Anxiety affects a massive 40 million Americans 18.1% of the U.S. population. Keep reading for ways to recognize anxiety symptoms when they arise, as well as what to do if you think you may be one of the millions affected.
One of the most frightening symptoms of anxiety is the panic attack. Panic attacks are defined as an overwhelming sense of fear or doom that occurs suddenly, typically reaching its peak within ten minutes of the onset. A panic attack also usually consists of at least four of the following symptoms: trembling or shuttering, sweating, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain (real or perceived), a sense of choking, nausea, dizziness, numbness or a tingling in the extremities, chills, hot flashes, or derealization (a sense of being or becoming detached from the world). People suffering from a panic attack often believe they are having a heart attack.
Panic attacks can be caused by a panic disorder, but this is not always the cause. Other mental health problems can also cause panic attacks, including social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia (a fear of being around crowds or in public generally), and other phobias. Physical conditions can also cause panic attacks, such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, and heart attacks. Usually when these conditions cause panic attacks, however, the attacks are not chronic. In the case of repeated or regular panic attacks, the condition is often diagnosed as a panic disorder. People with a panic disorder usually have strong fears about future attacks and often go to great extents to avoid environments or situations which they believe may trigger a future attack.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as excessively or unrealistically worrying about something, to the degree that it affects quality of life, for a period of at least six months. It is associated with at least three of the following symptoms: fatigue, restlessness or feeling “edgy”, trouble falling or staying asleep, difficulty concentrating, being easily startled, muscle tension, irritability, anti-social behavior, or personality change. People with generalized anxiety disorder often have other anxiety disorders, such as a panic disorder or phobia (discussed below), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, or substance abuse problems.
Phobias, or phobic disorders, are another type of anxiety disorder. Phobias are the intense and recurrent fear or a certain object (such as spiders, snakes, or germs) or situations (such as heights or public speaking). Both social phobia and agoraphobia, mentioned above, are examples of phobic disorders. Exposure to the source of the fear can trigger panic attacks. The main difference between phobic disorders and generalized anxiety disorder is that phobias are always triggered by something specific.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs when some experiences a traumatic event. The type of event is completely dependent on the person as some things can shock people differently than others. The most commonly known causes of PTSD are war, sexual assault (rape), accidents both major (car accident) and minor (fall at home), GBH as well as others. PTSD can effect those who have had something happen to them, such as the previous examples mentioned before, but it can also effect those who see terrible things happen i.e. seeing someone getting hit by a car etc.
PTSD makes the victim relive the event over in their heads over and over again and in some cases it can have terrible repercussions on someones life. For example a car accident may stop someone from ever driving again. A soldier suffering from PTSD may not be able to live a normal life because the smallest bang or noise startles them, and brings them back to the horrors of the battle field. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
As you may have noticed, many of these anxiety disorders share the same or share overlapping symptoms.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above, then you know that living with anxiety symptoms can be pretty rough, to say the least. Fortunately, there are a number of simple methods that can be done at home—some of them even while you’re reading this—that can help to alleviate your stress or anxiety.
Deep Breathing: This can be done virtually anywhere at any time, including right now. The advised technique is to sit, close your eyes, and breathe slowly. Take air in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Be mindful of your breathing. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe using your stomach. As you concentrate on your breathing, moving focus away from everything else, you may feel as through your brain is only becoming busier. In reality, you are simply noticing how busy your brain already was, and that’s okay. When you inhale, hold your breath for about four seconds before you exhale.
Practice Self-Care: Make sure to practice good hygiene and keep clean clothes. Get a massage or a haircut. Keep your house, room, or car clean. Our anxiety can often manifest itself in our appearance, causing us to become disorganized or cluttered. But the opposite is true too: organizing our surroundings can help our brain to become more organized.
Go Outside: Go to the park, to the lake, or to the beach. Give your brain a break by going out and enjoying nature. You’d be surprised how much less likely you are to Google “how to get rid of anxiety” when you’re out on a nature trail than when you’ve been sitting in your house all day. Getting sunlight is also important to get enough vitamin D in your body, an important vitamin for keeping levels of stress and anxiety low.
Go To Bed Early: The thing is, unused sleep minutes don’t roll over. Not getting enough sleep is one of the things most responsible for making anxiety worse. Sleep deprivation compounds our anxiety.
Exercise: Exercise is arguably one of the best natural remedies for anxiety. Aerobic exercises are especially good for your brain, causing it to release natural chemicals that naturally alleviate anxiety. Researchers have said that those who exercise regularly are 25% less likely to develop an anxiety disorder at some point.
Cut Out Caffeine: Caffeine may give you an energy boost, but you know that it can also make you anxious and jittery. Cut down on drinks containing caffeine, including coffee, tea, sodas, and energy drinks. Caffeine, like any stimulant, is well-known for being a mood-altering drug that can make the symptoms of anxiety worse.
Omega-3’s (aka, fish oil): Try to take in between 1 and 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day. There is evidence that omega-3s can ease the symptoms of anxiety by reducing the levels of chemicals in your body that cause stress, such as cortisol and adrenaline. You can use omega-3 supplements, easily obtained at any pharmacy and most grocery stores, or have it naturally in your diet. High sources of omega-3s include canned fish such as tuna and walnuts and flax seeds.
Overall Diet: As mentioned above, watch out for caffeine, but also keep an eye out for added sugars and alcohol, both of which have also been shown to increase anxiety. Make sure you are getting the proper amount of nutrients; deficiencies in magnesium vitamin B12, and zinc have all been shown to increase the symptoms of anxiety. Also consider eating blueberries and peaches, two foods that have been shown to lower anxiety levels.
To find out more on whether CBD can calm the anxiety of the modern world?
A number of drugs have been marketed by pharmaceutical companies to treat anxiety, such as the popular SSRIs (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Prozac and Zoloft and benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Many subscribers to SSRIs, however, cannot tolerate the side effects of these medications, and benzodiazepines such as Xanax are infamously addictive.
Scientists now know that a major mechanism which modulates fear, stress, and anxiety in the brain is the endocannabinoid system (often abbreviated ECS). In a 2016 academic study, researchers began by stating, “Studies of the endocannabinoid system support its importance for multiple aspects of brain function including modulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; regulation of mood, anxiety, and reward; and extinction of fear learning. Hence, the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in mood and anxiety provides new targets for the development of novel therapeutic agents for a wide range of psychiatric disorders.”
We have discussed “What is CBD?” in previous articles but it is widely known that CBD can help treat anxiety disorders and have an overall calming effect on people with out getting them high. In some cases CBD has been found to both relax patients and allow them to become more focused.
Read more on how CBD can calm panic attacks.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
There is promising research that cannabidiol (CBD) may be an effective treatment for several anxiety disorders. According to a 2010 study, cannabidiol has great promise in alleviating the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD). SAD is a common and highly impairing anxiety disorder. However, the pharmacological treatment of SAD remains problematic since it is treated ineffectively by modern prescriptions, with only about 30% of the subjects achieving true recovery or remission,” researchers wrote. “In conclusion, our results support the concept that areas within the brain (paralimbic and limbic) can be effectively treated for anxiety related issues through CBD’s anxiolytic benefits. This suggests a potential usefulness of CBD in ameliorating symptoms of clinically significant anxiety. When compared to current anxiety medications, CBD comes out on top due to it’s similar effects when treating anxiety quickly but it also lacks the negative side effects that come with them. This shows that this compound may be a promising novel therapy in the management of generalized SAD.”
In a 2015 study published in Psychotherapeutics, an academic journal, the researchers concluded, that clinical evidence supported CBD’s ability to treat anxiety based disorders with a noticeable reduction in negative side effects. The endocannabinoid system is a potential target for preventing and treating anxiety-related disorders, particularly PTSD. Preclinical and clinical data strongly suggest that anxiety is associated with decreased endocannabinoid tone and that CB1 receptors in the fear circuit in the brain are crucially involved in the anxiolytic effects of cannabinoids.”
A 2016 case study examined a ten-year-old girl who had anxiety and sleep problems as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Pharmaceutical medications provided partial relief, but results were not long-lasting, and there were major side effects,” researchers said. “The main finding from this case study is that CBD oil can be an effective compound to reduce anxiety and insomnia secondary to PTSD. A review of the literature suggests some benefits from the use of CBD because of its anxiolytic and sleep-inducing effects.”
If you have tried prescription medications for your anxiety symptoms to no avail, or if you do not want to try prescription medications due to the common side effects or addictiveness of the drugs, you may want to give CBD a try.