The fact is we are worrying about something at some point in our lives. Indeed, anxiety disorders are now ranked as the sixth-largest contributor to life-long health concerns worldwide. An estimated 3.6% or 264 million of the global population is suffering from anxiety. Apart from the fact that unmanaged, uncontrolled anxiety can destroy your family, work and other relationships, when we worry too much, our brain ages faster. We are also at greater risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
You are not alone
Anxiety is not something most of us would readily admit to. Yet it affects nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., and 1 in 8 in the UK. These statistics are similar in many countries around the world. You are not alone if you are feeling depressed or anxious.
Why do we worry so much?
In the past, it was commonly believed that women suffered more from anxiety disorders than men. However, research shows that one in eight men will experience depression and one in five men will experience anxiety at some stage in their lives.
According to Psychology Today, even in our modern world, where there are so many more health solutions, some of these traditional sources of anxiety are on the increase. These include loneliness; relationship factors such as divorce, violence, and abuse. Childhood abuse and neglect; increased working hours and more stressful work procedures are also a factor.
As we lack control over our own destinies, people have become increasingly stressed. This is evident amongst youngsters who face the possibility of failure earlier and earlier in their lives as a result of increased systematic educational testing.
Health, safety, and finances are a worry
A survey of Americans showed their anxieties increased sharply since 2017 – 2018. Almost 40 percent of respondents said they felt more anxious than they did a year ago. That’s a big spike – following on the heels of a 36 percent jump between 2016 and 2017 – and it means this year’s national, averaged ‘anxiety score’ has tipped over halfway on a 100-point scale: it’s now sitting at 51, with a five-point increase since 2017.
“This poll showed US adults increasingly worry about issues particularly about health, safety, and finances,” says American Psychiatry Association president Anita Everett, whose organization sponsored the survey. “This increased stress and anxieties can significantly impact many aspects of people’s lives, including their mental health, and it can affect families.”
Other countries are also experiencing an increase in mental health issues
According to Mind.org a mental health charity, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.
The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs, and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.
It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse, as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.
More Men Are Not Coping
There are many other countries where mental health issues are creating concern. More men are being diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
Dr. Ian Westmore, a board member of the Psychiatry Management Group, says there is a stigma associated with anxiety disorders. Men who suffer from anxieties are considered ‘unmanly’ and a sign of weakness. He says that “this is the very reason men are less likely to talk about their anxieties. Instead, they drown their anxiety with poor coping behaviors, increasing their risk of anxiety or depression to go unrecognized and untreated.”
Dr. Westmore says men are far less likely to seek support. It is far more common for women to eagerly speak out and seek help. This is due to the ‘macho male stereotype’ in society expecting men to ‘man up’ and adopt the ‘boys don’t cry’ mentality.
Not Every Anxious Episode Is a Disorder
“It’s this attitude of men portrayed as being brave and fearless, that leads to men considering themselves in a negative light if they suffer from anxiety. And for this very reason, they see it as putting themselves in a vulnerable position when seeking help.”
Dr. Westmore emphasizes that everyone will feel anxious from time to time and not every anxious episode should be seen as a disorder.
Yes…It’s Ok To Worry
He believes it is ok to worry about things and life’s many challenges. The difference is when every worry is difficult to control or shake long past a certain experience or event. If it starts interfering with your day-to-day activities or changes the way that you used to approach life such as going out with your friends, being productive at work, taking part in a team sport, bantering with colleagues, and so forth. It severely affects relationships in that the coping mechanisms applied more often affect those close through alcohol, abusive behavior, and frequently, depression.
Society expects a lot
“Society expects a lot from men. They’re expected to be seen as confident, in control, the decision-makers, and the decisive voice of reason and rationality. They are often portrayed as a rock with a steady hand and mind in times of trouble or uncertainty. They are stereotyped as the provider and protector, being dependable, confident, and fearless.
“However, these very traits that society has labelled men with, could lead men to feel inadequate and emasculated. It’s not realistic to expect men to be the stronger sex that always lives by society’s motto of ‘what makes a man’ and to simply find a way to ‘pull yourself together.”
Dr. Westmore says that if left untreated, these anxieties will show up in many other forms.
“Men who don’t speak out, find inappropriate coping strategies that might very well dull the anxiety temporarily, but could develop into a dependency that eventually spins out of control, aggravating the anxiety disorder.”
Unchecked Anxieties can Lead to Reckless Behaviour
“Abuse, gambling, drugs (including alcohol), and reckless behavior are some of the confidence gaining and coping mechanisms embraced by men. However, since they enable men to avoid their anxieties instead of facing them, the very coping mechanisms could aggravate the disorder.”
“Anxiety can trigger anger in men with violence, outbursts, bullying, abusiveness, and explosive quick temper bursts as a result. Irritability, being edgy, touchy, cranky, or impatient, becomes the norm reaction to everyday small and large frustrations. In addition, anxiety drives avoidance which in turn constricts lives. The result is a sense of an empty life that turns to depression with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.”
Genetics, Hormones and the Brain
Dr. Westmore says a range of factors can contribute to, or even trigger, the development of an anxiety disorder. This could be a genetic predisposition, as well as physical factors such as an imbalance of hormones and chemical messengers in the brain. But it can also be environmental factors such as excessive stress in a relationship, job, school or financial predicaments, and traumatic life events. Medical factors could lead to an anxiety disorder such as side effects of medication and symptoms of stress relating to an illness.
What are the tell-tale signs?
Anxiety is more than just a bit of stress, sweaty palms, and a sense of butterflies in the stomach. Unchecked anxieties are far more severe and include continuous feelings of worry, fear, and impending doom. These are so severe they interfere with your ability to work, live a healthy life, maintain relationships, and ability to sleep.
25 Signs Of Anxieties
- Pounding or racing heart
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle tension or aches
- Restlessness or agitation
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Shortness of breath or sensation of choking
- Panic attacks
- Nausea, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Constant worry about what could go wrong
- Perceiving situations and events as threatening when they are not
- Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of dread
- Concentration problems
- Catastrophic thinking
- Irritability and edginess
- Nightmares or intrusive thoughts in which traumatic scenes are replayed in the mind
- Mood swings
- Being overly vigilant towards danger
- Fear of losing control
- Persistent sadness
Share Your Concerns With Someone You Trust
Apathy or loss of hope or suicidal thoughts could show that anxiety has morphed into depression. This is a common condition seen together with anxiety disorders.
Dr. Westmore says it’s important to share your symptoms with someone you trust. Start with a family member or friend but always find your way to a health care professional who would be able to help you manage the symptoms. He says that treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and, in some instances, medication depending on the type of anxiety present.
Lifestyle Changes will help Relieve your Anxieties
You need to develop your own action plan that includes lifestyle changes which are as much part of the recovery process as seeking medical attention.
- Engage in regular exercise to release your anxious energy and happy endorphins
- You must get enough sleep
- Socialize and connect with supportive friends and family
- Managing stress through meditation, music, or art, following a healthy diet, cutting down on alcohol, and avoiding drugs and other stimulants
According to Euromonitor research, healthy living now represents a core lifestyle shift, wellness is becoming an important part of people’s lifestyle shifts.
- Wider solutions with technology and personalization are fundamental. Preventative health takes self-care to the next level by supporting solutions around areas of mental health, with self-design and personalization at the core. Sales of herbal health products in 2023 will reach USD 63 billion, growing 20% faster than OTC.
- Ethics and sustainability reinforce a more holistic view of ‘clean label’. 32% of global consumers are looking to reduce their meat intake as part of their diets. Plant-based alternatives are widely present in flexitarian diets, with ethics and sustainability supporting a more holistic view around ‘clean’ proposals.
Health as a lifestyle
- 50% of global consumers are looking for new ways to prevent stress and anxiety issues. The pursuit of wellness increasingly circles around emotional balance and mental wellbeing. Happiness is the ultimate form of status and healthy self-expression.
Exercise, diet, mindfulness, and support will help
Anxiety can be addressed proactively and in part naturally through diet, exercise, mindfulness practice and community support. It can also be helped by supporting the body with certain amino acids and neurotransmitters.
Support your brain health with these natural dietary aids
You have probably read about the need to ensure good levels of dopamine in your body. Dopamine is naturally produced by the brain and produces a general sense of euphoria and self-confidence. This is what is called the dopamine effect. You get a rush of dopamine in response to pleasurable activities. It functions both as a hormone and a neurotransmitter and plays several important roles in the brain and body. Dopamine is important for many of our daily behaviors. It affects how we move, as well as what we eat, how we learn, and even whether we become addicted to drugs.
What happens when you don’t have enough dopamine?
Some causes of dopamine depletion are stress, anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, obesity, poor nutrition, certain foodstuffs, and drugs.
But dopamine also has a darker side. Drugs such as cocaine, nicotine, and heroin have caused huge boosts in dopamine. The “high” people feel when they use drugs comes partly from that dopamine spike. And that prompts people to seek out those drugs again and again — even though they are harmful. Indeed, the brain “reward” associated with that high can lead to drug abuse and eventually to addiction.
How to boost your dopamine and reduce anxiety
Without enough dopamine, you may feel sluggish, anxious, depressed, and uninterested in life. You can eat micronutrient-rich foods high in L-tyrosine.
Eat L-tyrosine rich foods to address anxiety
- Fava beans
- Ricotta cheese
- Mustard greens
- Dark chocolate
- Wheat germ
You should make one of these foods the basis of every meal throughout your day to boost your dopamine levels.
Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a lack of acetylcholine in certain regions of the brain. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter required for memory, thought, and concentration. It also aids muscle coordination by contracting skeletal muscle.
Oxidative stress and aging contribute to the decline of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is produced by enzymes in the body from choline, which is found predominantly in the Vitamin B-complex family of foods.
These are choline-rich foods:
- Brussels sprout
- Tomato paste
- Apple juice, concentrate
Why We Need Serotonin
Serotonin “the feel-good hormone” or 5-hydroxytryptamine is an amino neurotransmitter. Serotonin is mostly found in the gastrointestinal tract, blood platelets, and the central nervous system.
Depression, suicide, impulsive behavior, and aggressiveness are most often a result of imbalances in serotonin.
The lack of daylight can also adversely disrupt serotonin levels leading to depression, irritability, low self-esteem, panic attacks, poor sleep, and obsessiveness.
Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin cannot be found in food whereas tryptophan can be found in high protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 food sources.
These are Tryptophan Rich foods:
- Nuts and seeds
The Case for Calm
Some drugs that increase the level of GABA in the brain are used to treat epilepsy and to calm the trembling of people suffering from Huntington’s disease.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) “The calming one” is a neurotransmitter, which has been noted to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, muscle stiffness, and raised amounts of HGH (Human Growth Hormones). Poor diet, coffee, alcohol, and lack of sleep all contribute to the depletion of GABA levels. Foods rich in glutamate and glutamic acid produce glutamine; the raw material the body requires to synthesize GABA.
GABA enriched foods you should eat:
- Oolong tea
- Fermented foods
- Whole wheat
- Whole grain
- Cherry tomatoes
GABA neurotransmitter levels can also be restored if the above foods are coupled with vitamin B6, exercise, and yoga.
Other Ways To Address Anxiety
According to psychology today, Learning how to meditate and to practice mindfulness can alleviate anxiety. Your mind simply cannot become calm, confident and clear, if you do not pay attention to paying attention:
- You can’t stop boredom from bothering you if you don’t realize you’re checking out in the first place.
- One can’t overcome avoidance if they don’t recognize that they’re dreading reality at this very moment.
- You can’t practice steps to feel calm if you don’t listen to your body’s stress signals.
The good news is you don’t have to live in a perpetual state of worry. Anxiety disorders are absolutely treatable if you recognize you have a problem and get help. Importantly, you must develop your own action plan that includes lifestyle changes. This is as much a part of the recovery process as seeking medical attention.
Saying there is a stigma to mental health issues is a common pastime. I know of no one it helps.