Short bursts of stress can help you achieve great things, even saving you from danger. It’s when stress becomes a constant companion that it can push you into a state of anxiety, and prolonged anxiety can lead to depression. The great thing is though, you can fully recover from anxiety disorder and from depression. Nootropics can support you during your journey to recovery.
What is Anxiety?
When you feel your heartbeat increase and your palms begin to sweat, if you feel permanently worried or frightened or find yourself in the midst of a feeling of terror that something catastrophic is about to happen (which you may not at the time recognise as a panic attack) then the chances are that you are suffering from an anxiety disorder. Your GP should be your first port of call and will determine what kind of anxiety you have, and then decide on the best treatment. The treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms.
Everyone has anxious feelings sometimes and often they are a completely natural reaction to something which has happened. It could be a relationship problem, a work-related issue or worries about paying bills. Even watching the news can arouse serious feelings of anxiety. What you are feeling is brought about by your brain signalling to your adrenal gland that a ‘fight or flight’ reaction is necessary. This in turn causes your adrenal gland to release the hormones adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and cortisol. You then experience the physical effects of anxiety.
Usually, once the threat is over, your body returns to normal, but a problem can arise if the perceived danger is either not real or you can do nothing about it. The chemicals which have flooded your bloodstream have nowhere to go. Your body can’t use them, but the hormones continue to cause physical effects of anxiety.
If you are already suffering with an anxiety disorder these signals of fear can escalate and rob you of peace of mind long after the cause is no longer a threat, making you feel as though you are in a constant state of high alert and danger.
There are various forms of anxiety and many are within the category known as general anxiety disorder. Social anxiety is somewhat different but shares many similar manifestations and these are some of the most commonly experienced symptoms of both:
- Racing heart and chest pains
- Fear that your fast pulse or other anxiety symptom is a separate health issue
- Thoughts which seem to go round your brain continually with no resolution
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Lack of concentration
- Worry that something bad is about to happen to you or to a loved one
- Lack of appetite
- Feeling outside of your own body, or that you are walking in a dream (this is called dissociation)
- Hair loss
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness and fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Skin break-outs, such as eczema and psoriasis
Anxiety focussed nootropics work by balancing emotions, improving memory and generally sharpening cognitive function. The herbs which have anxiety nootropic status are known as ‘adaptogens’. This means they react with those systems and hormones which control stress response. Nootropics can help you to help yourself to eliminate feelings of stress and anxiety, but It’s important to recognise when anxiety escalates into a condition which needs medical treatment because anxiety, when left untreated, can turn to depression.
What are the Best Nootropics for General Anxiety?
Evidence based nootropics – adaptogens which support stress and anxiety and have been scientifically researched and tested:
Ashwaganda (or Withania somnifera)
- This herb has long proved valuable in Ayurvedic medicine. A clinical study was conducted in 2019 to establish the efficacy of ashwagandha for anxiety. The study ran for eight weeks and involved 58 participants who were suffering from stress. Each participant received either 250 mg per day of ashwagandha extract or 600 mg per day, or a placebo. Those taking the 600 mg were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those taking the 250 mg dose.
- Another study was carried out in 2019 with 60 participants all of whom had mild anxiety. They were given 250 mg of ashwagandha or a placebo for 60 days. The participants taking Ashwagandha showed a significant easing of certain aspects of their anxiety.
- An amino acid extracted from the leaves of green tea (camellia sinensis). It has been the subject of many studies which have identified and confirmed its ability to ease stress and anxiety. One placebo-controlled, crossover and double-blind trial examined the effects of four weeks L-theanine administration on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions. The findings of the trial showed improved cognitive performance, ‘especially verbal fluency and executive function.’
Bacopa Monnieri (or water hyssop)
- It was given the nickname of Brahmi in respect of the Hindu creator god Brahma. The herb has small oblong leaves and tiny mauve flowers, the whole of the plant being medicinally available, it has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for its power to boost memory, improve cognitive function and treat anxiety. Bacopa monnieri is a plant native to the warm wetland regions of Australia, India, East Asia and America and is thought to have been used by ancient Vedic scholars to help them memorise lengthy scriptures.
- Over 1,400 years of Ayurvedic study have confirmed the reputation of bacopa monnieri as a safe, intellect-enhancing herb, as opposed to one of the addictive, neuron-destroying psychostimulants. Modern studies have conclusively confirmed that bacopa monnieri is able to ease the symptoms of anxiety as well as significantly stimulating cognitive function, improving memory, boosting learning ability and raising visual processing speed. Current findings suggest that the powers of this herb are due to its free-radical scavenging properties, antioxidant neuroprotection and increased cerebral blood flow together with neurotransmitter modulation.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
- Proven to enhance the function of the hippocampus, the area of the brain where memory and emotions are processed. Lion’s mane mushrooms stimulate nerve growth which boosts the renewal of brain cells, supporting memory, mood and general cognitive function. This is good news for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Rhodiola Rosea (also known as golden root)
- This herbal adaptogen is well known for its ability to boost performance of those under stress, it is also thought to reduce symptoms of stress in cases of general anxiety as well as easing symptoms of social anxiety. It has been found to improve the stress levels and social anxiety for women, particularly during menopause. The root of the rhodiola rosea contains more than 140 active ingredients, including rosavin and salidroside.
These herbal ingredients have been the subject of many studies and have consistently shown results which support their ability to help balance emotions and improve general cognitive function. Taking these supplements, included within our expertly developed Nootropics Complex,will give support to balancing mood and restoring focus.
Can Nootropics Help with Social Anxiety?
Sometimes referred to as social phobia, is when you have a dread of social situations and it can arise either before or during the event. Some of the most usual triggers are:
- When meeting new people for the first time
- Having to converse with strangers
- Relating to people in restaurants, bars and other social venues
- Taking part in group discussions or contributing to a meetin
- Public speaking (many people struggle with this, and it isn’t necessarily a phobia)
Often the greatest fear is of doing or saying something inappropriate or embarrassing. Your voice may tremble, and you may stumble for words. You may be aware that you are perspiring, blushing even, and it may worry you that others will notice. Often you will do your best to avoid situations where this might arise.
Social anxiety is something you can learn to cope with and quite often the fear can diminish. It’s important not to try to ignore the problem as it can begin to impact on your life to the point where your activities are severely restricted and day-to-day living is affected. Your doctor will ask questions to assess the extent of your anxiety and may then decide to refer you to a therapist who can help you through the problem. Appointments can be made by telephone with both the therapist and GP if face-to-face sessions make you too anxious.
It has long been thought that poor self-esteem could be one of the most likely causes of social anxiety, but current research has found that it is primarily caused by a chemical imbalance. Your brain is controlled by neurotransmitter systems and anxiety can be a problem relating to these. Serotonin is a major player in the process of controlling brain modes, including anxiety. It has also been established that it can sometimes be a genetic predisposition.
Safety of Nootropics for Anxiety and Depression
Be very careful not to take nootropics which boost serotonin uptake in your brain, especially when already using any other drug or nootropic that is also boosting serotonin. This can cause serious adverse effects such as serotonin syndrome which can be life threatening.
A much safer choice would be nootropics containing bacopa monnieri, ginkgo biloba, rhodiola rosea all of which have been proven to keep serotonin levels balanced. These extracts are included in our Nootropic Complex.
Herbal supplements are powerful, and care should be taken if using them alongside other medication (over-the-counter or prescription). Certain natural herbal substances can either reduce or increase the activity of prescribed drugs and this could possibly cause health issues. It’s a good idea to consult your GP or pharmacist before embarking on a course of nootropic supplements, especially if you are already taking medication for anxiety and/or depression.
Another factor to bear in mind is that when choosing to take the natural route to support yourself through anxiety and depression, it will take longer for the benefits of natural nootropic supplements to manifest themselves than when using pharmaceutical medication. However, the natural route is also free from the side effects often experienced with clinical medication.
Both general and social anxiety disorders can interfere with your quality of life. The important thing is that you are aware that you don’t have to suffer; there is a great deal of support for you from the NHS Patient Advise and Liaison Service (PALS) where you can find a therapist to help with your particular form of anxiety or depression.
For anyone struggling badly with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue the NHS have a helpline where support can be reached quickly.
Mind have a useful service for anyone suffering with anxiety and depression.
There’s much you can do to achieve a healthier, more positive outlook, both in terms of general and social anxiety and this self-help includes supplementation with natural nootropics for balancing and enhancing brain function.
If you would like to discuss any aspects of using natural supplements or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.