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Anxiety

Anxiety is characterized by excessive tension and worry. Unlike fear, it is persistent and future oriented. There are many types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, and panic disorder.

Our evidence-based analysis on anxiety features 7 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
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Summary of Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety, defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), is an emotion characterized by apprehension and bodily symptoms of tension and the anticipation of impending danger.[1][2] In anxiety disorders, the feelings of fear, dread, and uneasiness are persistent and can be overwhelming. Moreover, the intensity of these feelings can increase over time and interfere with normal daily activities.

What are the main signs and symptoms of anxiety?

  • Behavior changes such as avoiding previously normal activities

  • Anxious thoughts or beliefs that are hard to control and do not go away or improve over time.

  • Pounding or rapid heartbeat

  • Aches and pains

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

How is anxiety diagnosed?

Anxiety is diagnosed with a psychological evaluation performed by a clinician.[2] The psychological evaluation will typically be based on diagnostic criteria set by a publication such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM; used in the United States) or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD; used by the World Health Organization).

What are some of the main medical treatments for anxiety?

Antianxiety medications like beta-blockers and antidepressants are commonly used either alone or in conjunction with therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works well for many anxiety disorders, especially in combination with drugs.[2]

Have any supplements been studied for anxiety?

While they are not a cure-all, supplements such as magnesium, lavender, kava, saffron, ashwagandha,and inositol have good evidence for dampening anxiety severity to a moderate extent.

What's the connection between diet and anxiety?

Compared to typically less-healthy diets such as the Western diet, Mediterranean-style and vegan diets have some evidence for their ability to improve mood, although more research is necessary to confirm this.[3]

Are there any other treatments for anxiety?

Some evidence shows that meditation can reduce anxiety symptoms, [4] particularly among anxious individuals without diagnosed disorders.[5] High-intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training may be effective for treating anxiety disorders.[6][7] Additionally, binaural beats and cannabidiol have both been studied for anxiety-related outcomes and seem to provide modest benefits.

What causes anxiety?

The causes of anxiety disorders are complex, and risk factors can differ by the type of anxiety (e.g., separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic). Genetics, environment, and brain biology can all play a role. Generally speaking, exposure to traumatic or highly stressful events, a family history of anxiety disorders, certain health conditions (e.g., thyroid dysfunction, arrhythmias), and certain personality traits (e.g., excessive shyness) are all associated with an increased risk of having anxiety.

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The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies to tell you what supplements affect Anxiety.

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Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Supplement Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-a Notable Very High See all 8 studies
Appears to be quite reliable and effective in treating non-psychotic anxiety, with less reliability on the topic of generalized anxiety (which lavender shows some promise for). It is possible that long-term usage of kava may have similar side-effects as long term usage of benzodiazepines (not demonstrated, but wholly logical) and most studies on kava are of a few weeks in duration without any problems.
grade-a Minor Very High See all 12 studies
When taken orally, saffron seems to be a reliable anxiolytic. 30 mg of extract seems to be the most reliable dose, though less or more could be effective as well. When considering some of the most widely-used rating scales, Beck Anxiety Inventory and Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, the effect seems to be small, though when using all measures of anxiety, it's large. More research specifically on participants with diagnosed anxiety disorders is needed.
grade-b Notable Very High See all 9 studies
Evidence suggests potent anxiolytic effects in the context of chronic stress and anxiety disorder, with lesser potency in standard forms of anxiety not related to stress. There may be more benefit to social anxiety as well with ashwagandha relative to other anxiolytics. More high-quality studies are needed to get an accurate assessment of how effective it is and the optimal dose.

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Frequently Asked Questions and Articles on Anxiety

How eating better can make you happier
Food and supplements that can help fight stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and help you sleep better.
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