effective relief. The benefits of this combination means your symptoms can be controlled (by medication), which enables you to concentrate on the psychotherapy. Medicinal treatments often include antidepressants, which work by regulating serotonin and other neurotransmitters, and beta-blockers, used to reduce the production of adrenalin (which is responsible for all symptoms related to anxiety).

The Alternative Treatments

KAVA (Piper methysticum)

Also know as Kava-kava, Yagona, Kew or Sakau, this herb native to the South Pacific contains a substance called kavalactones. Kava is used for its sedative properties and among other things, to relax skeletal muscles. Studies have revealed excellent results when using kava to treat anxiety. It is comparable to tricyclic antidepressants (such as asendin & norpramin) and to low doses of benzodiazepines (such as xanax). Unfortunately, kava has a number of possible side effects, most dangerously being liver toxicity. Others include nausea, loss of appetite, blurred vision and shortness of breath. Kava can also interfere with prescribed drugs including fragmin and valium. If you are on any medication, it is vital you consult your doctor before taking kava.


A herb with clusters of small white or pink flowers and a gigantic root system. This herb has been used in ancient China and Greece to relive anxiety, insomnia and restless states, just like the prescribed drug (which is why it’s often referred to as the “herbal valium”).

When taken for long periods the side effects of valerian may include irregular heartbeat, headache, uneasiness, restlessness and insomnia and very rarely, gastrointestinal problems. Always consult your doctor before taking valerian.

Tryptophan / 5-HTP

5-HTP, otherwise known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, replaced tryptophan (an essential amino acid the body uses to increase serotonin levels) after a contaminated batch in the late 80’s caused many people to suffer from a serious pain syndrome. 5-HTP works in almost the same way to increase the production of serotonin in the central nervous system. The brain uses serotonin to help ease depression, anxiety and the sensation of pain. 5-HTP’s possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, breathing difficulties and may trigger serotonin-syndrome, a potentially life-threatening disorder caused by an abundance of serotonin in your body. Always consult your doctor before taking valerian.

Source by Cherie O’Neill

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