Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults each year. And while treatments do help, less than half of sufferers seek professional help.
That’s unfortunate because left untreated, anxiety disorders can get worse over time and may become debilitating.
Medications do have a place in the treatment of anxiety, but are rarely the only course of treatment recommended. Because of the risk of abuse and dependency, they are usually only offered when natural treatments fail.
That’s why learning the basics of anxiety disorders and familiarizing yourself with effective natural remedies (both self- and therapist-led) should be your first line of defense.
Anxiety Disorders, Defined
Considered a clinical mood disorder, anxiety is characterized by feelings of worry or fear severe enough to disrupt work, relationships and daily activities.
Anxiety disorders can be categorized in these ways:
- General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
The disorder can present differently in people based on their innate composition, but symptoms generally include:
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Difficulty with restful sleep
In people suffering from anxiety disorders, any situation in moderation is safe, where excessively emotional situations of any kind can result in a ruminating of thoughts that can spark anxiety symptoms.
It is also somewhat common to become fixated on a particular belief, even a possibly false belief, that increases anxiety. The challenge is to “rewire” that belief.
As if these things weren’t enough to handle, some anxiety disorders can increase the risk of substance abuse, because people attempt to self-medicate their symptoms.
Natural Ways to Treat Anxiety
Much has been written about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as an effective method of treating anxiety.
The premise of CBT is to deal with anxiety by connecting thoughts, reactions and behaviors. It moves away from stressors of the past and focuses on the present, teaching patients how to generally change their responses in times of anxiety.
Specifically, CBT uses behavioral practices designed to alleviate distress, including:
- Deep, rhythmic breathing – Keeps the body relaxed and the blood properly oxygenated
Reframing – Establishes a more positive perspective from which the anxiety originated.
- Example: “Losing my job is actually a good thing, because I was looking for a way to quit anyway.”
- Mindfulness – Encourages focusing on the here and now
- Example: “I am not going to think about this now, because it won’t change the past.”
- Grounding – Provides a distraction from past or future stressors, focusing on the present, with emphasis on the five senses
- Example: Chew gum, arrange flowers, or whistle/sing with the radio
Some treatment methods use imagery techniques for anxiety relief.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) – Also known as tapping, people can self-regulate their emotions by using the fingertips to tap/stimulate areas of the body, known as energy hot spots, while using positive self-talk mantras. The hot spots are primarily located on the face, but also include the top of the head and under the arm. Similar to acupuncture, the technique balances the body’s energy and sends signals to the part of the brain that controls stress.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – This therapeutic technique enables people to heal from emotional distress usually caused by a disturbing life experience. The technique calls for reliving the traumatic experience in brief doses while the therapist directs the patient’s eye movements. The movement diverts attention away from the situation, thereby lessening the anxiety.
The difference between EFT and EMDR is that EFT can be taught and utilized as needed when anxiety elevates, while EMDR is a technique that requires the supervision of a therapist.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Loved One
Organically, anxiety can be passed down within a family, so who better to turn to for support?
Family members can help in these ways:
- Adopt a lifestyle of awareness
- Know the situational triggers of loved ones
- Teach the entire family natural techniques to alleviate symptoms
Combatting anxiety as a family can benefit the patient, as well as younger children who may be at risk of mirroring symptoms.
Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
The use of animals within the military for purposes of emotional support is credited with an increased awareness of how valuable they are for those most affected by anxiety.
The healing powers of ESAs include:
- Reducing blood pressure and lowering heart rate
- Mitigating the symptoms of emotional distress merely by their presence
- Facilitating quicker recoveries from stressful situations
- Offering an alternative to mood-altering medications
Although emotional support dogs are the most common type of ESA, most other domesticated animals may qualify.
If you suffer from anxiety, consult your primary care doctor to determine what treatment is best for you.
If you don’t have a primary care doctor, take our survey to find one that’s right for you.
For more information, AdventHealth Behavioral Health Shawnee Mission offers a wide range of services designed to offer help and support.