I know therapy will be on there somewhere...
August 8, 2011 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Please help me to compile a definitive list of treatments and cures for anxiety.

I'm looking for everything from cutting-edge research to old wives' tales. Whether it be something to eat, an activity to engage in, a book to read or a habit to form - I would like to hear about it.

I would like to compile a list of things to try which I can work through systematically, or which I can combine in different permutations. Thanks in advance!
posted by guessthis to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Two good books are here and here.
posted by la petite marie at 5:28 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rescue Remedy. (Alternatively, Ativan, Xanax, Klonpin, Valium and assorted benzos.)

Cognitive behavioral therapy
is very effective. See also: The Feeling Good Handbook.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:44 AM on August 8, 2011

Regular exercise
Increasing sun exposure
Correcting vitamin deficiency
posted by brevator at 5:48 AM on August 8, 2011

I've not researched this myself but things I have been prescribed or tried include:
Daily exercise
Good eating (as in conciously healthy)
Increasing my alcohol consumption
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Decreasing my alcohol consumption
Some other types of therapy I don't know the names of
Social stimulation
Getting enough sleep
Making sure my home environment is ordered and tidy
Meaningful employment

There are almost certainly others that I haven't thought of. All of them have worked to a greater or lesser extent, for at least a short amountof time. There are a few I probably wouldn't recommend.
posted by deadwax at 5:51 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

i found the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook very helpful.
posted by h0p3y at 5:58 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a horrible case of anxiety when my normal-TSH-test hypothyroidism was undiagnosed and untreated. I had to use Xanax and give up alcohol for a time. Proper treatment by an endocrinologist with thyroxine and liothyronine eliminated the excessive anxiety and made the Xanax irrelevant, along with making everything else in my life better.

Since my TSH was relentlessly normal, I don't think I'd ever have gotten the right diagnosis, except that I developed Thyroid Eye Disease, which made the problems with my thyroid impossible to ignore.

Before that, my primary care doctor made me try Buspar before she'd prescribe Xanax. Buspar is a horrible drug and only increased my anxiety, along with giving me nightmares.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 6:06 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid can cause anxiety. Thyroid problems are sort of famous for being underdiagnosed by general practitioners, so maybe see an endocrinologist if you're worried about them.

There are also anxiety meds outside of the SSRI/benzodiazapine families. I'm thinking e.g. of Buspar and Lyrica.

Some people use beta blockers for panic or stage fright, but I don't think they've got much application for steady everyday non-panicky anxiety. The FDA hasn't approved them for anything mood-related, so that's all off label.

Back in the dark ages, barbiturates were used for anxiety, but AFAIK nobody does that anymore — and for good reason: they're seriously addictive and dangerous to overdose on, much more so even than the benzodiazapines (and benzo withdrawal is already no picnic). Don't actually try this one.

A while ago there were some studies claiming antidepressant and anxiolytic effects for ketamine, of all damn things, the idea being IIRC that a single sub-recreational dose would have a lingering mood effect that would last for days or weeks. I doubt there's a doctor in the world who would prescribe you that stuff for anxiety — and taking ketamine recreationally is the sort of thing that even pretty serious pot smokers or psychedelic drug aficionados will tend to look askance at. So this one is also pretty firmly in the "don't try it" category, but it's interesting to think about if you're a brain chemistry nerd.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:27 AM on August 8, 2011

Beta-blockers like Atenolol

However, this might not be appropriate for you or your "type" of anxiety.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:28 AM on August 8, 2011

posted by Obscure Reference at 6:34 AM on August 8, 2011

Nettle, lemon balm, and oatstraw teas. (I was once prescribed those by a naturopath; I made all three together and drank them cold with fruit juice.) Muscle relaxers. (I was given the option of trying those by a psychiatric NP, but I went with a mild benzo instead.)

YMMV: Making myself a cup of black tea or coffee has a nice calming placebo effect on me (and in the case of tea, probably a lot of the population of the UK!). I really like rabbits and I find hanging out with them to be an effective anxiolytic.
posted by clavicle at 7:28 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

More sleep/proper nutrition
Good therapist
posted by theora55 at 9:37 AM on August 8, 2011

For anxiety, as ironic as this sounds...there could be a problem with the notion of "compiling a definitive list of treatments and cures." Many doctors clue in on this type of cataloging/self remedy behavior as a form of anxiety inducing behavior (jeez can't win, right?).

But regardless, here's a few things that helped me a couple years ago dealing with panic attacks (where to this day I have no idea what was the cause...but thankfully they've gone away):

- For the classic causes of anxiety, cutting back or out the caffeine is a definite start if you're a coffee drinker. In other words, give your adrenal gland a break.

- Take anti-acids and eat plenty of yogurt to get your digestive system under control. Stimulation of the vagal nerve, a nerve that runs from the stomach to to the top of your neck, can cause discomfort, nausea, anxiety, and panic attacks. In particular, if you also have acid reflux or an undiagnosed ulcer...a PPI would be good as well.

- Get plenty of rest by going to bed earlier so you can get your full REM cycle. Take 1 dramamine (benadryl) to relax the body during the day, as well as two at night to help you sleep. Dramamine is a miracle drug. It's cheap, helpful for many things, and one of the safer over the counter drugs to take regularly, but there are certain precautions you should adhere to. Check with your doctor before hand if you plan to use this regularly however.

- If you can afford it, or have decent insurance, work with your Internal Medicine/Family doctor on a plan for addressing anxiety. There's plenty of avenues a good doctor could provide that you won't find here, and you don't have to go at it alone. You should probably go for tests as soon as possible just to get your adrenal, thyroid, and blood composition checked on for any problems that could cause anxiety (rather than this being something fully controlled by stress reduction)
posted by samsara at 10:12 AM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Systematic Desensitization! Anxious about spiders? Your cure is MORE SPIDERS.
posted by nanojath at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2011

Saint John's Wort is an herb that comes in capsules and is supposed to help with anxiety, but I did not find that it worked. Valerian is another herb, it relaxes the body and is supposed to help with sleeping, but can work for stress and anxiety too. I have this in tincture form. Also aromatherapy, which sounds silly, but the smell of lavender really helps me sometimes!
posted by to recite so charmingly at 12:14 PM on August 8, 2011

I have had good results with L-theanine. It's an amino acid that is present in green tea, and it seems to keep my anxiety symptoms from manifesting themselves physically (fight or flight response). It isn't a magic bullet, but it really seems to help. There are more than a few exploratory studies showing that it doesn't exactly work as an anxiolytic, but that it does keep anxiety symptoms from becoming so overwhelming and physically distracting - kind of takes the edge off. It's fairly cheap and worth a try!

Other things that have helped me immensely: exercise, meditation, playing music, getting enough sleep, reducing my carb/sugar intake, and my magic flight launch box.
posted by dialetheia at 12:34 PM on August 8, 2011

Everyone's completely and totally different in what works for them. I will give you a summary of my journey so far:

My symptoms:
- intense fear of groups of people
- fear of strangers
- fear of friends I haven't seen for a long time
- fear of standing in line, eating out at restaurants, shopping
- all these situations cause me to have a panic attack (uncontrollable sweating, flushed face, racing heart)
- other symptoms: feel like crawling out of my skin, scratching and pinching myself to relieve stress, anger outbursts due to becoming overwhelmed
- symptoms recalled since age 13 (over 20 years ago)

My journey:
- daily intense exercise (1 yr) - no help
- diets (10 yrs) (vegetarian, vegan, low-sugar, low-carb) - no effect
- increased and strict sleep schedule (3 yrs) - no effect
- psychologists (1 yr) - no help
- CBT / psychologist (1 yr) - no help
- Zen Buddhism / meditation (4 yrs) - no help
- MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) (1 yr) - no help
- omega-3, st. john's wort pills (1 yr) - no help

Suicidal, feeling out of options, I finally figured I'd try psychiatry.
- diagnosed with panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and depression
- prescribed zoloft and clonazepam (klonopin) for emergencies
- zoloft helped about 75% for about 6 months
- after 6 months, titrated over to Effexor XR
- have been using Effexor XR for over 3 years with success (80-90% reduction in symptoms)
- also take a small adjunctive amount of seroquel (about 1 year now)
- with medication, I can now make mindfulness and CBT techniques help somewhat
- if I'm going out to dinner with friends (more than 3 people) I will have a guaranteed panic attack so I take 1mg of the clonazepam
- I'm also lucky enough to have a psychiatrist that also does psycho-therapy with me (i.e. not just a pill-pusher). Highly recommended

Best of luck.
posted by blahtsk at 2:40 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

It really depends on the source of your anxiety, and understanding what triggers you (as well as being able to start recognizing the trigger as it's happening) sometimes helps reduce the anxious response. My own experience with anxiety came as a result of a prolonged period of stress and I suspect that this was exacerbated by environmental toxins, so I would suggest an approach that combines therapy with taking good care of your physical self, including:

> a reasonable cleanse - not anything like the master cleanse, but one that you feel is reasonable for you and provides your body with nutrients. lightening the load on your liver can help you feel better in all kinds of ways. cut out or limit alcohol, wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, and eat clean - you'd be surprised what a week of really clean eating can do for your mind and body.

> exercise, especially cardio - find a beautiful place outdoors to walk, breathe, and if you can, RUN! Anyone who deals with stress by running can attest to how amazing you feel after a good run, especially in a setting that you enjoy. It clears your mind and relaxes your body, and it's free!

> acupuncture, unless of course needles make you anxious... if you have never tried it before and you are comfortable with the idea of it, do some research and give it a try (I suggest trying more than once, maybe three times to really see how you feel about it). I've recently been having acupuncture treatments and I've found it effective for significantly reducing my low-grade physical anxiety. If money is a concern, look around for community acupuncture near you - it tends to be less expensive than individual treatments and may have a sliding payment scale.

> find an online meditation that appeals to you and set time aside to get comfy and listen. do this when you have a period of commitment free time - I find I often fall asleep.

> to some, it might seem counterintuitive to add marijuana to this list, but if you are someone who isn't plagued by paranoia when you get high, it can help. when I'm feeling really rough, i find that it helps calm me down and shed my neurotic tendencies, enabling see things in a more positive light. that said, i should make clear that i'm not suggesting marijuana as a crutch, but as a way to take a break from your mind if it is a major contributor to your anxiety.

> laughter, however you can get it :)

Good luck!
posted by sassy mae at 8:33 PM on August 30, 2011

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