Anxiety

The Health Index

Anxiety is a common mental health condition. A certain level of anxiety is normal and healthy. It keeps us alert and aware of our surroundings, so we can spot danger and protect ourselves.

If anxiety disorders are linked to specific triggers, they are called phobias. Phobias are triggered by certain objects or situations. One well-known phobia, for example, is agoraphobia, where people are afraid of crowds and public places. Other common phobias include fear of spiders, snakes, flying, needles, heights or narrow places like lifts, known as claustrophobia. Social phobia is also one of those specific fears that are related to specific triggers. Those affected are afraid of situations in which they are the centre of attention, for example public speaking.

For other anxiety disorders there may be no specific triggers. These anxiety disorders include panic attacks and generalised anxiety disorder. People who experience panic attacks panic suddenly and without any recognisable cause. Strong physical reactions are typical of a panic attack. These can include heart palpitations, sweating, or shortness of breath. Panic attacks flare up suddenly.

In contrast, the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder are permanent. People with a generalised anxiety disorder are constantly led by exaggerated fears. For example, they are afraid that they themselves or people close to them will have an accident or that they will get a serious illness. This happens without there being any concrete reasons or real evidence for it.

What are the symptoms?

If anxiety moves past normal fear in genuinely intimidating situations and we start being anxious about ordinary day-to-day life, it becomes a problem. Many sufferers report constant anxiety. Symptoms include:

  • Racing mind

  • Unrelenting worry

  • Palpitations

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Nausea

  • Sweating

  • Dry mouth

  • Chest pain

  • Fast and shallow breathing

What are the causes?

Exactly how anxiety disorders develop is not yet fully understood. It is thought that there are several factors that come into play. Some of the possible factors that can cause an anxiety disorder are:

  • Significant personal life events in the past 

  • Incorrectly learned and internalised behaviour

  • Stress

  • Genetic predisposition

  • In the case of specific phobias, it is suspected that hereditary primal fears play a role. In the distant past, such primal fears once offered a survival advantage, such as the fear of dangerous animals like snakes

How can a nutrition practitioner help?

You must not underestimate the importance of nutrition for a healthy mind. Everything that happens in the body is – at the cellular level – chemistry. Hormones and neurotransmitters, energy and structural compounds (fats, cholesterol, proteins) are chemistry, and the body relies on us to supply those it cannot make itself via the food we eat.

Although proper nutrition may not solve every mental health problem, a healthy brain and good mental strength cannot be achieved without it. Even deficiency in a single nutrient can cause anxiety.

Your nutrition practitioner will inspect your food diary to see if it shows a potential reason why you may lack essential nutrients. They may also recommend a detailed blood test to establish your nutrient status. Your nutrition practitioner will also ask questions about your lifestyle, looking for sources of stress. Don't be surprised if you are asked about your digestion; we now know that the gut and brain are in constant communication with each other. Just as the brain can affect your digestion, your digestion can affect your brain.

Your nutrition practitioner will then develop a customised diet, supplement, and lifestyle plan that addresses potential nutrient deficiencies and – if applicable – stress and digestive dysfunction.

Find your Anxiety

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