- Monday, 09 March 2009
We have all experienced it one way or another all our lives: anxiety.
Anxiety is that feeling of butterflies in your stomach before giving a speech to hundreds of strangers. It’s the tension and apprehension you feel when your boss is criticizing you for doing a poor job. Anxiety is the pounding of your heart when you sense imminent danger. It’s the nervousness you feel on that first date.
The good side of anxiety
Anxiety arouses you to rapid action and greater alertness to face a threatening situation. Anxiety can be a very good thing if it keeps you on your toes while passing trucks on the highway or if it helps you study harder for that exam. Anxiety can be a blessing when it functions as a normal human defense mechanism for life’s many stresses and helps you to cope.
The bad side
Unfortunately, anxiety can be a double-edged sword. An estimated 50 million North Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder severe enough to require some sort of medical intervention. For such people, anxiety can do quite the opposite of helping one cope. In fact, in some unfortunate people, anxiety can be so paralyzing as to literally ruin their lives.
Related to many disorders
Anxiety is usually the result of a combination of both biological (or biochemical) and psychological (or spiritual) factors. Anxiety can occur as a simple symptom that flares up occasionally but it is usually an aspect of many different types of mental illness diagnoses.
Anxiety can be a significant part of hundreds of physical and mental disorders such as depression. The most common disorders diagnosed primarily because of anxiety are:
- Acute stress disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Panic attack
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social phobia
- Specific phobia (fear of air travel, public speaking, etc.)
Conventional medicine treats anxiety through a combination of prescription drugs (tranquilizers, antidepressants, hypnotics, and analgesics) and psychotherapy. There are many dozen different types of both of these.
Psychotherapy for anxiety disorders can take years to work. The main problem with anti-anxiety drugs is that they are associated with numerous performance-inhibiting side effects (drowsiness, depression, memory disturbances) as well as both a psychological and physical dependency.
Natural approaches are not only safer but, in the long run, far more effective than the usual prescription drugs.
In my next blog I will discuss how diet relates to anxiety.