With each passing year, there is a significant increase in the number of mental illness cases recorded in the United States. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting about 18.1 percent of the U.S population yearly.1 Though highly treatable, only 36.9 percent of those suffering from anxiety disorders receive treatment.2
What Is Anxiety?
As defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), “anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”3 Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress or uncertainties. And it is healthy to think about things critically or to be precautious about some situations.
Symptoms most associated with anxiety include rapid breathing, fast heart rate, fear, intense worrying, confusion, sweating, and sometimes, fatigue. The causes of anxiety have been linked to environmental and genetic factors, as well as brain chemistry.8
Despite being a normal reaction that could be triggered by everyday events, anxiety becomes a medical disorder when the symptoms become severe, prolonged, or out of proportion to the original trigger.3 At this point, it is referred to as anxiety disorder and can disrupt the daily functions of an individual. In some cases, anxiety disorder can lead to substance abuse, which often necessitates a stay at a drug detox center.
What Are The Types Of Anxiety Disorders?
There are various types of anxiety disorders,4 but the major ones are:
- Panic disorder – Characterized by random feelings of terror, most likely to be accompanied by palpitations, chest pain, heart attack, etc.
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD) – Also known as social phobia, this is a feeling of anxiety that surfaces in social situations. The symptoms of SAD may include persistently low self-esteem, overwhelming worry/self-consciousness, fear of being judged or ridiculed, etc.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – People with generalized anxiety disorder feel extremely worried or nervous about (almost) everything, such as health, family, money, and so on. Even when there is no reason to be worried, it is difficult for people with GAD to focus on daily tasks. In addition, it is usually challenging for them to identify the cause of their anxiety. Symptoms include irritability, trembling, sleeping disorder, frequent bathroom visits, restlessness, etc.5
- Agoraphobia – This is a perceived fear of certain environments or situations, because they make one feel trapped, helpless, or cause them to panic.
- Specific phobia – People with this type of phobia have an irrational fear of certain things, places, animals, or events. Unlike most other forms of anxiety disorders, specific phobias are related to a particular cause, and those that have it are aware of it. However, they might not be able to control it.6
What Are The Treatments For Anxiety?
The actions of people who have one form of anxiety or the other could be misinterpreted sometimes as being dramatic or manipulative.7 But that is hardly the case. From a third person’s perspective, the symptoms of anxiety can be detected easily. More so, they are treatable, and early detection and treatment would help stop an anxiety disorder from degenerating into a psychiatric or depressive disorder.
Anxiety disorders are mostly treated with medication, psychotherapy, or both.8 Natural remedies like meditation, a healthy diet, and sleeping well, are useful in the control of anxiety, especially to prevent it from escalating into a persistent disorder. Besides adopting a healthy lifestyle, some vitamins (vitamin supplements) could also be taken to help control anxiety. Morover, If you are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction and you’re suffering from symptoms of anxiety, anti-anxiety medication may not be the only answer.
What Vitamins Are Good For Anxiety?
Alongside environmental and genetic factors, the biochemical changes9 in the body caused by stress are also listed as the risk factors of anxiety. Research has shown that antioxidants such as vitamin A (β-carotene), vitamin C, and vitamin E are impactful in reducing anxiety. These vitamins act as a secondary defense against the biochemical changes caused by stress.9 And their deficiencies, including that of vitamins D and B, could influence an increase in anxiety.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Vitamin C has been proven to play a therapeutic role in dealing with damage caused by oxidative stress in individuals suffering from anxiety.10 Studies suggest that diets rich in vitamin C may be effective supplements in the treatment of anxiety. They could be found as dietary supplements or in natural sources, such as:
- Vegetables – broccoli, brussel sprouts, capsicums, cauliflower, etc.
- Fruits – citrus fruits, guava, kiwi, grapefruit, strawberries, etc.
Tests have shown that individuals dealing with anxiety are sometimes vitamin A deficient.9 Also, vitamin A is effective in balancing out biochemical changes caused by oxidative stress.9 Sources of vitamin A include cod liver oil, eggs, orange, carrots, and leafy vegetables.
Some studies have refuted the direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety. But other studies have shown that low levels of calcidiol – a byproduct of vitamin D – is common in people with anxiety.11
The direct effects of the vitamin in the control of anxiety varies from one population sample to another. A study shows that there was mood improvement in women with type 2 diabetes when vitamin D was administered.12 Following the recorded low levels of calcidiol in people with anxiety, a 2015 study was able to associate vitamin D deficiency to anxiety disorders.11
Vitamin D can be found in dietary supplements, or naturally in fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, etc. Vitamin D can also be replenished by spending time in sunlight.
This is one of the antioxidants that play a significant role in lowering anxiety.9 Research has shown that vitamin E, as an adjunct of other anxiety medications, is effective in the reduction of overall anxiety and oxidative stress.13 Natural forms of vitamin E can be found in nuts and vegetable oils.14
These include vitamin B1, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12. Numerous studies have confirmed vitamin B deficiency in people with anxiety.15,16 The B vitamins can be sourced from B-complex, or natural sources such as whole grains, meats, bananas, legumes, nutritional yeast, leafy vegetables, etc. They play individual roles that bind together to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and balance out depressive moods.
Various sources highlight the relationship between these vitamins and anxiety, but there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for the intake of these vitamins as a treatment for anxiety.
The vitamin requirements of people with anxiety differ. It takes appropriate testing to know what vitamin is lacking, and the amount needed to balance out oxidative stress in the body. Self-diagnosis, coupled with a feeling of a vitamin’s ineffectiveness as a treatment, can worsen an individual’s anxiety-induced symptoms.17 Also, excessive intake of certain vitamin supplements might disturb the natural body function, leading to unanticipated problems.
The treatment of anxiety and anxiety disorders is best handled by specialists who are trained and experienced. At drug rehab centers, health professionals and treatment specialists help many people overcome their anxiety and live their life to the fullest. Anxiety is treatable. Proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment is the key to a lasting recovery.