Effective Alternative Treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Updated on June 8, 2018
clivewilliams profile image

I have lived closely with GAD, as my wife was diagnosed with this illness. I was determined to help her break free. Now she is happy again.

What Anxiety Feels Like

What are these constant thoughts that have bombarded my mind? Why do I have this constant feeling of panic or fear when it's obvious I am not in present danger? Why am I not happy even though happiness surrounds me? I have no energy, no spirit, and no zest to perform my work or home duties. Why am I sad all the time, and why do my tears flow from my eyes like a God who has given up on Earth? I am so weary and drained—what is wrong with me?

These are the common questions and symptoms of a person who is suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder that involves chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. This disorder can be a drain on both your mind and body.

The fear experienced by someone suffering from GAD is not connected to any specific situation or item; there is just always a general feeling of worry or panic in everyday life activities. This constant worry and panic can make life quite difficult for the affected individual and may also interrupt that person's sleep. Someone diagnosed with GAD tends to be nervous and restless when it's time to get some good "shut eye." The feeling of panic, as well as the constant thoughts running through the mind, become so great at times that it overwhelms the individual and makes it difficult to relax.

I wrote this article because I have known, witnessed, and helped people who are very close to me who suffer from GAD. I have been woken up at 3 a.m. just to be the shoulder to cry on and to be a support and comfort. I have seen GAD at its best, and I have helped put the disorder to rest.

Amygdala
Amygdala

Get to Know the Enemy!

Before you fight a battle, it's always good to know the enemy. So let's take a look at the science behind GAD. The brain plays a major role in our emotions, how we perceive things, and how we react to things, physically and emotionally. An imaging study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that brains of people with this condition have weaker connections between the amygdala, the brain structure that alerts us to fear in our environment, and other areas of the brain that mediate emotional responses. This suggests that the brain's "panic button" may be stuck in the "on" position due to lack of regulation.

Let me explain this in simpler terms. The panic switch in your brain is like a stoplight that regulates traffic. If it's malfunctioning and stays green all the time, there is no way to regulate the traffic, and all the cars keep rushing through without slowing down or coming to a stop. For a motorist, this would obviously lead to panic and nervousness. This is the same situation with GAD—the constant thoughts, panic, and nervousness that isn't regulated.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Attributes

  • Excessive and uncontrollably worry
  • Unnecessary panic
  • Sleeplessness
  • Racing of the heart
  • Excessive thinking
  • Trembling
  • Lightheadedness

Conventional Treatments for GAD

Psychotherapy. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavior therapy is especially useful for treating this condition. This therapy teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help the patient feel less anxious and worried.

Medication. Doctors also may prescribe medication. Two types of medications that are commonly used are anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Anti-anxiety medications are powerful and come in different types. Many types begin working right away, but they generally should not be taken for long periods of time.

Possible Side Effects of Antidepressants

  • Nausea
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Loss of sexual desire and other sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction and decreased orgasm
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation

Possible Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Medications

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Amnesia
  • Depression
  • Delusional thinking
  • Sleep walking or driving
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Suicide risk or attempts
  • Violence and hostility
  • Agitation
  • Birth defects

Unconventional Treatments for GAD

Some foods can help treat GAD
Some foods can help treat GAD

Diet

Having a healthy diet contributes to a healthy body and a healthy mind. If your diet is lacking in brain foods, you will need to adjust your diet so that your brain can gain more nutrition in order to react more strongly to false positives. Some brain foods include:

  • Avocado - Promotes healthy blood flow, which leads to a healthier brain.
  • Whole Grains - Whole grains, such as oatmeal, provides good cardiovascular health, which helps every organ in the body, including the brain.
  • Salmon - Rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which is essential for healthy brain function. Other fish, such as sardine and herring, are also rich in omega-3 acids.
  • Blueberries - Protects the brain from oxidation stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Exercise

Your body is a temple that not only houses your soul, but the rest of your organs. Exercise keeps our bodies fit, alert, and active. When stress affects the brain with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. When your body is feeling healthy and fit, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins; chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Endorphins can also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.

According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long-lasting. A good workout can help to alleviate anxiety and panic symptoms for hours, so let's do the math. Regular exercise may help reduce anxiety disorders over the long term.

Treating GAD with acupuncture
Treating GAD with acupuncture

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is indeed a powerful treatment for depression and anxiety. According to Wikipedia, acupuncture is an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine. It works on the principle of stimulating points in the body to correct imbalances in the flow of energy (Qi) through channels known as meridians. This belief is based on the interaction of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water). These elements are though to have profound effects on internal organs, which are either yin or yang. Since GAD is believed to be related to an imbalance in the brain, acupuncture can help restore that balance.

Some medical illnesses that can be treated with acupuncture:

  • Psychological conditions such as depression, phobias, emotional disturbances, anxiety, nervousness, and addictions such as smoking
  • Musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis, sciatica, lumbago, weak back, low-back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, tenosynovitis, shoulder and neck pain, cervicobrachial syndrome, "frozen shoulder," and "tennis elbow"
  • Skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, nerve rash, herpes zoster, acne, scar tissue and resultant adhesion, hair loss, and dandruff
  • Urogenital disorders such as cystitis, prostatitis, orchitis, low sexual vitality, urinary retention, kidney disorders, nocturnal enuresis, and neurogenic bladder dysfunction

Acupuncture to Treat Anxiety

Yoga

Yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline. It includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific body postures. Yoga is widely practiced for health and relaxation. It involves physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines that transforms body and mind. Regular yoga practice can help you stay calm and relaxed in daily life. It can give you the strength to face events as they come, without getting restless and working yourself up into unnecessary panic.

Passion Flower

The passion flower can also be used to help treat GAD
The passion flower can also be used to help treat GAD

Did You Know

About a wonderful plant called passion flower? Ground-up passion flower can be used to make medicine that can help treat GAD, in addition to treating sleep problems, gastrointestinal upset related to anxiety or nervousness, and withdrawal symptoms from narcotic drugs.

Hypnosis as a treatment for GAD
Hypnosis as a treatment for GAD

Hypnosis

The mind is a very powerful and delicate thing. It can be easily broken and quite hard to fix. The mind can be trained and conditioned for any environment and circumstances of life within that particular environment.

According to WebMd, "Hypnosis—or hypnotherapy—uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness that is sometimes called a trance. The person's attention is so focused while in this state that anything going on around the person is temporarily blocked out or ignored. In this naturally occurring state, a person may focus his or her attention—with the help of a trained therapist—on specific thoughts or tasks."

With that said, it is possible to condition the mind out of a particular state of or condition. People under hypnosis become more open for personal discussion and may discuss deeper issues that have impacted them one way or another. Hypnosis can be used to treat people suffering from stress, phobia, fear, anxiety, and other mental issues.

Prayer

What do you have to lose by begging for divine intervention? What the hands of man cannot touch is where the love of God reaches. When medical experts become baffled and stumble upon a boulder they have no machine to break, perhaps the only remaining choice is to ask for God's help. You might be surprised how quickly non-believers shout out "help me, God" in life-and-death situations. When all else fails, say a prayer. You never know.

Comments

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    • clivewilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Williams 

      23 months ago from Jamaica

      Thanks for your input Garry.

    • profile image

      Garry 

      23 months ago

      Regular aerobic experience.

      Prayer and meditation.

      8 hours sleep.

      Avoid stress.

      Lead a simple life.

      Focus on good relationships

      Hearthy eating... mainly veggies and fruit.

      Love, love and grace

    • clivewilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Williams 

      3 years ago from Jamaica

      Yes pstraubie, don't live on the meds. There are many other ways to get over anxiety disorder as stated in my hub. Thanks for stopping by

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      I have anxiety disorder but it is mainly in one area....entering in to any new situation for the first time...gives me immeasurable angst.

      I did not know what it was when I had my first panic attack and it was so very scary. But when I realized over time, I have learned to 'deal' with it.

      I do not take meds for it...I just have learned to go to another place within and am able to better cope. And the divine intervention also plays into that for sure.

      Well done.

      Angels are on the way this morning ps

    • clivewilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Williams 

      3 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks for stopping by alexadry. Healing starts from within the mind and self, not tablets.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      3 years ago from USA

      Awesome Hub, looks like there are many ways to fight this disorder, voted up!

    • Risa Stewart profile image

      Marisa K. Rouse 

      3 years ago from North Carolina

      Very helpful and useful! This hits home with me. Thank you so much for writing this, Clive.

    • clivewilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Williams 

      3 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Samprita

    • Samprita profile image

      Dr. Samprita Sahu 

      3 years ago from Indore, India

      Great hub!!!

    • clivewilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Williams 

      3 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Minnetonka Twin, I have several persons who i live with who has GAD. I have a looooot of experience when it comes to this by just having to care for these family members. I am seeing great progress with some of these ways to reduce and eliminate GAD, i sure hope others try these methods or at least recommend it to others.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      3 years ago from Minnesota

      You did a great job explaining what GAD is and ways to control or reduce symptoms. I've had anxiety issues my whole life due to a chaotic childhood. It makes sense that our brain chemicals change from living through trauma in childhood. I have used many of the suggestions you give. I know it sounds cliche', but it's so true that 'self-care' is key when dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues. Thanks so much for the informational hub.

    • lyns profile image

      lyns 

      4 years ago from USA

      Very interesting and well put together hub. Voted up/plus. Thanks for sharing. 82621413a lyns

    • clivewilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Williams 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      Yes denise.w.anderson, As mentioned in my hub, Self Care in the form of Good Diet, Exercise, Getting Rest and Yoga or Good meditation is quite important.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I have had GAD for the past twenty plus years. I have been on medication at times, but at this point in my life am medication free. The thing that has made the most difference for me is controlling the level of stress I have in my life. I have found that self-care is more important for me than anything, establishing a schedule for eating, sleeping, exercise, meditation, and relaxation.

    • clivewilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Williams 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      thanks doc

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 

      4 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Very good HUB. I gave you thumbs up.

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