Anxious Moments

Relax with these effective natural calmers.

| November/December 2004

  • Passionflower helps relieve chronic mild anxiety.
    Karen Shelton,

Ever get the feeling that instead of the Age of Aquarius, we live in the Age of Anxiety? You worry about the kids, the job, the relationship and how you’re going to pay the bills. Those concerns may be uniquely your own, but all of us have anxious moments that can displace our sense of calm. For an estimated 19 million Americans, however, anxiety can overtake daily life. For those who suffer from an anxiety disorder, feelings of worry, fear and even panic are constant companions. This continual state of emotional and physical turmoil prevents sufferers from living a happy, rewarding life.

The Faces of Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, one size doesn’t fit all. Although post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a disorder that can affect people who have experienced war, natural disasters or other traumatic situations — may be the most severe form of anxiety, other types of anxiety can be just as life-disrupting. Obsessive behavior, phobias and panic attacks can leave sufferers feeling that they have no control over their lives.

Perhaps the most insidious form of anxiety is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD live in a state of constant tension and exaggerated worry over life’s everyday activities. Instead of counting their blessings, they focus on life’s “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios. As a result, these anxious feelings feed on themselves and can lead to headaches, irritability, fatigue, restlessness, concentration problems and gastrointestinal upset.

While no one has a firm handle on exactly what causes anxiety disorders, most researchers suspect imbalances in three brain chemicals — norepinephrine, serotonin and gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA).

Normally, stress triggers a spike in norepinephrine, causing the fight-or-flight response. While norepinephrine is a critical neurotransmitter that prepares the body’s response to stress, too much of it can bring on a panic attack.

Along with helping to regulate sleep, appetite and body temperature, serotonin also controls mood. Low levels of this chemical can lead to phobias and obsessive-compulsive behavior.

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