Why is food the most abused anxiety drug?
It is believed and well researched that people experiencing anxiety might use food as one of the most abused anxiety drugs.
This can be supported by the phrase “stress eating”. Stress hormones make an individual crave comfort foods which put an individual at a spot of overheating.
This could be a reason why researchers have linked weight gain to an increased level of anxiety and stress.
According to the American Psychological Association survey, about 1/4 of Americans read their stress level as eight or more on a 10-point scale.
Studies indicate that in the short term stress can lower individuals’ appetite however when this stress and anxiety persist for very long individuals’ intake of food increases due to the increase in cortisol levels.
According to biology after a stressful episode, the levels of cortisol must dip however if the stress persists the levels of cortisol might increase
Why do people overeat due to anxiety?
One primary reason why people tend to eat more when they are stressed or anxious could be due to the production of cortisol.
Some research also suggests that there can be a significant general difference in stress-coping behaviors with women being more likely to depend on food and men on alcohol or smoking while they experience a sense of anxiety.
Supporting studies have shown that this stress eating correlates with weight gain. Additionally, One theory is that overweight people have elevated insulin levels, and stress-related weight gain is more likely to occur in the presence of high insulin.
What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Sense of choking
- Complaints of chest pain
- Shaking or trembling
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or Lightheadedness
- Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment
- Fear of impending doom
- Hot or cold flashes
- Tingling or numbness
- Increased heart rate
These symptoms vary in severity from person to person. However, it is noted that many people experience anxiety attacks that are not significantly displayed.
What are the causes of anxiety?
Anxiety often results from accumulated stress or overwhelming feelings. Some common causes of anxiety include.
- Increased and challenging situations and demands in day-to-day life.
- Major changes in family dynamics such as marriage, divorce, death of a loved one.
- Strain interpersonal relationships
- Intrapersonal conflicts
- Ineffective coping mechanisms
- Comorbid conditions both physical and mental
- Chronic health conditions
- Genetic factors
- Changes in the brain region
- Overdose of caffeine
- Prolonged use of medications
- Significant traumatic experiences in the past or recent times
- Comorbid mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other phobias.
What are the main triggers of anxiety?
Even though anxiety is seen among many individuals, certain triggers make some people more vulnerable to anxiety than others. Some contributing triggers of anxiety are:
An individual is more vulnerable to experiencing anxiety in the presence of chronic or serious health diagnoses such as cancer or diabetes.
triggers associated with health diagnosis tend to have a strong impact on an individual because of the strong negative thoughts and emotions that are associated with it.
It is believed that many over-the-counter medications may contribute to the symptoms of anxiety in some individuals. This is certainly because of the ingredients in this medication that makes an individual feel uneasy.
Use of caffeine
Even though it is said that the use of caffeine helps to activate an individual’s system studies show that over usage of caffeine might lead to adverse effects such as anxiety or even depression.
Apart from the overuse withdrawal from caffeine may also lead to anxiety. hence it is suggested that individuals take conscious amounts of caffeine per day.
Apart from environmental factors ones eating habits might also contribute to an individual’s anxiety directly or indirectly. When an Individual fails to maintain their food timings it might lead to fluctuations in their blood sugar levels.
These fluctuations might make an individual feel jittery which in turn triggers anxiety.
Hence maintaining a proper schedule and diet is important for various reasons not just for energy but also for maintaining one’s mood.
An individual’s behavior and emotions are certainly controlled by one’s thoughts. When an individual is upset and dwells on negative thoughts it further leads to discomforting emotions and detrimental thoughts causing a vicious cycle.
These negative thoughts are then projected to various areas of an individual’s life creating an overall sense of lack of control over oneself and the environment which triggers anxiety.
Many individuals experience anxiety due to their financial standing. Learning to manage financial triggers requires seeking professional help such as from a financial advisor.
Daily stressors as simple as traffic jams to major ones such as strained relationships might contribute to one’s intensity and frequency of anxiety and anxiety attacks.
However long term or chronic stress leads to long term anxiety and a build-up of negative taught processes and emotions that impact an individual’s mental health
Individuals might also experience anxiety as a result of interpersonal or intrapersonal conflicts.
The inability to resolve these conflicts might lead to the buildup of negative thoughts, emotions that overwhelm an individual and triggers anxiety.
Personal triggers can be as minor as a smell, place, or even a song that reminds an individual of negative and discomforting experiences. Personal triggers can remind an individual of an unconscious or conscious dramatic event in an individual’s life that triggers their anxiety.
If you can identify and understand your triggers, you can work to avoid them and learn to cope with them. You can learn specific coping strategies to handle the triggers when they happen.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
What are the tips for identifying triggers of anxiety?
Start a journal.
Write down when your anxiety is noticeable and record what you think might have led to the trigger
Work with a therapist.
Some anxiety triggers can be difficult to identify, but a mental health specialist can help you. They may use talk therapy, journaling, and other methods to find triggers.
Be honest with yourself.
Anxiety can cause negative thoughts and poor self-assessments. This can make identifying triggers difficult because of the anxious reactions. Be willing to explore things in your past to identify how they may affect you today.
What are some ways to manage anxiety apart from overeating?
Identify and acknowledge the triggers
The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety is by identifying and acknowledging those triggers.
Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.
Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques.
These might include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.
A key to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.
The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel connected and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety.
Apart from friends and families, individuals can also consider speaking to groups of people that are experiencing similar problems.
Set realistic goals
When an individual is feeling overwhelmed setting goals and targets keeping in mind priorities can help resolve overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.
Setting goals provides structure and routine to an individual’s life reducing space for uncertainty which can be a major trigger for anxiety in many cases.
Take up new challenges
Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anger temporarily.
Signing up for new activities also provides a path to meeting people with similar stories and concerns.
An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.
A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.
these coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.
lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.
Making journal entries
Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.
Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.
In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.
What are the therapy options for anxiety?
Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.
As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.
It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.
Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.
Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief.
In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium.
In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation.
Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time
Food can indeed act as a drug while an individual is experiencing anxiety. That is food is not something that individuals run to when they are hungry but also when they require a sense of comfort.
however, individuals need to realize that consuming food is a short-term remedy to get over an unpleasant situation or emotion. To get to the roots of the problem and lead a normal life individuals must seek help from professionals or carry out reliable self-help strategies to deal with anxiety.
What we recommend for curbing Anxiety
Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety
- Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.
- Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.
- Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night. An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.
Frequently asked questions
Which foods can trigger anxiety?
Some foods that can trigger anxiety are:
- Drinks high in sugar level
- Vegetables and fruits with a high glycemic index
- Food containing gluten
- Artificial sweeteners
- Cakes and candies
- Coffee and tea
- Processed meats and cheese
Does food affect anxiety?
It is believed that certain foods might trigger anxiety in certain individuals. This might cause a sense of discomfort and unpleasant physical reaction in the individual. Certain foods might also be responsible for a change in mood and irritability in people.
Does sugar worsen anxiety?
High levels of sugar are considered to be a contributor to overall anxiety experienced by people. High levels of sugar can cause a person’s blood sugar to fluctuate unevenly leading to increased vulnerability to anxiety.
Can anxiety be cured?
Anxiety is not curable however there are various methods that one can adopt or seek help from external sources to get their anxiety into control and carry on with their lives as normally as possible.
Is milk bad for anxiety?
Foods with high calcium levels can lower a person’s cortisol levels. Cortisol being a stress hormone might be a primary reason for anxiety.