Many times you read that anxiety is a normal part of life, but if you are googling and researching because of how your anxiety makes you feel, then you may have an anxiety disorder. Chest pains, nightmares, atypical fears, and non-diminishing anxiety are cause to dig deeper.
Diagnoses that may actually be anxiety related:
Brain chemistry can affect your mood and mental health. Researchers have linked abnormal activity in certain brain structures to anxiety disorders. There are a number of factors that have been identified by specialists as being related to anxiety. The brain of an overly anxious person is already more sensitive to stress. When the body is confronted with a perceived threat in the environment, the brain prepares it to react. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) becomes active in stressful situations. The SNS is what triggers physiological reactions in the body such as:
- Increased heart rate
- Dilation of the pupils
- Tensing of the muscles
- Accelerated breathing
- Trembling hands
While a healthy person’s brain recovers from stress at a normal rate, the brain of a person who is prone to anxiety takes longer to re-adjust itself to a normal state. An anxious individual is also more likely to experience acute stress because even in a relaxed state, the brain of someone with anxiety issues is somewhat over-excited. Anxiety disorders cause the affected person to be in a perpetual state of stress, so events and situations can further upset the balance of the body.
A chemical in the brain which is involved in the onset of anxiety is norepinephrine. When it is released in the brain, norepinephrine functions as a signal to the body to panic. In some cases, panic attacks are triggered in people with very little external cause. (http://emetophobiarecovery.com/)
MTHFR and Anxiety
MTHFR, short for “Methyl Tetra Hydro Folate Reductase” controls the formation of chemicals in your brain. If you inherited a non-functioning gene, or your gene is not working properly, you will have low levels of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline, which can cause genetic anxiety or depression. MTHFR is responsible for a process called “methylation,” well known for changing homocysteine into methionine. The MTHFR enzyme is also involved indirectly in the production of many neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinepherine, etc), as well as SAMe and glutathione (a pivotal anti-oxidant molecule involved in the body’s natural detoxification process).
There are 31 currently known variations of this gene. The two most common are known as the 677 and the 1298 (which makes reference to the specific location on the gene where the abnormality is).
Having one or two of the lower functioning MTHFR enzymes can contribute to symptoms of so many things (we will break these down in future blogs):
- Cardiovascular risks associated with high Homocystiene
- Folate deficiency related pregnancy and development problems
- Neurotransmitter issues like Anxiety and Depression
- Significant decrease in ability to eliminate toxins, especially heavy metals
MTHFR being tied to anxiety is not well known yet, but should be taken very seriously. A simple blood test can be done to determine your MTHFR status; along with this test, testing for B12, folate, and homocysteine labs will allow you to learn how to correctly supplement for your results. Many patients that have these less-than-optimal genes experience significant (and sometimes dramatic) improvement once beginning the “MTHF Repletion” protocol.
Anxiety is not an all-in-one disorder.
Several types of anxiety disorders exist and all should be taken seriously: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
- Separation anxiety disorderis a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that is excessive for the developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
- Selective mutismis a consistent failure to speak in certain situations, such as school, even when you can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can interfere with school, work and social functioning.
- Specific phobiasare characterized by major anxiety when you’re exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias provoke panic attacks in some people.
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
- Panic disorderinvolves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, heart palpitations or chest pain.
- Agoraphobiais anxiety about, and often avoidance of, places or situations where you might feel trapped or helpless if you start to feel panicky or experience embarrassing symptoms, such as losing control.
- Generalized anxiety disorderincludes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is usually out of proportion to the actual circumstance, is difficult to control and interferes with your ability to focus on current tasks. It often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression.
- Substance-induced anxiety disorderis characterized by prominent symptoms of anxiety or panic that are a direct result of abusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawal from drugs.
- Anxiety disorder due to a medical conditionincludes prominent symptoms of anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.
- Specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorderare terms for anxiety or phobias that don’t meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorders but are significant enough to be distressing and disruptive.
Several herbal remedies have been studied as a treatment for anxiety: www.naturaldatabase.com
- In some studies, people who used valerian reported less anxiety and stress. When it’s time to stop using valerian, it must be tapered down to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
- A few small clinical trials suggest that passionflower might help with anxiety. In many commercial products, passionflower is combined with other herbs, making it difficult to distinguish the unique qualities of each herb.
- This amino acid is found in green tea and may be found in some supplements. Preliminary evidence shows that theanine may make some people feel calmer.
Lifestyle changes can make a difference.
- Keep physically active.Develop a routine that includes lifting weights. Be sure you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities. (Strength training has been proven to balance hormones, so make sure to include this into your regular routine.)
- Avoid alcohol and other sedatives.These substances can worsen anxiety.
- Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking coffee.Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
- Use relaxation techniques.Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety.
- Make sleep a priority.Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel rested.
- Eat healthy.Healthy eating is linked to reduced anxiety. Consider gluten free and dairy free as both are inflammatory foods. Avoid alcohol and drug use, as these can cause or worsen anxiety.
- Get outside. The lower the Vitamin D level, the higher the risk of anxiety disorder or depression. Let that sun hit your skin and soak up all the Vitamin D possible.
Chiropractic Care for Anxiety:
All of your moods, feelings and health are based upon chemistry. Your internal organs and brain chemistry is regulated through your nervous system. Your nervous system is the master control system and it controls every aspect of your body and your health.
When your fist, second or third vertebrae become misaligned they put pressure on your brainstem causing neurological and CHEMICAL INTERFERENCE. When the brainstem gets pressure from the vertebrae its normal production of brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) are affected. As a result, the person’s production of serotonin is low causing changes in their mood and their behavior. Adjustments can help. http://thelifelounge.ca/anxiety-depression-and-chiropractic-care/
Ways to Cope:
- Learn about your disorder. Educate yourself on your condition and ways to help. Seek and ask for help.
- Stick to your treatment plan. Keep therapy appointments. Consistency can make a big difference.
- Involve your family.As with any illness, asking your partner or family members for help is an important part of coping.
- Join an anxiety support group.Remember that you aren’t alone. Support groups offer compassion, understanding and shared experiences. The National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America provide information on finding support.
- Don’t let worries isolate you from loved ones or activities. Social interaction and caring relationships can lessen your worries.
There’s no way to predict for certain what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you’re anxious:
- Get help early.Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
- Keep a journal.Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health provider identify what’s causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
It is important for people with anxiety disorders to understand what’s happening to them when they experience stress. Family and friends of those suffering need to be educated on the biology of anxiety. Knowledge of a condition can benefit the person in distress and his or her loved ones. It helps the afflicted person to cope with the illness and the people in his or her life to be supportive.