Merriam-Webster defines anxiety as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs” (anxiety). The physiological signs associated with anxiety include increased pulse rate, tension and sweating. In addition, anxiety is a response to a perceived danger in a person’s mind and not an actual danger. The person also has doubt about his or her ability to cope which causes undue stress. When anxiety is persistent and chronic, it is called anxiety disorder.
There are many types of anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Additionally, many phobias fall under the umbrella of anxiety disorders (WebMD).
Physiological Effects Anxiety Disorder
People who have anxiety disorder are constantly worried and tense, even when there seems there is no reason for them to be this way. People with anxiety disorder may exhibit symptoms such as having trouble sleeping, restlessness (day or night), chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and nervousness. They may also show irritability toward others. There are several causes of anxiety disorder and it presents in people of all ages.
Two of the most common causes of this condition are stress and heredity. It is possible for several people in the same family to suffer from anxiety disorder, as the behavioral traits associated with it tend to run in families. As it relates to stress as a cause, anxiety occurs when someone is put into a flight or fight situation that releases the stress hormone in the body and creates a survival response. Undue stress that occurs on a consistent basis causes anxiety disorder. Other causes include chemical imbalances in the brain and environmental influences (Shelton).
Environmental influences include situational events that cause stress such as being in an emergency situation or being a victim of violence. Another example of an environmental stressor is being in a crowded room, if one is claustrophobic. As it concerns chemical imbalances, a person develops anxiety disorder if the homeostasis (balance) of their being is altered. This is possible when chemicals in the brain become imbalanced due to any number of factors occurring within the body such as hypothyroidism. The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain and produces hormones in the body that regulate human growth, blood pressure and certain aspects of the reproductive system. Hypothyroidism occurs when there is a decrease in pituitary hormone levels, it creates a chemical imbalance that often leads to anxiety by disrupting normal body functions (MayoClinic).
Anxiety Disorder and Nutrition
Aside from prescribed medication, coping with anxiety is part of a well-rounded treatment protocol. People with anxiety need to cope by making lifestyle changes that include better nutrition. According to Daniel Hall-Flavin, M.D., including protein in one’s breakfast is good for anxiety because it increases energy levels. Also, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, increases serotonin levels in the brain, and this produces a calming effect. Low serotonin levels cause an imbalance of this hormone which leads to personality changes. In addition, the recommendation is eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients from fruits, vegetables, essential omega-3 fatty acids (Hall-Flavin), as well as foods rich in amino acids. Including foods rich in amino acids help regulate anxiety disorder by balancing out neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain, stabilizing mood, and relieving depression. Common amino acid supplementation treatments include Tyrosine, N-Acetyl Cysteine, and Taurine/Alanine. Tyrosine converts in the brain as dopamine which decreases anxious behavior. N-Acetyl Cysteine converts in the body as cysteine and glutathion, which alter mood with antioxidant properties. Taurine and Alanine are used to treat depression and anxiety by relaxing excited neurons in the brain (Roizman).
There is hope for people who suffer from anxiety disorder if they seek medical attention to treat the symptoms and control the effects of this chronic condition. According to the American Psychological Association, untreated anxiety disorder may lead to problems affecting one’s job and family requirements or it may lead to depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Therefore, it is imperative that anxiety disorder is treated by qualified mental health professionals and appropriate medicinal and nutritional protocols. People with anxiety disorder learn to cope by understanding their condition through education and treatment (APA).References
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. (2012, March 25). Generalized anxiety disorder. PubMed Health. anxiety. n.d. Web. 26 February 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety>.
APA. Anxiety disorders and effective treatment. 2010. Web. 26 February 2013. <http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/anxiety-treatment.aspx>.
Hall-Flavin, D. K. Generalized anxiety disorder. 2012. Web. 26 February 2013. <Generalized anxiety disorder>.
MayoClinic. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). 2012. Web. 26 February 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypothyroidism/DS00353>.
Roizman, T. (2011, August 18). What Amino Acids Are Good for Anxiety & Depression? Retrieved from Livestrong: http://www.livestrong.com/article/300571-what-amino-acids-are-good-for-anxiety-depression
Shelton, C. I. (2004, March 1). Diagnosis and Management of Anxiety Disorders. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 104(3), S2-S5
WebMD. Anxiety Disorders. 2013. Web. 26 February 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-anxiety-disorders>.