I’ve worked with clients over the years to help them manage their anxiety. For those who have never experienced anxiety or lived with someone who does, it can be a really enduring curse that the sufferer cannot rationalise. Often brought on by stressful situations, after a long period of trauma, it can start for no connected reason, is often related to depression or perhaps presents itself “just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water”, having coped at the time.
Panic attacks tend to be shorter in duration than an anxiety attack but the sufferer experiences same sort of sensations. People will say it feels like “I’m having a heart attack”. They get chest tightness, hot and sweaty, feeling of loosing control due to panic, the need to run to escape + other sensations. Of course if these happen to older folk, they thoroughly believe that they are having a heart problem and have a barrage of checks run with a Cardiologist only to be told their heart is fine.
We have brain chemicals or neurotransmitters that react to help balance out some of these sensations:
- Cortisol for instance, when it is too high it increases anxiety, fatigue and restlessness.
- Dopamine is needed for motivation, memory and focus. When there is too little we have no motivation, find it difficult to concentrate, libido is pretty flat as it drives down testosterone.
- Serotonin, when it is too high it can cause sweating, muscle twitching and mental confusion. When it is low it leads to depression,
- Gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA), is a really important neurotransmitter as it has direct influence over the functioning of the pituitary gland. When there are high levels of GABA circulating, you have all the sensations of having a full on anxiety attack. When levels are low, depression, anxiety, poor sleep and other mood disorders are common.
- Adrenaline and Noradrenaline, these are vital for our reaction to ‘fight and flight’, yes we do want our blood pressure to increase if we are chased by a T-rex. However when both of these are high; anxiety, poor response to stress, anger, irritability, carbohydrate cravings and sleep problems result. When these are low depression, apathy, lack of focus and energy are the problems.
Guess what, yes we can test that these neurotransmitters are within optimal ranges with 2 urine samples – the first on rising and the second 2-3 hours later.