Complementary Therapies for Anxiety Disorders

Reviewed Mar 2, 2017

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Summary

Many alternative treatments can add other helpful elements to your recovery.
 

It is important to have your anxiety assessed first by your doctor. Sometimes symptoms of anxiety are confused with those of a medical problem. If you and your doctor figure out that your symptoms are anxiety-related, then together you can decide on the next steps. It can be helpful to add other options to your treatment plan. There are non-drug approaches to managing anxiety.

Types of alternative treatments

  • Massage and other body work
  • Yoga or other exercise
  • Meditation and other relaxation strategies
  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Diet changes and herbs/supplements
  • Spiritual practices

Often people who struggle with anxiety feel a sense of relief once they talk to a licensed therapist or to a doctor. Adding non-traditional approaches to anxiety may improve recovery by reinforcing healthy lifestyle changes. These changes can even help prevent episodes of intense worrying, especially if used regularly. Proven usefulness of some of these treatments has not been established with traditional study. This is one reason they are considered alternative.

Massage and body work may be the easiest approach to understand. Most people find massage to be a very relaxing experience. On a basic level, it feels good. It can be quite powerful in releasing muscle tension. Different types of massage have been used across many cultures for centuries. It can remind the body how to relax. It has been shown to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and improve circulation. Massage is good for those who have poor sleep, aching muscles, and headaches from anxiety. Reiki is another type of body work that involves compassionate healing touch.

Yoga can be just as physically rewarding in terms of stress relief. It often combines stretching and physical poses with breathing and meditation. Yoga can be challenging or calming and gentle. Depending on how fit you are, you can choose a type that meets your needs. It can help slow breathing, encourage a relaxed state within, improve focus, and help emotional balance.

Meditation can take many forms. Anxiety can spring from a sense that nothing matters or has any meaning. Those with a lack of belief in self can deeply benefit from meditation. It can also help stop worried thoughts. Meditation can be enhanced with soothing music or nature sounds. Some people like listening to ocean waves or birds singing. Choosing a spot where you are able to sit quietly for 10 to 30 minutes is important. The mind begins to learn how to become quiet and relaxed while awake. There are many tools to help learn meditation. Progressive muscle relaxation and positive visualization are two forms that are recommended for anxiety. You can look these up online, or find for books or classes to learn more.

Acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate meridians or energy fields in the body. It is a form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Most people hardly feel the needles involved in acupuncture. Many people feel calmer after acupuncture treatment. It may especially help those with pain and nausea related to anxiety. If your health insurance does not cover it, or your health insurance provider can’t refer you to an acupuncturist, you may ask another alternative health practitioner. Look for recommendations and local listings. Choose those who have completed formal training. A trained acupuncturist will use sterile needles. They should be able to explain the theory of how it corrects imbalances in the body.

Aromatherapy is used for enhancing the relaxation experience. It involves using the sense of smell to induce relaxation. Essential oils are put on a cotton swab and inhaled or put into a diffuser. Sometimes they are added to body creams or oils. You can usually smell a number of different essential oils until you find one that is relaxing to you. Try scents such as sandalwood, tangerine, neroli, ylang-ylang, or eucalyptus. A good place to look for essential oils is at a local health food store.

Diet changes can also allow you to start feeling more balanced. The most notable diet change that can help anxiety is to give up caffeine. Try decaffeinated coffees, teas, or cool drinks such as seltzer water. Caffeine can make anxiety symptoms worse, so start with giving it up. You may wake up more slowly, but feeling less anxious may be worth it. Try eating a more balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables. Also eat more plant forms of protein (nuts, seeds, beans, soy). Add more fiber by selecting fruits such as apples or raisins and eating more vegetables. Try giving up white flour and sugar and see if your mood feels less tense. You may notice more stable energy from eating less refined foods and more fiber. These changes in diet can slow the absorption of energy from the food you eat.

There may also be herbs and homeopathic preparations that can help with anxiety. Some practitioners use flower essences and some use Chinese herbs. Be sure to check with your doctor before using them. There are some that have been studied, such as Saint John’s wort. Others have been studied very little.

Finally, use spirituality to enhance your sense of well-being. Whether it is prayer or being out in nature, use whatever practices bring you peace. You don’t have to have a religion to have spirituality. If being in nature soothes your senses, be sure to spend time each day outside. Experience gratitude for the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the feel of the breeze on your face. Spirituality can be about connecting with the world in calm, basic ways. Some people feel peaceful near the ocean. It can be a reminder that there are forces of nature much greater than we are. Knowing that you have no control over many things can free you to focus on what you do have the power to change. It may relax you to put faith in the other forces at work.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php?article_id=468; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/complete-index.shtml; The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, fifth edition, by Edmund J Bourne, PhD, New Harbinger Publications, 2011; Natural Relief for Anxiety: Complementary Strategies for Easing Fear, Panic, and Worry by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, Arlen Brownstein, ND, and Lorna Garano. New Harbinger Publications, 2004.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Many alternative treatments can add other helpful elements to your recovery.
 

It is important to have your anxiety assessed first by your doctor. Sometimes symptoms of anxiety are confused with those of a medical problem. If you and your doctor figure out that your symptoms are anxiety-related, then together you can decide on the next steps. It can be helpful to add other options to your treatment plan. There are non-drug approaches to managing anxiety.

Types of alternative treatments

  • Massage and other body work
  • Yoga or other exercise
  • Meditation and other relaxation strategies
  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Diet changes and herbs/supplements
  • Spiritual practices

Often people who struggle with anxiety feel a sense of relief once they talk to a licensed therapist or to a doctor. Adding non-traditional approaches to anxiety may improve recovery by reinforcing healthy lifestyle changes. These changes can even help prevent episodes of intense worrying, especially if used regularly. Proven usefulness of some of these treatments has not been established with traditional study. This is one reason they are considered alternative.

Massage and body work may be the easiest approach to understand. Most people find massage to be a very relaxing experience. On a basic level, it feels good. It can be quite powerful in releasing muscle tension. Different types of massage have been used across many cultures for centuries. It can remind the body how to relax. It has been shown to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and improve circulation. Massage is good for those who have poor sleep, aching muscles, and headaches from anxiety. Reiki is another type of body work that involves compassionate healing touch.

Yoga can be just as physically rewarding in terms of stress relief. It often combines stretching and physical poses with breathing and meditation. Yoga can be challenging or calming and gentle. Depending on how fit you are, you can choose a type that meets your needs. It can help slow breathing, encourage a relaxed state within, improve focus, and help emotional balance.

Meditation can take many forms. Anxiety can spring from a sense that nothing matters or has any meaning. Those with a lack of belief in self can deeply benefit from meditation. It can also help stop worried thoughts. Meditation can be enhanced with soothing music or nature sounds. Some people like listening to ocean waves or birds singing. Choosing a spot where you are able to sit quietly for 10 to 30 minutes is important. The mind begins to learn how to become quiet and relaxed while awake. There are many tools to help learn meditation. Progressive muscle relaxation and positive visualization are two forms that are recommended for anxiety. You can look these up online, or find for books or classes to learn more.

Acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate meridians or energy fields in the body. It is a form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Most people hardly feel the needles involved in acupuncture. Many people feel calmer after acupuncture treatment. It may especially help those with pain and nausea related to anxiety. If your health insurance does not cover it, or your health insurance provider can’t refer you to an acupuncturist, you may ask another alternative health practitioner. Look for recommendations and local listings. Choose those who have completed formal training. A trained acupuncturist will use sterile needles. They should be able to explain the theory of how it corrects imbalances in the body.

Aromatherapy is used for enhancing the relaxation experience. It involves using the sense of smell to induce relaxation. Essential oils are put on a cotton swab and inhaled or put into a diffuser. Sometimes they are added to body creams or oils. You can usually smell a number of different essential oils until you find one that is relaxing to you. Try scents such as sandalwood, tangerine, neroli, ylang-ylang, or eucalyptus. A good place to look for essential oils is at a local health food store.

Diet changes can also allow you to start feeling more balanced. The most notable diet change that can help anxiety is to give up caffeine. Try decaffeinated coffees, teas, or cool drinks such as seltzer water. Caffeine can make anxiety symptoms worse, so start with giving it up. You may wake up more slowly, but feeling less anxious may be worth it. Try eating a more balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables. Also eat more plant forms of protein (nuts, seeds, beans, soy). Add more fiber by selecting fruits such as apples or raisins and eating more vegetables. Try giving up white flour and sugar and see if your mood feels less tense. You may notice more stable energy from eating less refined foods and more fiber. These changes in diet can slow the absorption of energy from the food you eat.

There may also be herbs and homeopathic preparations that can help with anxiety. Some practitioners use flower essences and some use Chinese herbs. Be sure to check with your doctor before using them. There are some that have been studied, such as Saint John’s wort. Others have been studied very little.

Finally, use spirituality to enhance your sense of well-being. Whether it is prayer or being out in nature, use whatever practices bring you peace. You don’t have to have a religion to have spirituality. If being in nature soothes your senses, be sure to spend time each day outside. Experience gratitude for the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the feel of the breeze on your face. Spirituality can be about connecting with the world in calm, basic ways. Some people feel peaceful near the ocean. It can be a reminder that there are forces of nature much greater than we are. Knowing that you have no control over many things can free you to focus on what you do have the power to change. It may relax you to put faith in the other forces at work.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php?article_id=468; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/complete-index.shtml; The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, fifth edition, by Edmund J Bourne, PhD, New Harbinger Publications, 2011; Natural Relief for Anxiety: Complementary Strategies for Easing Fear, Panic, and Worry by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, Arlen Brownstein, ND, and Lorna Garano. New Harbinger Publications, 2004.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Many alternative treatments can add other helpful elements to your recovery.
 

It is important to have your anxiety assessed first by your doctor. Sometimes symptoms of anxiety are confused with those of a medical problem. If you and your doctor figure out that your symptoms are anxiety-related, then together you can decide on the next steps. It can be helpful to add other options to your treatment plan. There are non-drug approaches to managing anxiety.

Types of alternative treatments

  • Massage and other body work
  • Yoga or other exercise
  • Meditation and other relaxation strategies
  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Diet changes and herbs/supplements
  • Spiritual practices

Often people who struggle with anxiety feel a sense of relief once they talk to a licensed therapist or to a doctor. Adding non-traditional approaches to anxiety may improve recovery by reinforcing healthy lifestyle changes. These changes can even help prevent episodes of intense worrying, especially if used regularly. Proven usefulness of some of these treatments has not been established with traditional study. This is one reason they are considered alternative.

Massage and body work may be the easiest approach to understand. Most people find massage to be a very relaxing experience. On a basic level, it feels good. It can be quite powerful in releasing muscle tension. Different types of massage have been used across many cultures for centuries. It can remind the body how to relax. It has been shown to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and improve circulation. Massage is good for those who have poor sleep, aching muscles, and headaches from anxiety. Reiki is another type of body work that involves compassionate healing touch.

Yoga can be just as physically rewarding in terms of stress relief. It often combines stretching and physical poses with breathing and meditation. Yoga can be challenging or calming and gentle. Depending on how fit you are, you can choose a type that meets your needs. It can help slow breathing, encourage a relaxed state within, improve focus, and help emotional balance.

Meditation can take many forms. Anxiety can spring from a sense that nothing matters or has any meaning. Those with a lack of belief in self can deeply benefit from meditation. It can also help stop worried thoughts. Meditation can be enhanced with soothing music or nature sounds. Some people like listening to ocean waves or birds singing. Choosing a spot where you are able to sit quietly for 10 to 30 minutes is important. The mind begins to learn how to become quiet and relaxed while awake. There are many tools to help learn meditation. Progressive muscle relaxation and positive visualization are two forms that are recommended for anxiety. You can look these up online, or find for books or classes to learn more.

Acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate meridians or energy fields in the body. It is a form of Chinese medicine that has been practiced for centuries. Most people hardly feel the needles involved in acupuncture. Many people feel calmer after acupuncture treatment. It may especially help those with pain and nausea related to anxiety. If your health insurance does not cover it, or your health insurance provider can’t refer you to an acupuncturist, you may ask another alternative health practitioner. Look for recommendations and local listings. Choose those who have completed formal training. A trained acupuncturist will use sterile needles. They should be able to explain the theory of how it corrects imbalances in the body.

Aromatherapy is used for enhancing the relaxation experience. It involves using the sense of smell to induce relaxation. Essential oils are put on a cotton swab and inhaled or put into a diffuser. Sometimes they are added to body creams or oils. You can usually smell a number of different essential oils until you find one that is relaxing to you. Try scents such as sandalwood, tangerine, neroli, ylang-ylang, or eucalyptus. A good place to look for essential oils is at a local health food store.

Diet changes can also allow you to start feeling more balanced. The most notable diet change that can help anxiety is to give up caffeine. Try decaffeinated coffees, teas, or cool drinks such as seltzer water. Caffeine can make anxiety symptoms worse, so start with giving it up. You may wake up more slowly, but feeling less anxious may be worth it. Try eating a more balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables. Also eat more plant forms of protein (nuts, seeds, beans, soy). Add more fiber by selecting fruits such as apples or raisins and eating more vegetables. Try giving up white flour and sugar and see if your mood feels less tense. You may notice more stable energy from eating less refined foods and more fiber. These changes in diet can slow the absorption of energy from the food you eat.

There may also be herbs and homeopathic preparations that can help with anxiety. Some practitioners use flower essences and some use Chinese herbs. Be sure to check with your doctor before using them. There are some that have been studied, such as Saint John’s wort. Others have been studied very little.

Finally, use spirituality to enhance your sense of well-being. Whether it is prayer or being out in nature, use whatever practices bring you peace. You don’t have to have a religion to have spirituality. If being in nature soothes your senses, be sure to spend time each day outside. Experience gratitude for the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the feel of the breeze on your face. Spirituality can be about connecting with the world in calm, basic ways. Some people feel peaceful near the ocean. It can be a reminder that there are forces of nature much greater than we are. Knowing that you have no control over many things can free you to focus on what you do have the power to change. It may relax you to put faith in the other forces at work.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php?article_id=468; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/complete-index.shtml; The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, fifth edition, by Edmund J Bourne, PhD, New Harbinger Publications, 2011; Natural Relief for Anxiety: Complementary Strategies for Easing Fear, Panic, and Worry by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, Arlen Brownstein, ND, and Lorna Garano. New Harbinger Publications, 2004.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

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