incidence of anxiety is increasing, due to job and financial stress,
family pressure, and other factors.
Another cause is the constant barrage of ads from the
pharmaceutical companies that “educate” people to understand that
not only do they have anxiety, but that it can be “fixed” by taking
is defined as an abnormal, overwhelming feeling of apprehension and fear
that often brings on physiological symptoms such as rapid heartbeat,
tension, sweating, sleeplessness, and nervousness. Anxiety is actually a
normal response to some life situations, but what is not normal is when
it persists for long periods of time, particularly when there are no
stressors or after those stressors have been resolved.
disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders being treated in
both adults and children today, with 19 million Americans alone
suffering with them at this time. According
to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are
several forms of anxiety:
anxiety disorder – excessive and unrealistic worrying that persists
for 6 months or longer. Physical
symptoms can accompany it, such as headaches, sleeplessness and GI
Compulsive Disorder – persistent and repeated thoughts caused by fear.
People may perform ritualistic routines, such as excessive
cleaning, to try to resolve their anxieties.
Traumatic Stress Disorder – this follows an extremely traumatic event.
People can experience flashbacks, and often engage in avoidance
or numbing behaviors.
Disorder – debilitating panic accompanied by chest pain, heart
palpitations, and difficulty breathing.
Anxiety Disorder – fear of being judged by others, which can result in
avoiding situations in which interaction is required.
phobias – intense fear not commensurate with the issue at hand.
there are many factors affecting the development of anxieties, one major
factor is diet. Hypoglycemia
is one cause – low blood sugar or the reactive hypoglycemia following
the consumption of refined carbohydrates mimics anxiety disorder.
Eating a proper diet and eating less more often (spreading out
your consumption in 5-6 smaller meals) will help.
show that people consuming more animal food experience higher levels of
anxiety. In one study, 80
subjects were fed either a vegetarian diet or an omnivorous diet.
More symptoms of both anxiety and depression were experienced by
the omnivorous group (Rodriguez et al, “Indicators of anxiety and
depression in subjects with different kinds of diets: vegetarians and
omnivores” Bol Asoc Med PR1998 Apr-Jun; 90(4-6):56-68).
The reason is most likely that complex carbohydrates are
precursors to serotonin production, and people consuming an omnivorous
diet were not consuming enough carbohydrates to keep serotonin levels
also influences anxiety. In
one study, subjects were given either ethanol or a placebo and then
evaluated using the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory. Those
taking ethanol experienced increased rates of anxiety symptoms when
compared to those receiving a placebo.
The placebo group reported increased feelings of relaxation. (Monteiro
et al, “Subjective feelings of anxiety in young men after ethanol and
diazepam infusions,” J Clin Psychiatry 1990 Jan;51(1):12-6)
is a stimulant, so it is not surprising that it would increase anxiety
levels. A study comparing
patients who were given caffeine vs. a placebo concluded that the
patients receiving the caffeine had increases in anxiety, nervousness,
fear, nausea, heart palpitations, restlessness and tremors as compared
to the placebo group. 71% of
the subjects stated that the response to caffeine was similar to
symptoms experienced during a panic attack. (Charney et al, “Increased
anxiogenic effects of caffeine in panic disorders,” Arch Gen
Psychiatry 1985 Mar;42(3):233-43).
those experiencing anxiety symptoms consistently tend to have low levels
of several crucial nutrients such as pyridoxine, niacin, and magnesium,
all of which can be remedied by consuming the plant-based diet
recommended by The Wellness Forum.
very important way in which you can reduce anxiety is to practice deep
breathing. Anxiety almost
always results in shallow breathing in the chest, and almost always
responds to deep breathing using the diaphragm.
Doing so induces immediate calm, and prevents the anxiety episode
from wearing you out, restores your ability to think clearly, and to go
on with your day.
are two ways in which you can learn new breathing techniques – there
are classes offered at wellness centers in most areas that teach
breathing skills; and
regular participation in yoga classes will teach you to breath
differently too. In the
beginning, proper breathing will require a lot of conscious effort, but
over time, this will become a more automatic response.
are some people who should be medicated for anxiety, at least in the
short term, and there are those who will need to be medicated for life.
However, these people are in the minority.
A rational approach to life, which involves understanding that
every discomfort does not necessarily have to be labeled as a disease
requiring pharmaceutical intervention, combined with proper diet,
lifestyle, and breathing techniques, can remedy most cases of anxiety,
at considerably less cost and without the side effects that result from
Pam Popper is a naturopath, nutritionist and the Executive Director of The
Wellness Forum, a chain of licensed health and wellness centers
located throughout the U.S. The
Wellness Forum teaches individuals how to change their health outcomes
by assisting them in changing their diet and lifestyle habits.
She is the Founder of The
Wellness Forum Foundation, which offers programming in schools
designed to improve children’s health and well-being through better