Is There A Cure For Anxiety?

Updated August 25, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Millions of people worldwide occasionally experience nervousness over a looming test, a stressful situation at work, or an upcoming move to a new city. It’s a strain on their physical and mental health, and it can impact their stress management over time. Feeling this way is very normal, and it is a natural response to outside stressors. However, for some individuals, these feelings of nervousness and apprehension begin to take over their lives, especially when stress management isn’t always applicable. Whereas a certain amount of anxiety allows people to remain alert and responsive to an unfamiliar situation, too much anxiety can lead to extreme distress and a lower quality of life. Luckily, those experiencing anxiety disorders have many options for a cure, as it is highly treatable with lifestyle changes, therapy, natural remedies, anti anxiety medications, or a combination thereof.

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Learn Effective Strategies To Alleviate Anxiety With Therapy

What is Anxiety?

As previously described, anxiety is the feeling of distress or apprehension over an upcoming event. However, those with an anxiety disorder feel a disproportionate amount of stress and fear that can lead to mental and physical symptoms. They have difficulty with stress management, which can have a negative effect on their overall well being. Anxiety disorders can alter how an individual will process and respond to emotions or events in their life, and they can be so severe that a person might wonder if they can die from anxiety. It’s an important mental health issue that touches on everything from biological pathways to stress management skills.

Mild anxiety disorders can lead to a persistent, vague feeling of stress, while those with severe anxiety disorders can be dissuaded from engaging in everyday activities. Clinical trials have shown that anxiety-related disorders can be divided into three categories: anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and trauma/stressor-related disorders.

Anxiety Disorders

An anxiety disorder is characterized by a general feeling of excessive nervousness or fear of a perceived or real threat. “Perceived” threats are threats that are not real but feel real to the individual struggling with the disorder. For example, a perceived threat could be the fear that the oven has been left on (even if it has not been used), and thus a fire will start. This threat may be a current one or a future one. It can lead to negative behavioral, emotional, or physical responses. Physical symptoms of anxiety disorders include body aches, muscle group tension in the shoulders and neck, chest pains, adrenaline rushes, chills, an inability to breathe, dizziness, headaches, heart palpitations, hot flashes, nausea, or hyperventilation.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is characterized by obsessive or intrusive thoughts about a situation. The “obsessive” characterization involves a fixation on a specific situation or item that triggers the “compulsion”, or repeated behaviors by an individual to address that obsession. These behaviors are done in order to alleviate the anxiety associated with the obsession. This obsession triggers negative thoughts and perceived threats: for example, an individual may believe if they do not wash their hands exactly 9 times in a row, they will become seriously ill. By giving in to the compulsion, they alleviate anxiety about that perceived threat while also exacerbating their condition. So, simply giving into their compulsion is not a valid treatment option.

Trauma/Stressor Related Disorders

Trauma or stressor-related disorders are anxiety disorders that stem from the experience of a traumatic situation. This traumatic situation can be a variety of events: war, sexual assault (call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE for help anytime), the death of a loved one, or a car accident may be some events that can trigger trauma-related anxiety disorders. PTSD is the most well-known trauma-related anxiety disorder. Those struggling with PTSD can have intense flashbacks or anxiety attacks when reminded of their experience or may develop an extreme aversion to possibly experiencing that event again. For example, if an individual is in a car crash, they may avoid cars or public transportation altogether.

Treatment of Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the United States, affecting 18.1% of the population every year. However, they are also one of the most treatable mental health issues. The main roadblock to those experiencing anxiety is the primary care system: only 36.9% of those living with it ask for and receive treatment. Lifestyle changes, psychological therapy, and medications can help all individuals experiencing anxiety disorders to overcome their symptoms and realign their life.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are often a low-cost private option for an individual to address their anxiety disorder. They’re also entirely natural remedies that impact everything from biological pathways to overall physical and mental health. Lifestyle changes may include an increase in exercise, a change in diet, or a focus on meditation or mindfulness to calm nerves and relieve stress. While changing their lifestyle may work for those with mild anxiety disorders and will certainly lead to an overall healthier way of living, such natural remedies may not address the more intense symptoms of those living with severe anxiety disorders.

Exercise

Exercise is one of the natural remedies heavily promoted by health professionals worldwide as it offers dozens of benefits besides staying fit. Adding regular physical exercise (doctors recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per day) is one of the natural remedies that can reduce anxiety symptoms. Exercise releases endorphins (the feel-good chemical) to raise moods, which can reduce tension and stress in the body. It also is proven to improve sleep patterns, which is another way to lower anxiety: a regulated 7-8 hours of sleep per night can improve mood and provide a period for the brain and body to relax. Many of those struggling with anxiety may also struggle with insomnia (the inability to fall or stay asleep), so looking into sleep aids may help this as well.

Diet

While there is no specific food or drink that will stop anxiety, adopting a healthy diet is one of the natural remedies to regulate energy and moods overall, in addition to being beneficial to your physical health as well. Staying hydrated and avoiding caffeine and alcohol as much as possible can prevent energy crashes or unwelcome side effects. This is one of the natural remedies that can also lead to a more effective treatment of your anxiety.

Caffeine, in particular, can exacerbate anxiety symptoms such as uncontrollable shaking or headaches. A balanced diet consisting of healthy amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats that also stays away from fried or processed foods can regulate energy levels throughout the day. In fact, studies show that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, avoiding processed foods, and ensuring adequate amounts of folic acid and fatty acids can lead to a reduction in both depression and anxiety. Certain vitamins, such as Vitamin C, can balance a body’s stress hormones. A well-balanced, regulated three meals a day can level out blood sugar levels and keep the body, the heart rate, and the mind at ease. Of course, before you make any drastic changes to your diet or seek any other treatment, you should consult your doctor.

Meditation and Mindfulness

A focus on meditation and mindfulness may also reduce stress and promote healthy thinking habits. Mindfulness is the act of noticing and accepting all thought patterns, which allows an individual to better understand how they react to certain experiences or events. For those with anxiety, especially OCD or PTSD, recognizing a personal reaction to a trigger may allow them to think through the trigger logically and feel calmer as a result. Meditation, often central to practices such as yoga and muscle group progressive relaxation, attempts to focus the individual and clear the mind of all thoughts. It can also help reduce a high heart rate and regulate breathing patterns. Instituting daily practices of meditation or mindfulness can lead to lower stress levels and a greater ability to focus on the processing of thoughts or events. These can aid individuals to better understand their own feelings of anxiety and stress, as well as what practices they feel forms the best support system for their journey to a cure.

Home Remedies

Home natural remedies are another way to help promote stress management and curb the mental health effects of anxiety. One of the most popular natural remedies for anxiety is essential oils. You can find essential oils from many different plants and herbs, and each of these essential oils can be helpful for different ailments. For anxiety and stress management, lavender essential oils are one of the natural remedies. Lavender essential oils can help you relax each muscle group, which can promote your overall health and well being while also helping with stress management.

Herbal supplements that enforce biological pathways which have been shown to reduce stress might also be beneficial to people with anxiety. While such herbal natural remedies have come under critical review, many people still claim better mental health and physical health and well being as a result of taking these herbal remedies.

Other totally natural remedies for anxiety include having a strong support system of friends and family members in place, getting enough social interaction, and making sure that you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals every day.

Psychotherapy

Psychological therapy is often recommended to treat anxiety due to the high success rate and study protocol. Therapy is often much more successful than lifestyle changes, although the two may be used in tandem to deliver the best results for your mental health and well being. Anxiety therapy can even deliver better results than anxiety medication, as it teaches the individual how to deal with the underlying causes or triggers of their anxiety disorder, rather than just treating the symptoms of those triggers. Many different types of therapy are used for those experiencing anxiety, but cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and aversion therapy are the two main types for promoting long term mental health.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most prevalent therapy and study protocol used to treat anxiety disorders. It is effective in treating general anxiety disorders, OCD, and panic disorders. CBT addresses an individual’s negative thought patterns as well as the subsequent reactions or behaviors associated with those thoughts. CBT attempts to teach the individual that thoughts (rather than events) influence the way they emotionally react. In CBT, negative thoughts are identified, challenged, and replaced with realistic thoughts. For those with anxiety disorders, CBT can teach how to break negative patterns of thinking, which therefore reduces anxiety about those thoughts.

Learn Effective Strategies To Alleviate Anxiety With Therapy

Exposure Therapy

Those with anxiety disorders often end up avoiding everything that they believe will trigger their symptoms. Over time, this forms habits that may prevent individuals from interacting in everyday life and may make these fears or aversions even stronger. Exposure therapy aims to remedy that. Exposure therapy attempts to expose individuals to the thing that they fear in order to address it and shows the individual that it is not something that needs to be feared. For example, those who are scared of car crashes due to their own traumatic experience may avoid vehicles altogether. Exposing that individual to rides in vehicles can reduce fear and anxiety by proving that a car ride is not inherently dangerous. Over time, the individual will feel in control over that situation, and anxiety is reduced. The therapist is always there as a support system throughout the course of the exposure treatment, though, so the setting is always low-risk.

Medication

Those who have severe anxiety disorders, such as OCD or PTSD, may not find immediate success with either lifestyle changes or therapy. Their symptoms may be so severe that they need fast-acting remedies to allow them to participate in regular activities or reduce severe depression due to their disorder. Antidepressants are commonly used to treat anxiety, as well as anxiolytics (which attempt to treat specific symptoms of anxiety) or muscle relaxants. Many individuals who experience anxiety find the most success with a combination of psychotherapy and taking medication. The therapy treatment is like a support system that keeps them going, even as the medication treatment does its work. After experiencing a remission in symptoms, the medication should be continued for at least 6 months to ensure that there is no relapse. Of course, before you start treatment that involves medication, you need to get approval and a prescription from your doctor.

Overall, while anxiety is often underreported and therefore undertreated, it is an incredibly curable disorder. Different types of anxiety require different treatments, but many find success with either lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of all three. Anxiety is highly specific to the individual, so there is no one clear path that can aid everyone struggling with anxiety, but focusing on treatments that help and sticking with them can ensure continued mental health and success at overcoming these types of disorders.

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