Anxiety Treatment Without Medication

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication - Counselling in Melbourne

Over the last two or three decades, we have witnessed an increase in the demand for anxiety treatment without medication.

That means more people are looking for alternatives to supplement or even replace “traditional” treatments like psychiatric medication and psychological therapy.

Although natural treatments for anxiety have been around for centuries, experts have only recently discovered the underlying biochemical mechanisms that explain why certain physical practices and natural supplements prove so useful in alleviating the unpleasant symptoms associated with this condition.

But not all supplements or natural treatments for anxiety that you buy from pharmacies or online marketplaces are effective or safe.

That is why it’s essential to do some research and consult with a medical professional before you try any alternative practices or over-the-counter supplements for anxiety.

Here’s why we need natural treatments for anxiety

Fundamentally, anxiety plays a vital role in our survival and wellbeing, as it triggers the fight-or-flight response that helps us navigate potentially threatening situations.

In moderate doses, anxiety allows us to evaluate risks, identify problems that may occur in the future, and take preventive actions. When you are driving through a residential area, anxiety is what prompts you to take your foot off the accelerator.

Over the years, experts have discovered that a certain level of anxiety increases your ability to perform, while too much of it results in procrastination, avoidance, and poor performance.

Anxiety disorders are characterised by an almost permanent state of rumination, a spiral of worry-filled thoughts that goes on and on without ever reaching a solution. In other words, you get so caught up in details and catastrophic scenarios that you lose sight of the big picture.

According to the World Health Organisation, anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders, affecting nearly 264 million individuals from all around the world.

If left untreated, anxiety disorders can have a profoundly negative impact on the quality of your life and can transition to depression, not to mention the contribution that this condition can have to the economic burden of mental illness.

A study published a few years back revealed that the global direct and indirect economic costs of mental disorders were estimated at US$2.5 trillion. [1] Furthermore, some experts speculate that by 2030, the economic costs of mental illness will most likely double.

Given these grim statistics, researchers and mental health experts are continually looking for effective approaches and treatments that can help people keep mental health issues under control.

An increasing number of mental health professionals have begun to adopt an eclectic and integrative approach that combines “traditional” treatments with alternative options like meditation, yoga, mindfulness, exercise and plant-based supplements.

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: Is it Possible?

In general, the issue of ‘anxiety treatments without medication’ tends to spark heated debates among experts from various fields.

On one side, some see a lot of unexplored potential in various supplements and physical practices that could help people with anxiety disorder achieve a state of calm and balance. On the other side, we have experts who are sceptical and somewhat rigid towards new approaches.

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and if we wish to gain a clear perspective on this matter, let’s start by looking at the current scientific literature to weigh up natural treatments versus anxiety medicine.

When it comes to alternative methods to treat anxiety without medication, most researchers agree that cannabidiol, acupuncture, and yoga seem to be the most promising options.

One recent study which focused on social anxiety in teenagers revealed that cannabis oil (300mg/day for four weeks) could significantly decrease the unpleasant symptoms associated with this condition. [2]

If you’re looking to treat your anxiety without medication, here are some natural options that studies have shown can help treat people with an anxiety disorder.

How can I treat anxiety naturally?

Most experts agree that, before resorting to allopathic medication as the primary treatment for anxiety, it’s essential to focus on cultivating a healthier lifestyle. That means getting rid of any substance (caffeine, energy drinks, alcohol, foods rich in sugar) that can exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety.

Regular physical activity and a good night’s sleep are also crucial if we wish to get a handle on our feelings of anxiousness.

Here are three science-backed natural treatments for anxiety:

1. Natural supplements

In general, natural supplements contain various herbs and vitamins that have been proven effective in alleviating the common symptoms of anxiety. These supplements help you reach a state of calm, fall asleep easier, focus on your daily tasks, and avoid getting caught up in the never-ending spiral of worry and doubt.

Based on current research, experts have concluded that vitamin supplements and plant-derived natural compounds are a viable alternative treatment for anxiety. [3]

B-complex vitamins – play a role in our everyday mood. Supplements that contain vitamin B2, B3, B6, and B12 can help fight depression and anxiety.

Magnesium – is a chemical element that activates neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Given that people with anxiety can also suffer from magnesium deficiency, supplements that contain this element are highly recommended.

Probiotics – can strengthen your immune system, support digestion, and keep your mental and physical health in good shape. Recent studies on the gut-brain connection have revealed that a healthy intestinal flora contributes to a better response to anxiety and stress.

Ginseng – has been used for centuries as an effective treatment for acute stress and anxiety. On top of that, ginseng is also rich in vitamins and minerals, making it an ideal natural supplement for an entire array of health issues.

2. Meditation, mindfulness and yoga

For thousands of years, people throughout Asia have been practising and perfecting meditation, mindfulness and yoga to achieve balance, mental clarity, and physical health. Over the last 50 years, these practices have gained massive popularity and consequently attracted the attention of researchers who wanted to understand the neurobiological mechanisms of meditation practices.

In essence, meditation and mindfulness mean transforming your mind so that you can live a balanced and fulfilled life. The purpose of these practices isn’t to transform you into a new person, but help you see things from a new perspective, thus allowing you to understand yourself and those around you better.

Furthermore, meditation and mindfulness grounds you in the present moment and keeps your mind from wandering when you need to focus on a task for an extensive period.

All and all, current evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation practices such as deep breathing and body scanning. can be an effective alternative treatment for anxiety and stress. [3]

As for yoga, this practice combines body postures with meditation practices to strengthen the mind-body connection, cultivate a state of calm, and keep a balanced mind.

Contrary to popular beliefs, yoga is not just for improving flexibility, posture, and body strength. This practice can have a direct impact on your mind, generating a sense of relief and relaxation.

A recent paper published in Depression and Anxiety revealed that while further research is still needed, yoga is a safe and effective intervention for individuals with anxiety. [4]

By correcting the perception of threatening stimuli, yoga can regulate the systems that control your response to stress. This means that yoga is an excellent practice for people with anxiety or depression, having the same effect as relaxation and self-control techniques.

What is the best natural supplement for anxiety?

Over the years, experts have discovered, developed, and perfected a wide range of vitamin and plant-based supplements for mood disorders, as an alternative to medicine for anxiety.

1. CBD

CBD (short for cannabidiol) is a natural compound that can be found in marijuana, cannabis, and even industrial hemp.

Unlike THC – the other main compound in marijuana – cannabidiol does not have psychoactive effects on your brain. In short, CBD supplements will not get you “high.”

However, this compound appears to have numerous health benefits. For starters, CBD impacts your serotonin levels, e neurotransmitter that plays a central role in mood disorders

In fact, researchers believe CBD supplements are a viable alternative therapy for people dealing with anxiety disorders. [6]

Whether you prefer oils, tinctures, pills, or edibles, CBD based products can ease your anxious thoughts and induce a state of calm.

2. Valerian root

Valerian has been used as a medicinal plant throughout ancient Greece and the Roman empire, its properties being studied and documented by Hippocrates and later by Galen, who recommended valerian root for insomnia.

By the 16th century, this plant was already used throughout the entire European continent as a natural remedy for headaches, nervousness, and heart palpitations.

During World War 2, the British were using valerian tea to cope with the stress and anxiety caused by constant air raids.

As you can see, people have been using this plant to reduce anxiety for almost two millennia, despite not knowing the underlying mechanisms that explain the health benefits associated with valerian.

But recently, scientists have discovered that valerian extracts increase the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which triggers a sedative effect. And that’s why a cup of valerian tea can quickly soothe your anxiety.

3. Chamomile

Although chamomile was first mentioned in ancient Egypt, it was the Greeks who wrote about and popularised this plant as a natural treatment for a whole array of medical conditions.

Chamomile was mostly recommended for parasitic infections, digestive and rheumatic problems, irritations, and other skin conditions.

Furthermore, just like valerian, chamomile has been used for centuries as a natural medication for anxiety. Also, chamomile can induce a state of relaxation throughout the entire nervous system, promote feelings of calm, and help you get a good night’s sleep.

In short, chamomile can be consumed as a supplement or tea, and its anxiolytic effects are well known.

4. Multivitamin supplements

Aside from genetic and environmental factors, anxiety can also be the result of nutritional deficiencies and even poor gut health.

And this is where healthy eating and supplements come into play.

As the name suggests, multivitamin supplements contain several vitamins and elements that have been proven effective in restoring the biochemical imbalances that can contribute to your anxious episodes, thus helping to reduce anxiety in many cases.

Some of the main ingredients that you will find in these supplements are vitamin B complex, vitamin D complex, Magnesium, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, theanine.

Conclusion

No matter what natural alternative you choose to treat your anxiety, it’s essential to talk to your doctor or mental health professional before you make a decision on any treatment plan that affects your mental health.

As a general rule of thumb, Psychologists prefer not to treat anxiety with prescription medication, which is often prescribed by GP’s and Psychiatrists.

Psychological or ‘talking’ therapy is skill-set psychologists develop over their 6-year University degree and practical experience. Talking therapies and treatment techniques are also usually tailored to suit your condition, circumstances, needs and preferences.

However, if your GP is resistive to treating your anxiety with natural remedies. An alternative medical professional you may want to consider seeing is a “Holistic” Doctor or more commonly referred to as an Integrative GP.

Integrative GP’s are medically trained professionals who can help you identify which supplements or alternative practices are right for you, based on your medical history and current health conditions. They often ‘tag-team’ with psychologists to ensure the client gets the best mental health outcomes.

Furthermore, if you wish to conquer your anxieties, keep in mind that healthy lifestyle changes can dramatically shift the odds in your favour. Little behavioural changes such as commencing a balanced diet, regular exercising, taking natural supplements, participating in some meditative or mindfulness classes are small actions to consider.

If you’re willing to accept your problem and take the necessary steps towards a healthier, more balanced lifestyle, anxiety is manageable.

References

[1] S. Trautmann, J. Rehm and H.-U. Wittchen, “The economic costs of mental disorders,” EMBO Reports, vol. 17, no. 9, p. 1245–1249., 2016.

[2] N. Masataka, “Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders,” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 10, 2019.

[3] M. Hosein Farzaei, R. Bahramsoltani, R. Rahimi, F. Abbasabadi and M. Abdollahi, “A Systematic Review of Plant-Derived Natural Compounds for Anxiety Disorders,” Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 16, no. 17, pp. 1924-1942, 2016.

[4] J. Corliss, “Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress,” Harvard Health Publishing, 08 January 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967. [Accessed 03 September 2020].

[5] H. Cramer, R. Lauche, D. Anheyer, Pilkington, M. Manincor, G. Dobos and L. Ward, “Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials,” Depression and Anxiety, vol. 35, no. 9, 2018.

[6] J. w. Skelley, C. M. Deas, Z. Curren and J. Ennis, “Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders,” Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 253-261, 2020.

About the editor, Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross

About the editor, Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross

I am a Registered Psychologist with AHPRA’s Psychology Board of Australia and a Chartered Counselling Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, UK. My formal training began with a B.A. in Psychology and Welfare at Charles Sturt University, and B.A. (Hons) Psychology from the University of Wollongong. I then progressed to the M.A. (Hons) Clinical Psychology at the same university before moving to the UK to undertake a PhD in Psychology from City, University of London.

Find out more about Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross

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