The rate at which people are suffering with anxiety is increasing so alarmingly that it is now referred to as ‘the anxiety epidemic.’ The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimate that just under 1 in 5 people suffer from anxiety and nearly one half of all people diagnosed with depression, receive a dual diagnosis for anxiety too.
We live in a society where people are justifiably anxious about health, safety, finances, politics and relationships. 24/7 news broadcasting and the pervasiveness of social media further elevates this anxiety as we are constantly ‘wired’ into digital connectivity. Of greatest concern is the rising rates of anxiety in our younger population– specifically Millennials. The National Alliance on Mental Illness refers to Millennials as an ‘anxious generation’ as they were the first generation to grow up with the ‘normality’ of the internet and social media. Relentless competitive comparison of personal and professional achievements is the norm- whilst they have the world at their fingertips, there is also an immense weight to look and sound perfect, act like you have it together and be continually ‘on.’ This can result in low self-esteem, insecurity and anxiety.
What is anxiety?
The Encyclopedia of Psychology defines anxiety as an emotion characterised by feelings of tensions, worried thoughts, nervousness and unease. The individual suffers from recurring and repetitive intrusive thoughts and concerns coupled with feelings of worry in relation to an imminent event or uncertain outcome. Physical changes such as increased blood pressure, sweating, trembling, dizziness and a rapid heartbeat are experienced. Muscle pain, neck tightness and chest pains can be common as can disturbances in sleep, restlessness and a withdrawal from social interaction.
With the high paced lives we lead, it is ‘normal’ to feel bouts of nervousness from time to time, but for a person with anxiety, a feeling of uncontrollable worry and fear accompanies them most of the time impacting their relationships, work performance, family obligations and other life engagements.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety can manifest itself in a number of different ways from Generalized Anxiety Disorders to Panic Disorders and Phobia-related Anxiety (social, separation, object related). For a more detailed explanation of these classifications visit The National Institute for Mental Health.
Irrespective of the classification, suffering with extreme anxiety is persistent, often uncontrollable and very disruptive to effective functioning.
It is difficult to pinpoint 1 specific cause for anxiety as we are all unique and anxiety develops for a number of complex reasons with a compounding effect over time. The most common triggers for anxiety include:
- An increase in stress due to poor or changing life circumstances (long commutes, working hours, unemployment, money concerns, loss or conflict with a loved one, being bullied or feeling isolated)
- Traumatic life experiences including violence and/or abuse
- Genetics and family history may result in certain traits that exacerbate concern and worry
- Dysfunctional serotonin production
- Hormone fluctuations such as those associated with thyroid problems, pregnancy or menopause
- Poor diet including high caffeine and sugar use as well as excessive alcohol intake
- Drug use
Essential Oils for Anxiety
French surgeon Jean Valnet advanced the practice or aromatherapy after World War II, discovering that essential oils helped to treat soldiers during a time when medicine was scarce. Essential oils are completely natural (provided they haven’t been extracted with chemicals or diluted with other base substances). These oils are extracted from flowers, roots, bark or leaves of plants and in their pure form, are a wonderful natural remedy for anxiety as our sense of smell triggers powerful emotional responses. Adding a few drops of essential oils to your bath, to a diffuser or humidifier enables the molecules to vaporize, allowing them to enter the nasal cavities and stimulate a firing of mental response in the limbic system of the brain.
Helps fight depression as it reduces inflammation, enhances mood and stimulates hormones.
Helps to stimulate the lymphatic system and relax the body, soothing edgy feelings.
A calming and relaxing oil which restores the nervous system helping with sleep, restlessness, irritability and general nervous tension.
An oil which is helpful in calming the emotional heart and helps to relieve shock and ease anxiety.
Orange oil assists in increasing circulation, thereby reducing inflammation, which in turn calms anxiety and angry feelings. This is a more cost effective oil.
Vetiver oil is most often used in trauma cases due to its ability to stabilize and calm one. It is a central nervous system tonic that decreases hypersensitivity so is great for the treatment of shock and panic attacks.
7. Ylang Ylang
Ylang Ylang is a moderate sedative so is great in the treatment of sleep disturbances. It has an uplifting effect encouraging optimism and soothing fearfulness.
Bergamot has a uniquely distinctive floral aroma and is commonly found in Earl Grey tea. It can help induce relaxation and reduce agitation so is a wonderful treatment for depression and anxiety.
Chamomile works to create peace and calm, helping to reduce anxiety and worry.
Frankincense is calming and has a tranquil energy which helps deepen meditation and quiet the mind.