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Understanding Anxiety Disorders – Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

Last Updated:


“Anxiety disorder” is the general term given for a series of disorders which may cause fear, nervousness, worrying, and apprehension. Unfortunately, these disorders directly affect the way people behave and feel and they can also manifest through real physical symptoms. These range from mild anxiety, which is unsettling and vague, to severe anxiety that can be very debilitating and have a significant impact on people’s daily lives.

People usually experience a general state of fear and worry before challenges like examinations, tests, interviews, or recitals. These are viewed as normal experiences and can be easily justified. 

On the other hand, anxiety disorders would be to blame when a person experiences a series of symptoms that interfere with their ability to sleep or function normally. It usually occurs when a reaction that might typically be expected in a given situation is out of proportion. 

The most common anxiety disorders[1] include:

  • Panic Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder, Phobia
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

To cope with these medical disorders, people tend to take nutritional supplements that may regulate their system so they can relieve themselves from stress and regain control of their lives. However, it is important to mention that some of these may cause side-effects and people should carefully read the labels and consult their healthcare provider before taking any treatments.

Which Supplements for Anxiety Disorders Really Work?

Supplements for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety supplements are a decent alternative to potentially dangerous anxiety medications, and more immediate than therapy or other long-term treatments.[2] But there are also hundreds, if not thousands of them, as nearly every major supplement manufacturer seems to have created their own product for the anxiety disorders. 

Having so many competing supplements created two problems. First, clinical studies have shown little to no evidence[3][4] that any benefits to most natural anxiety medicines (more on that in a moment) actually exist. Second, with so many supplements on the market, it is difficult to know which anxiety products are likely to work, and which ones aren’t.

People need to understand that there isn’t as much difference between prescription medication and natural supplements as many will have you believe. The more powerful a natural supplement is, the more likely it is going to have unwanted effects or risks.[5] That is the case with anything that changes your body chemistry.

Anti-Anxiety Ingredients to Look For

Anti-Anxiety Ingredients

Anxiety disorders and depression disorders often go hand in hand.[6] For most patients, anxiety symptoms become so problematic that they feel confined and limited and this, in itself, causes subsequent depression. 

Unfortunately, it is a common practice for anxiety disorders to be treated with benzodiazepines and other popular antidepressants. The only problem is that for some, this treatment helps with depression but worsens their anxiety. Many commonly used anti-anxiety medications can cause side effects including drowsiness, fatigue, weight gain, lightheadedness, dependency, and decreased libido.[7][8] These treatments also neglect to address the root cause of the anxiety.

However, some ingredients will work better than others. A combination of proper ingredients may actually diminish anxiety symptoms and help alleviate stress. Some of these ingredients include:

1) Choline

A link has been discovered between low choline levels and an increased risk for anxiety, according to a study in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” October 2009 issue.[9] Clinical tests have shown that the reduced choline levels were heavily linked with high-anxiety symptoms. 

On the other hand, higher choline levels were associated with decreased anxiety. This promising connection shows that eating a choline-rich diet or using supplements may benefit anxiety.

If you are deficient in choline, you could possibly experience some unwanted adverse effects that can cripple your daily routine.[10] Not only are poor moods frequent, but a lack of energy, as well as memory loss. When you become deficient, it may be a good idea to supplement. 

Although supplementation is typically the best and fastest way to get enough choline, you should also focus on changing your eating habits by incorporating more choline-rich foods into your diet. When you consume foods that are high in essential fatty acids and Vitamin B6, choline levels will start bouncing back.

Here are some of the richest sources of choline within your diet:

  • Vegetables: cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, asparagus, spinach, green peas, and broccoli.
  • Nuts, seeds, and soy: flaxseed, pistachio nuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin and squash seed kernels, and almond.
  • Meat and seafood: turkey, tuna, salmon, beef, cod, shrimp, and scallops
  • Eggs, milk, and chocolate.

2) L-Arginine


L-Arginine is an amino acid with a significant role in several important biological processes, including wound healing, cell division, immune system functioning, and waste removal. It is found naturally in a number of foods, including meat, dairy products, and poultry. 

The human body also uses L-Arginine to produce nitric oxide, which has a relaxing effect on blood vessels.[11] While you can typically meet your body’s requirements for arginine through dietary sources, certain health conditions can deplete supplies more quickly, making supplementation a potentially beneficial solution for preventing a deficiency. 

Some research has shown that the amino acid L-Arginine, particularly when taken alongside L-Lysine, another essential amino acid, can have a beneficial impact on symptoms of anxiety.[12]

A study printed in the April 2007 issue of the journal, “Biomedical Research,” evaluated the impacts of a blend of L-Lysine and L-arginine on 108 healthy Japanese adults.[13] The researchers found that supplementation helped to reduce both trait and stress-induced anxiety when subjects were exposed to a cognitive stress battery. 

The supplementation also helped to reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone released by your body in response to stress. A different clinical study[14] published in the June 2005 issue of the journal, “Nutritional Neuroscience” showed that a combination of L-Arginine and L-Lysine helped to reduce the effects of stress in study participants with high trait anxiety who were exposed to a simulated stress test.

3) 5-HTP

5-HTP is one of the most popular amino acid supplements for both depression and anxiety because it plays a pivotal role in the synthesis of both melatonin and serotonin. 

While most clinical studies have shown some benefits of the amino acid 5-HTP,[15][16][17] many have been unsuccessfully completed, so there isn’t much evidence supporting or denying the benefits of this ingredient. Even so, 5-HTP remains one of the “favorites” when it comes to anxiety supplementation.

4) Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that helps promote sleep and relaxation.[18] Melatonin is also accessible as a dietary supplement. Some countries require a prescription before distributing melatonin. Although surprisingly few studies have looked at melatonin as a potential tool for anxiety, it is widely regarded in supplement circles.

5) Ashwagandha


Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb that has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for anxiety because it helps to stabilize the body’s response to stress. In a systematic study that assessed data on the effectiveness of Ashwagandha as a treatment for anxiety, scientists discovered that most studies concluded with significant improvement in anxiety symptoms with Ashwagandha cure.[19]

However, Ashwagandha is not only a stress reliever. It also shields the brain from degeneration, and it works to improve anxiety symptoms[20] by destroying free radicals that cause damage to the brain and body. Research shows that Ashwagandha helps to fight anxiety, reduce fatigue, and enhance focus without the adverse effects of most anti-anxiety medications.

6) Kava Root

Kava Root is another herbal ingredient on our list. Recent research shows that Kava Root can be used to treat anxiety because it’s a non-addictive and non-hypnotic anxiolytic.[21] Kava Root is commonly used to ease anxiety, improve mood, and boost sociability. It works by stimulating dopamine receptors and inducing euphoria. 

In fact, a randomized controlled trial[22] conducted in Australia found that Kava Root can be considered first-line therapy for generalized anxiety disorder and it’s shown to be safe for people undergoing treatment. And a meta-analysis reported by Cochrane, which involved seven trials, suggests that there are significant effects from kava treatment for anxiety with few side effects, which are all considered mild.[23]

As a downside, taking Kava Root is only recommended under the guidance of your health care provider, as it can interact with certain prescription medications. Also, do not consume alcohol if you are using Kava Root and be aware of the most common side effects, including diarrhea, headache, and drowsiness.

7) Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea (commonly known as Golden Root) is a plant native to the arctic regions of Europe and Asia. The plant has a long history of medical usage dating all the way back to 77 C.E. Rhodiola Rosea is used to improve mood, for energy enhancement, and most critically, to reduce stress. 

In a 2000 double-blind study,[24] Rhodiola Rosea was shown to increase alertness and reduce stress in doctors on night shifts. Working the night shift is notoriously stressful, so anything that can help those folks should be able to help others, as well.

The most extensively studied property of Rhodiola Rosea is its ability to help people deal with fatigue. Since exhaustion often contributes to stress, anything that reduces fatigue can help in the battle against stress.

8) Vitamin B Complex

Fatigue and low energy can contribute to irritability and stress/anxiety levels.[25] This is why the B vitamins, are quite popular, because their ability to keep energy levels high and improve cognitive performance, can have a beneficial effect. Clinical research suggests that supplementing with a Vitamin B Complex can help keep your energy high and stress low.[26]

Clinical trials[27][28] have also shown that supplementing with Vitamin B Complex can help reduce “personal strain,” and depressed feelings when in high-stress situations. In essence, it supports a sense of calm and stability. If you want to be more relaxed and focused under stress and pressure, supplementing with a B complex could be a significant help.

Reference Sources