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Anxiety

12 min read

Alternatives to anxiety medication: effective non-drug approaches

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: Apr 2, 2024

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

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If you’re among the millions grappling with anxiety, you might have considered or even tried medication as a quick fix. But concerns about side effects, dependency, or simply a desire for a more natural approach might have you searching for alternatives to anxiety medication.

In this article, we cover some of the most effective non-drug approaches for anxiety. We discuss evidence-based alternatives like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based practices, exercise, improving sleep, and making dietary changes. You’ll learn specific techniques from CBT and mindfulness that can help reduce anxious thoughts and feelings.  

Ready to explore how you can manage anxiety without medication? Find a provider on Klarity today.

Common signs of anxiety and how it can affect your life

Recognizing the common signs of anxiety is crucial for understanding and addressing the condition. These signs often include persistent worry over everyday activities, feelings of impending doom, and physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and fatigue. Anxiety can also lead to sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, which compounds its effects by leaving you tired and irritable.

One of the most insidious aspects of anxiety is its impact on concentration and decision-making. Those suffering may find it increasingly difficult to focus on tasks, make decisions, and recall information. This can affect performance at work or school, strain relationships, and decrease overall life satisfaction. 

Anxiety can lead to avoidance behaviors, where individuals steer clear of situations or activities they fear might trigger their anxiety. While this may provide short-term relief, it often leads to increased isolation and can prevent people from living a full, enjoyable life.

Understanding these signs and acknowledging their impact on your life is the first step toward managing anxiety effectively. It’s important to remember that while anxiety can feel overwhelming, numerous alternatives to anxiety medication can provide relief. 

Why taking anxiety medication may not be right for you

While anxiety medications are a cornerstone in managing symptoms for many, they aren’t the universal solution they’re often perceived to be. Concerns over side effects, the potential for dependency, and the desire for a more natural approach to wellness are valid reasons why you might hesitate or decide against this route. Maybe you’ve tried using prescription drugs but were unhappy with the results or unwanted side effects.

Understanding the nuances and risks associated with anti-anxiety medications can empower you to explore holistic and alternative treatments for anxiety, aligning your path to recovery with your personal health philosophy and lifestyle.

Risks and side effects of anti-anxiety medications

One of the primary concerns with anti-anxiety medications is the potential for dependency. Over time, the body can become accustomed to controlled substances, leading to tolerance, where higher doses are needed to achieve the same effect. 

This tolerance can set the stage for dependency, where discontinuing medication becomes challenging and is often accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. If you experience substance use disorders, speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether anti-anxiety medications are safe for you. 

Side effects are another significant concern and can vary widely depending on the type of medication and the individual. Common side effects of most anxiety medications include drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and headaches. More severe risks can include mood swings, memory problems, and, in rare cases, paradoxical reactions, such as increased anxiety or agitation.

Additionally, long-term use of some anti-anxiety medications can lead to physical health concerns, such as impacts on liver health, weight gain, or an increased risk of falls, especially in older adults. These medications can also interact with other drugs, leading to additional health risks.

Alternatives to anxiety medication that offer relief

For many individuals, the journey to manage anxiety isn’t solely through prescription bottles but through a variety of alternative treatments that align more closely with their preferences for natural remedies and holistic wellness strategies. 

From the ancient practice of acupuncture to the modern use of cannabidiol (CBD) products and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), each alternative treatment offers unique benefits, providing relief without the side effects or dependency risks associated with conventional medications. 

Whether you’re seeking to complement your current treatment plan or looking for a completely new approach, these alternatives can pave the way to a more balanced and anxiety-free life.

Taking natural supplements and vitamins

Natural supplements and vitamins stand out for their ease of use and minimal side effects. Magnesium, known as nature’s relaxant, plays a pivotal role in nervous system regulation, helping to calm the body and mind. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil and flaxseeds, are linked to improved mood and reduced anxiety levels by supporting brain health. 

Similarly, the vitamin B complex, particularly B12 and folate (B9), influences mood regulation and stress levels, providing a natural buffer against anxiety. Incorporating these supplements and herbal remedies into your daily regimen can offer a foundation of support for your nervous system, potentially easing anxiety symptoms.

Cognitive behavior therapy (TBT)

With its evidence-based approach to identifying and restructuring negative thought patterns and behaviors, cognitive behavior therapy has been a proven remedy for many battling anxiety. Anxiety therapy empowers individuals by teaching them practical skills to manage their anxiety, offering tools to break the cycle of fear and worry. 

Through sessions with a trained therapist, individuals learn to challenge distorted thinking, develop problem-solving skills, and confront fears in a controlled and safe environment. CBT’s effectiveness lies in its ability to produce long-lasting change, equipping individuals with the resilience to handle future stressors more effectively.

Exploring cannabidiol (CBD) products for anxiety support

CBD has garnered attention for its potential to offer anxiety relief without the psychoactive effects traditionally associated with cannabis. This compound interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, potentially reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of calm. While research is ongoing, early studies suggest CBD may help manage various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Stimulation through acupuncture

Acupuncture, a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, offers a unique approach to anxiety management through the stimulation of specific points on the body. This practice is believed to balance the body’s qi (energy flow), addressing the root causes of anxiety and promoting overall well-being. 

By inserting thin needles into these points, acupuncture can help release tension, improve circulation, and stimulate the body’s natural healing response. Many find acupuncture to be a deeply relaxing experience, providing an alternative route to anxiety relief that complements other treatment modalities.

Lifestyle adjustments for anxiety management

Beyond traditional therapy or medication lies a realm of daily choices and habits that can significantly influence our mental health. This section uncovers the transformative power of lifestyle changes in calming anxiety, from the foods you consume to your sleep patterns and exercise routines. Emphasizing the importance of holistic well-being, these adjustments offer a proactive approach to reducing anxiety symptoms.

As we explore the various lifestyle strategies, remember that small, consistent changes can pave the way to significant improvements in managing anxiety and enhancing overall quality of life.

Reducing the use of stimulants

Stimulants, like caffeine, found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some energy drinks, can exacerbate anxiety symptoms by increasing heart rate and inducing feelings of nervousness and jitters. 

For individuals dealing with anxiety, reducing or eliminating these stimulants can lead to a noticeable decrease in anxiety levels, contributing to a more stable and calm emotional state. Consider gradually cutting back on caffeine to minimize withdrawal symptoms and explore caffeine-free alternatives that can offer comfort without the stimulating effects.

Dietary changes for anxiety management

What you eat significantly impacts your mental health. A diet emphasizing whole foods, lean proteins, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables provides the essential nutrients needed for brain health, which can help regulate mood and reduce anxiety symptoms. 

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, like salmon, and antioxidants found in berries, can particularly support brain function and reduce inflammation, contributing to improved mental well-being. Incorporating complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, can also help stabilize blood sugar levels, indirectly reducing anxiety levels.

Prioritizing exercise and sleep for anxiety relief

Regular exercise is a powerful tool for managing anxiety. Physical activity releases endorphins, natural mood elevators that can reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, choosing activities you enjoy to ensure consistency. 

Similarly, quality sleep is crucial for mental health. Establish a regular sleep schedule, create a restful environment, and adopt a calming bedtime routine to enhance sleep quality, significantly impacting anxiety management.

Relaxation techniques for soothing the mind and body

Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine can provide immediate relief from anxiety symptoms and promote long-term mental health. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are effective practices for calming the mind and stress management. These techniques focus on mindfulness and breathing, helping to bring attention back to the present moment and away from anxious thoughts. Even a few minutes a day can make a significant difference in managing anxiety levels.

Harnessing the power of essential oils

Aromatherapy, the use of essential oils for therapeutic benefit, has been shown to provide a sense of calm and relaxation for those with anxiety. Lavender and chamomile are particularly renowned for their soothing properties. 

These oils can be used in various ways, including diffusers, topical application with a carrier oil to dilute essential oils, or simply inhaling the aroma from a cloth or your palms. Integrating essential oils into your relaxation practice can enhance the experience and aid in anxiety management.

Find a provider on Karity today to help treat your anxiety

Managing anxiety requires a blend of professional guidance, lifestyle adjustments, and, sometimes, alternative treatments. The providers on Klarity understand this process well and can serve as a bridge between you and reduced depression and symptoms of anxiety through therapy.

Embrace the opportunity to transform your approach to anxiety management. Find a provider on Klarity today and take the first step toward a life where anxiety no longer holds the reins.

Sources

American Addiction Centers. “Alternatives to Anxiety Medications.” Schuon, Jaclyn. May 6, 2022, https://drugabuse.com/anxiety-medication/

Healthline. “Alternative Treatments for Anxiety.” Cirino, Erica and Lamoreaux, Karen. Jan. 26, 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety-alternative-treatments

Montare Behavioral Health. “Alternatives to Anti-Anxiety Medications.”, https://montarebehavioralhealth.com/over-the-counter-anti-anxiety-medication-alternative-2/

Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. “Exercise and Anxiety.” Kandola, Aaron and Stubbs, Brendon, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32342469/

Cureus Inc. “Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review.” Muacevic, Alexander and Adler, John R. Oct. 14, 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9641984/

Annals of General Psychiatry. “Effectiveness of acupuncture on anxiety disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” Yang, Xiang-yun; Yang, Ning-bo; Huang, Fang-fang; Ren, Shuai; Li, Zhan-jiang. Jan. 30. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7847562/

The Mayo Clinic. “Vitamin B-12 and depression: Are they related?” Hall-Flavin, Daniel K. Jun. 1, 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/vitamin-b12-and-depression/faq-20058077

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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5481805/

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.

If you’re having a mental health crisis or experiencing a psychiatric emergency, it’s crucial to seek immediate help from a mental healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. You can also call your local emergency services, visit your nearest emergency room, or contact a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, by calling or texting 988 or dialing the Lifeline’s previous phone number, 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) in the U.S.

How we reviewed this article: This article goes through rigorous fact-checking by a team of medical reviewers. Reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the author.

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All professional services are provided by independent private practices via the Klarity technology platform. Klarity Health, Inc. does not provide any medical services.
If you’re having an emergency or in emotional distress, here are some resources for immediate help: Emergency: Call 911. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 988. Crisis Text Line: Text Home to 741-741
Fax:
(855) 975-3008

PO Box 5098 Redwood City, CA 94063

100 Broadway Street, Redwood City CA, 94063

If you’re having an emergency or in emotional distress, here are some resources for immediate help: Emergency: Call 911. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 988. Crisis Text Line: Text Home to 741-741
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