Taking our health and well-being into our own hands is becoming a common practice in Canada. More and more individuals and families are seeking additional resources to support their health and wellness, or to validate the dished-out solutions in the form of pharmaceuticals, or diagnosis. Canadians recognize an over medicated population and are looking for more information, and alternative options to help them take control over their lives. While research, or even alternative care cannot possibly address each issue, it is a start. Without discrediting the valuable information and experience that comes from health, wellness, and medical professionals, Canadians are finding the information they need to better understand their health conditions, as well as seeking methods of prevention. Common disorders like anxiety, depression or other less visible conditions can often feel like they cannot be controlled because of their seemingly invisible symptoms. This results in individuals feeling at the mercy of traditional healthcare systems and typical medical practices that often involve mild to heavy pharmaceutical drug use, which masks-rather than addresses and treat the root cause, of course in severe cases drug use is often the best alternative. Though anxiety is a common mental condition, the symptoms also present themselves in a very real physical manifestation, allowing those who suffer from anxiety disorders the opportunity to not only understand their symptoms, causes and risk factors but also how to control, manage and even prevent future occurrences.
Let’s talk about anxiety
There are six Anxiety Disorders in adults and seven in children/youth. These include: Social Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Specific Phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Separation Anxiety (in children and youth). Anxiety Canada estimates that 12 percent of Canadas population is affected by anxiety disorders in any given year. Each of the anxiety disorders have specific sets of criteria for diagnosis, and diagnosis should be evaluated and diagnosed by licenced medical professionals. It is estimated that nearly all Canadians or someone we know will experience anxiety at some point in their lives This could be from regular life stressors such as starting school, a new job, getting married, or even visiting the dentist. This is normal and to be expected. Once the stressful event is over the anxious feelings usually disappear. Some individuals however, find themselves incapacitated by anxiety even in the absence of any stressful life events. They feel as though they have no control over how their body is reacting and are not able to function in their day to day lives as a result. Let’s take a closer look at some of the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
We discussed how some symptoms of anxiety can be invisible to the outside world and only known to the individual who is suffering, here are some of those symptoms.
This is common to those who suffer from anxiety and involves constant and chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. Unlike a phobia, where your fear is connected to a specific thing or situation, the anxiety is a general feeling of dread or unease that colours your whole life. This anxiety is less intense than a panic attack, but much longer lasting, making normal life difficult and relaxation seem impossible. If you have anxiety you may worry about the same things that other people do, but you take these worries to a new level. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. You go about your activities filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke worry.
Obsessions are involuntary thoughts, images, or impulses that occur repeatedly in your mind. You don’t want to have these ideas, but you can’t stop them. These obsessive thoughts are often disturbing and distracting. Compulsions are behaviours or rituals that you feel driven to act out over and over. Usually, compulsions are performed to make obsessions go away.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Symptoms of PTSD include trouble relaxing, disturbing dreams, or flashbacks of a traumatic event that was experienced such as war, assault, natural disaster or an accident. Individuals with PTSD may also avoid things related to the trauma.
Social anxiety involves intense fear of being embarrassed or evaluated negatively by others. As a result, people avoid social situations. This is more than shyness and can have a large impact on work or school performance and relationships.
A panic attack is a sudden onset of fear or distress that peaks in minutes and involves experiencing at least four of the following symptoms: Heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, sudden fear of dying, numbness, shaking or trembling, feeling hot or cold, feeling faint. While anxiety disorder has its root in the brain and mental processes, the symptoms also appear throughout the body. Here are some physical symptoms to be aware of. Remember to always check symptoms with a licenced medical professional rather than attempting self-diagnosis.
Insomnia is the most universal sleep disorder, and while anxiety is known to induce insomnia, insomnia can also cause or worsen anxiety. Many people with anxiety find themselves awake at night due to fear, worry, obsessive thoughts, nightmares or gastrointestinal problems. Anxiety and sleep disorders create a vicious circle.
The frequency of feelings such as fear, and constant worry impact the body by contributing to muscle pain and tightness. Muscle tension is a common problem for people with panic disorder. Typically, muscles become tense during a panic attack, or tension related to stress and can cause feelings of stiffness throughout the body.
Chronic indigestion, which would include gas, cramping, stomach aches, bloating, and constipation or diarrhea. This indigestion could be labelled as irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. IBS does not always come linked with or caused by an anxiety disorder. However, they frequently do appear together, and often end up making each other worse. The digestive system is extremely sensitive when it comes to any psychological stress and dealing with persistent chronic digestion problems can only amplify social discomfort.
Chest pain is one of the most frightening physical symptoms of an anxiety attack (commonly referred to as a panic attack). This is also the symptom that most often sends panic disorder sufferers to the emergency room. When chest pain occurs during a panic attack, it is not uncommon for the person to believe that they are experiencing a medical emergency, such as a heart attack. Fortunately, panic attacks are typically not life-threatening. However, only a doctor or other medical professional is qualified to make a proper diagnosis and determine if a person’s chest pain is simply a symptom of a panic attack or is caused by a separate medical condition. Always seek emergency medical care in the event of chest related pain.
Headaches and migraines
Those who suffer with anxiety are more prone to experiencing frequent headaches. Additionally, those diagnosed with panic disorder have also been found to suffer from the more severe types of headaches, known as migraines. Many people with panic disorder have reported that headaches and migraines often develop right after a panic attack or stressful event.
Nausea / Vomiting
People with anxiety disorder may experience nausea and vomiting induced by an exaggerated stress reaction. This may be further exacerbated when they try to eat while feeling anxious. During a stress reaction the body diverts oxygenated blood from the organs including the stomach to the major muscles to help the body to be able to “fight” This is a primitive protective mechanism
Taking control of your anxiety: 5 Natural Remedies
Taking control of your anxiety may feel impossible but there is hope and it starts with understanding your anxiety. Taking the steps by acknowledging your anxiety and how it is affecting your daily life is the first step on the way to controlling your anxiety. While adjusting your environment can assist you in gaining control over your anxiety, there are also some natural remedies shown to reduce, eliminate and assist with anxiety symptoms. Combining the recommendations below with adjustments in lifestyle.
Kava (also known as Kava Kava) is possibly the most effective herbal supplement for moderate and severe anxiety. The Kava root has been extensively researched for its effects on stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Unlike other herbal anxiety supplements, kava is not only useful for anxiety symptoms - it's useful for anxious thoughts as well.
Probiotics and Digestion Aids
Probiotics are the friendly, helpful bacteria in our bodies; probiotics are also found in yogurt, kefir and probiotic supplements. While there are several strains of probiotics, most come in the form of bacteria and yeast. In addition to treating anxiety, supplementing with probiotics has demonstrated tremendous health benefits, including improved digestive and immune system health, reduced duration and intensity of yeast and urinary tract infections, and improved skin conditions. While Fennel isn't for anxiety specifically, it is linked to treating some of the most common symptoms of anxiety, including digestion, coughing (many with anxiety have a nervous cough), and asthma (anxiety can exacerbate asthma symptoms). It may also act as an analgesic, diuretic, and antispasmodic - the latter being useful for some types of anxiety.
B-Vitamins are one of the most commonly linked vitamins to reducing anxiety. Many experts argue that these vitamins are powerful tools for anxiety relief, and that adding this supplementation can cure or reduce your anxiety symptoms.
St. John’s Wort
St. John's Wort is not designed for anxiety specifically, but it is very effective for fighting depression, which is often comorbid with anxiety symptoms. St. John's Wort is also a capable mood lifter. It has also been used for diarrhea, gastroenteritis, viral infections of the chest, lungs, and genitals.
Valerian Root is an incredibly effective sedative, and because anxiety and insomnia are often related, this is a good option to consider when adjusting lifestyle to prepare for full restful sleep. It's used primarily as a sleep aid, but the sedative qualities of valerian are effective in soothing muscles and reducing mental and physical tension as well, so those suffering from muscular tension related to their anxiety will also benefit making it easier to relax. It may also be used to relieve uterine cramps, persistent coughs, and bronchial spasms. It is not recommended for children under 12, pregnant women, or anyone taking other antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Herbal and natural remedies combined with lifestyle changes are simply a great way to treat your anxiety and your anxiety symptoms. They're non-addictive, won't change your personality, and are considered free of side effects when taken as directed.
- Avoid stimulants and depressants such as caffeine, drugs, and alcohol which will only amplify symptoms of anxiety.
- Add a regular exercise routine to your life; this could be as simple as walking daily, connecting with nature or rigorous activity.
- Incorporate practices for mental and physical calmness such as yoga, daily meditation, mindfulness.
- Reduce or eliminate the use of electronic devices before going to sleep. Create an atmosphere conducive to sleep.
- Seek the advice of a licenced counsellor as needed.
New to natural remedies?
Avoiding mixing herbs with prescription medications or alcohol without consulting a doctor. Never abuse herbal remedies (take more than recommended). Do not use herbal remedies for an extended period without talking to a doctor. Check to make sure you are not allergic to an herb before you use it. Always combine herbal supplements with healthy lifestyle choices.
This article is not intended to replace professional medical advice but to act as a resource for individuals. Always consult with your own medical or health professional before beginning a new health program.