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Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in America with more than 19 million of the adult population affected. Treating anxiety disorders costs the United States approximately $42 billion per year.

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem

More than $22.84 billion of the health care dollars spent are associated with people using health care services to provide relief for the symptoms which can mimic mental illness.  The following outlines the different types of anxiety disorders which affect adults in the United States:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: affects women two times more often than men and is likely to present with other disorders.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): affects men and women equally and most people experience the first symptoms of OCD during childhood.
  • Panic Disorder: affects females two times more often than men and commonly presents with major depressive disorders.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): more likely to affect women than men, commonly triggered by trauma such as rape, sexual abuse during childhood can cause some to experience a higher lifetime likelihood of experiencing PTSD.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: affects men and women equally, specific phobias affect women two times more than men.

What Causes Anxiety and What are the Symptoms

The specific cause of people developing an anxiety disorder is not fully comprehended by the mental health field.  There are experts in the field who speculate a culmination of traumatic life experiences, certain psychological traits and genetics can possibly predispose someone to developing anxiety-related problems.  It is also unclear why women have a higher risk of developing anxiety than men; through some theories believe it could be hormonally influenced.

Some experts feel that women are at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder because of experiencing a wider range of life events, which can be more stressful than those of men.  The one thing that all anxiety disorders have in common is a state of increased fear or arousal, which could be in reaction to the body’s fight-or-flight response.  Stressors can either be mental or psychosocial in nature and how someone responds to stress will determine whether or not an anxiety episode will be experienced.

What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are most often accompanied by many different physical effects which will vary from person to person.  However, there are some common symptoms which most people will experience in response to a high level of anxiety, which include the following:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pains
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Papillary dilation
  • Feelings of dread or panic

Though not everyone who experiences anxiety will exhibit these symptoms, there are those who react very strongly to anxiety and experience a full-blown panic attack.  Panic attacks can happen without any prior warning and though someone’s fear might seem irrational, the danger perceived by the person is very genuine.  The person who has a panic attack will feel like death is impending or possibly pass out; some have confused a panic attack with a heart attack because the events feel very similar.

How is Anxiety Diagnosed?

A mental health professional will use a variety of different diagnostic procedures and protocols in order to diagnose an anxiety disorder.  A mental health physician will most likely ask the person a series of questions about the patient’s medical history and perform a complete physical examination.  Though there are no definitive laboratory tests to specifically pinpoint an anxiety disorder, there are other tests a physician will use to look for physical illness which can cause the symptoms. 

Generally, a mental health specialist will base a diagnosis of anxiety upon reports of intensity and length of symptoms, including any functional problems related to the symptoms.  A physician will then determine whether or not the symptoms and severity of dysfunction are indicative of a particular anxiety disorder.  Normally, anxiety can be diagnosed if the person has displayed symptoms for a significant portion of time throughout a period of six months.

How is Anxiety Treated Naturally?

Traditionally treated with antidepressants and anxiety relieving medications, anxiety can also be treated using natural methods.  The use of complementary and alternative medicine has been on a steady increase over the past decade, with especially interesting breakthroughs in treating conditions like depression and anxiety using natural methods.  There are a variety of research studies which suggest the effectiveness of herbal remedies and dietary supplements can help in the management of anxiety symptoms.

Kava is indigenous to parts of the western Pacific, the root and plant is used in beverages and dietary supplements.  In some parts of North America, the extract of kava is used as an herbal supplement to help alleviate stress, anxiety and insomnia.  There have been safety issued raised about liver toxicity and kava so before incorporating the extract into the diet, a person should consult with a licensed medical professional to avoid any negative side effects.

St. John’s Wort, valerian, Sympathyl or passionflower are also popular dietary/herbal supplements which have been touted as having the ability to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.  However, because of the lack of scientific research, the exact mechanism of action of these extracts is unknown.  It is recommended that anyone considering adding natural plant or herbal extracts to the diet first consults with a mental health professional and a physician to avoid experiencing any harmful side effects or possible contraindications with other medications such as hypertensive drugs, beta blockers or benzodiazepines or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.


There have been many all-natural herbal and dietary supplements which have been touted to alleviate or treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders.  Because the information is conflicting and inconclusive, experts recommend not adding any type of supplement to the diet without the benefit of a consultation with a licensed medical professional.  However, if a physician approves of adding the supplements to the diet for managing anxiety, a person should always use the amount recommended and follow any other related instructions to ensure the best possible outcome.