Anxiety is not uncommon. Not a single person goes through life without being anxious from time to time. As a matter of fact, there are moments when a little anxiety or stress is a good thing. For many people, it produces positive effects- makes them work harder or perform better at jobs or schools. It is only when normal anxiety starts to cause physical problems that we consider it Anxiety Disorder, and it is a biochemical issue and a serious medical problem. In this article, we’ll go through the chemical reactions that our body experiences due to Anxiety Disorder, and how it affects our health and overall well-being. We’ll also answer your questions regarding Anxiety or Panic Disorder in the FAQ section.
More and more, people and medical practitioners are becoming aware of Anxiety Disorder and stress-related issues. Once thought only to be a mental problem, it is now understood as a medical thing. Do you not wonder why it feels bad in the entire body when you are simply angry with someone? Your heart rate increases, a rush of blood goes to your brain, there is an increase in energy (like you wanna hit the person you are angry at), and your muscles harden. A lot of us do not pay attention to these things, but in reality, there are a thousand things going on in our body.
We are like that frog that was put in cold water and then slowly heated so it doesn’t realize that it’s being boiled alive. Anger, disappointment, fear, stress, sadness, and other negative emotions induce chemical reactions that are not necessarily good for the body, but our body does have mechanisms to cope with those mild incidents. However, every now and then, the body loses its balance and secretes more chemicals than usual. You might call those episodes Anxiety Disorder, and in severe cases, Panic Attacks. That is not the worst part though. Once our body gets used to it, the smallest triggers can open the floodgate of chemicals again and again, and you know that you have a serious medical condition. Triggers may be mental, but the reactions are very physical.
Well, there are literally hundreds so we can’t talk about them all. However, we can talk about several major influencers.
Our brain requires information in order to function properly, and it depends on different chemicals (hormones) to provide it with the information it needs. For example, a chemical called Serotonin tells the brain when we are full. Without it, we would eat ourselves to death without even knowing it. These chemicals are called Neurotransmitters as they transmit various signals to our brain. So if for some reason the level of Serotonin increases, we’d generally not feel hungry and can go on for days without eating. As a result, we’ll burn up all the stored energy in the body, get weaker by the day, and eventually die.
For Anxiety or Panic Disorder, the most responsible Neurotransmitter is called Norepinephrine (Epi) or Adrenalin.
This is the actual stress hormone. Based on the theory of evolution, almost all animals have it. It was originally designed for protection and self-preservation. Nor(epi)nephrine tells the brain to prepare for a ‘fight or flight’ response. This is what causes elevated heart rates, an increase in energy levels, and the hardening of the muscles. All these are good if you are under attack, but a frequent and high release of this chemical can cause muscle spasms, seizures, and heart attacks. The sweaty palms, the shivering, the chest pain, and the dry mouth are all indications that a massive amount of Norepinephrine is being released and it’s affecting your heart as well as the central nervous system. Pretty soon headaches and nausea will ensue.
The way we go about an average day is by having a balanced flow of these chemicals. If for some reason, one of them increases more than the normal level, we start to experience abnormalities. We know for sure that a huge amount of Norepinephrine is released when we are under stress. What we don’t know is what other chemicals increase or decrease. It varies from person to person.
For example, for some people under stress, we notice an increase in Norepinephrine and Serotonin. If that happens, the person will have an elevated heart rate and will lose appetite. The opposite is also possible- an increase in Norepinephrine and an increase in Insulin (the hunger hormone). That’s why some people eat a lot under stress and call it ‘Stress Eating‘. So you see, these are biochemical reactions- not mental problems. Many of us learned to feel guilty about these things such as ‘Stress Eating‘, but it’s not your fault at all.
An increase in Norepinephrine can cause several other health issues
- It can weaken the heart. A faster than normal heart rate for a long time can weaken the heart muscle and cause it to fail.
- It can develop an aneurysm in the brain or other parts of the blood vessels due to continuous high-pressure blood flow. Together with blood thinners such as Aspirin, it can cause hemorrhage and become fatal.
- It can cause insomnia. Norepinephrine releases energy fast. It won’t let you sleep, and in turn, it’ll weaken the body further and susceptible to many more diseases.
- Norepinephrine can also cause lactic acidosis. Too much of it can cause our lungs to bleed from inside. (Watch the movie ‘A few Good Men‘).
So we end with our initial question- Is your anxiety killing you softly? And the answer would be ‘Yes, it is.’ The elevated heart rate, blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and irregularities of appetite will slowly wear the body out. Don’t let yourself become the slow boiling frog. Get help as soon as possible.
If you have more questions, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below, we’ll be happy to answer. In the meantime, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions.
What Causes Anxiety Disorder?
Initially, it can start in the mind. A big life-threatening incident or several small stressful events over time can turn into a total Anxiety Disorder. Be reminded that we’re not talking about normal work stress. That can be a good thing. Anxiety Disorder is when our body gets into a defensive condition and releases Norepinephrine as a ‘fight or flight’ response.
Is Anxiety a Mental Illness?
That’s what we thought in the beginning. Although mental conditions or illnesses can be triggers, Anxiety Disorder is very much a medical condition. It’s a physical problem caused by hormonal imbalance in the body.
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?
There are both good anxiety and bad anxiety. When you are excited about a vacation or a trip, we can call it good anxiety. There is a completely different chemical release for good anxiety: Dopamine and Oxytocin. Both of these can make you feel excited, warm, hopeful, and in love. Bad anxiety is caused by Norepinephrine. It makes you defensive and makes you want to shut down. The following are the possible symptoms associated with bad anxiety:
- Sweaty palms
- Elevated Heart Rate
- Flop sweat
- Blurr Vision
- Loss of Appetite
What are the 6 Types of Anxiety Disorders?
The 6 Types of Anxiety Disorders are as follows:
- General Anxiety Disorder (GAD): It is a kind of disorder where a person is anxious about almost everything in life- the food, the environment, the weather. They are constantly in a defensive mode, and can’t do things like normal people. The cause of GAD can vary, but commonly seen when people were physically or emotionally abused as children.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Most commonly seen in war veterans after a life-threatening incident. Even after a war or service, soldiers continue to experience it. It can be triggered by a gathering of people, road accidents, and loud noises such as a tire blow out.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): SAD is simply the fear of people or people’s opinions. Patients suffering from SAD are afraid of what other people are thinking about their attire, appearance, or even achievements. They are severely nervous in gatherings and parties.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): It is a type of disorder where the patient feels the need to do a certain thing repeatedly. If he or she can’t do it, they show symptoms of a nervous breakdown.
- Panic Disorder: It is a feeling of terror when there is not an actual danger. Patients suffering from this can experience severe anxiety and fear in a regular day when there is nothing to worry about. Panic Disorder is one of the severe forms of Anxiety Disorder and must be treated immediately before the patient hurts him/herself.
- Phobias: Phobias manifest as a person is afraid of certain things. The most commonly known Phobias are heights, closed space, insects, darkness, etc. They can be mild to serious and would need attention if exposed to the thing he/she is afraid of.
How Long can Anxiety Last?
There is no general rule of thumb on Anxiety. As we have mentioned before, normal stress is a good thing, but an episode or an Anxiety Attack can last from a few minutes to several hours. It’s all about stopping the Norepinephrine levels in the brain.
And for a patient, it can be a lifetime of struggle. However, therapies help a lot. It helps identify the trigger and can be managed from there. Most psychiatrists don’t really try to get rid of it. It is an exercise on accepting that the trigger will always be there, but there is nothing to fear.
Can you Have Anxiety All day?
Yes, it is very possible. For patients with severe cases, until they take some form of Benzodiazepine, the episode can last the whole day until the patient can manage to fall asleep.
Can Anxiety go Away by itself?
It is very possible. Just as it started in a big life-threatening incident, it can be reversed in another big incident, and it can go away by itself. Curiously, a bigger life-threatening event can reverse Anxiety Disorder. It has been noticed, but not medically proven, so don’t try to create a bigger threat just to see what happens. It could worsen.
What Medications should I take for Anxiety?
It is a class of drugs called Benzodiazepine that treats anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Benzodiazepine acts on another Neurotransmitter called GABA (Gama-aminobutyric acid). GABA has a calming effect on the brain. It allows the brain to relax and the heart to rest. Benzos come in many forms and names. The following are a few examples:
- Xanax (Alprazolam): Available in 1mg, 2mg, and 3mg dosages.
- Valium (Diazepam): Available in 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg dosages.
- Rivotril (Clonazepam), Klonopin: It’s one of the most effective ones. Available in 2mg dosage.
- Ativan (Lorazepam): Available in 2mg dosage.
Does CBD oil help with Anxiety?
It is a study in progress. Cannabis effects vary from person to person. Some find it relaxing and some feel even more anxious after taking Cannabis Oil (CBD) so we don’t really know yet. But for those who find cannabis relaxing, it should work.
What are the Natural Ways to Deal with Anxiety?
Camomile tea and yoga are the two best methods to reduce anxiety. Camomile contains potassium and several other ingredients that help control muscles, especially the heart muscles and lungs. That’s why camomile tea has a rather relaxing effect on the body.
Yoga is for overall wellbeing. It is both a stimulating and relaxing exercise. An hour of yoga a day can save you from a lot of Anxiety Episodes. You may read our other article to learn more. It demonstrates the yoga exercises and positions that are particularly good for anxiety relief.
Related: Yoga for Anxiety Relief
What Happens if Anxiety is Untreated?
In time, if untreated, Anxiety can wear the body out. Increased heart rates can cause hypertension and high blood pressure. The constant release of mass energy in the body can leave it weak and vulnerable to other diseases. It can also cause stroke and brain bleed if the walls of the blood vessels in the brain weaken due to the constant high-pressure flow.
Is Anxiety a life-long Disorder?
It can be but doesn’t have to be. Medical science has come a long way. It’s very possible to get rid of it permanently with proper medications and therapy.
Does Anxiety Worsen with Age?
Not necessarily, but it is possible. It all depends on the triggers. However, there is a thing called ‘getting used to something’. Over time, our body and mind can get used to the triggers and can become less and less responsive. So with age, it can get even better.
What foods trigger Anxiety?
Foods that can get you excited can trigger anxiety. Heart-healthy meals are always safe. Food with high cholesterol can trigger anxiety. Alcohol and other substances can worsen your Anxiety Disorder.
What Fruits Are Good for Anxiety?
Basically all, but apples, oranges, and grapes are found to be particularly good against anxiety. Red grapes are basically wine and can have a calming effect on the brain.
What Vitamins are Good for Anxiety?
Except for Vitamin B12, almost all vitamins are good. The reason B12 is not good is that Vitamin B12 helps release energy, and Anxiety or Panic attacks are associated with a large release of energy due to the effect of Norepinephrine. You don’t wanna add to it.
What can I take Over the Counter for Anxiety?
Unfortunately, there is none. No anxiety medications are over the counter. Therefore, you require a prescription. However, there are ways around it. You can always order your anxiety meds online. It is not ideal, but we know that people need their medications whether they have proper prescription or insurance. The trick is to find a reliable online pharmacy that provides quality medications.
We hope this Anxiety FAQ answered the questions you have. However, we may have missed something. If you believe so, feel free to ask in the comment section below and we’ll try to answer them as soon as we can.