What is anxiety?

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is the diagnosis given to people with excessive worry and anxiety, that is difficult to control. Women are twice more likely to experience GAD than men, and a diagnosis of GAD is uncommon in children and adolescents with the incidence of GAD greatly increasing later in life (onset is usually after 25 years of age). Somatic complaints and sleeping problems often accompany the anxiety. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria, in addition to uncontrollable worrying, there must also be at least three of six somatic symptoms (restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, tension or sleep disturbance) occurring for a period of at least six months. 

This is a considerable amount of time and many patients can fall short of this time frame and will still need some intervention to improve their quality of life. Therefore a more practical diagnosis is a period of anxiety or worry that is bothersome to a patient and has occurred for longer than two weeks. It is also worth considering that in some people GAD may reflect ‘trait anxiety’— A person whose personality archetype is that of a chronic worrier.

Are you suffering from any of the following?

  • Excessive worrying
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Impaired sleep
  • Increased urination
  • Low mood or depression
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperthermia

Other psychiatric disorders such as depression (unipolar and bipolar), social phobia, panic disorder, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) commonly coexist. Studies have revealed that approximately 60–80% of patients with GAD will suffer from a mood disorder within their lifetime. Comorbidity of GAD with other anxiety disorders is the rule, not the exception.

What can be done?

The naturopathic treatment aims to support and normalise adrenal function. Regulate hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activity. Encourage stress management, improve nutritional status and reduce stimulants. All of which can be achieved with herbal medicine, diet and lifestyle intervention and nutritional supplementation.

In addition to the above it is important to prevent or lessen the chance of relapsing anxiety. An integrative approach is crucial in managing GAD. Aside from the recommendation of psychological interventions such as cognitive and/or behavioural therapy, options such as massage, acupuncture and an exercise and relaxation program may be of additional benefit.