general anxiety disorder food
Copyright (c) 2008 Steve Cowley

If you suffer from a panic or anxiety disorder an important part of your recovery process is to gain an understanding of your symptoms. If you don’t understand how your symptoms happen, then you can remain caught up in your fears about them.

Perhaps the first thing to say is, you are not alone! Everyone in the world experiences anxiety to some extent or other! It is part of our natural response to danger, whether that danger is actual, anticipated, or just imagined.

The sensations we experience are part of our Fight or Flight response. This is a natural reaction to danger and is found in both humans and animals. When the fight or flight response is activated, hormones are released throughout the body to enable us to either fight the dangerous situation or to run from it. The effects of these changes on our body chemistry can be quite dramatic:

Sweating; Palpitations; Dizziness; Legs go to jelly; Numbness and tingling; Hyperventilating; Chest pains; Trembling; Shortness of breath; Feelings of unreality; Nausea; Diarrhoea; Fainting; Feelings of loosing control.

It is important to realise that these are part of our evolutionary heritage; the natural way the body protects itself. They are not a problem in themselves and usually recede once the immediate danger has passed.

Many people don’t realise that the way they think when they have an anxiety disorder, turns on their Fight or Flight response. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between the thoughts in our head and a real physical danger.

At this level your brain makes the same judgement call about a very real truck rushing towards you, and that internal voice that says “What if I have a panic attack; What if I make a fool of myself; What if the doctor has made a mistake?” It just sees “danger” and switches on the Fight or Flight response and around we go!

Most non-sufferers of anxiety disorders go through a typical day running their Fight or Flight response at a low level. There may be times where they might peak higher, but these are the exception and not the rule. The causes of these “blips” are usually easy to see – starting a new job, attending a funeral, a heated argument with a colleague, etc.

Others suffer from an elevated level of anxiety on a regular basis. Their feelings can’t be attributed to any obvious cause, it is just there. This elevated level of non-specific anxiety is called General Anxiety Disorder or GAD. People with this disorder often lack the ability to concentrate and feel exhausted all the time.

Above this background level of raised anxiety we have the full blown panic attack itself. If you have experienced one you will know just how terrifying an attack can be. Because they are so unpleasant – we feel like we might be about to die – we begin to fear having another attack. This causes even more fear; and so, like a snowball gradually gathering pace and weight as it rolls down a hill, the cycle of fear gains a seemingly unstoppable momentum!

It is important to recognise that any major life change can act as a trigger to panic disorders. It is not a sign of personal weaknesses or inadequacy. Events such as the death of a loved one, moving to a new home, or a divorce, can all act as a catalyst.

Sometimes an initial attack happens in a situation that then becomes anchored to the attack. A person might have their first panic attack in a car and then associate the car with the panic attack, so just going into a car triggers further episodes.

It is when our levels of anxiety start to interrupt our normal life we have a problem and need to take positive action to resolve it.

The first thing to do if you believe you are suffering from GAD, or have experienced a panic attack, is to get a complete medical check up from your doctor to rule out any underlying physical disorder.

Certain foods are also known to make matters worse. Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase anxiety, and excessive sugar can have a similar effect. Turning to alcohol to “relax” yourself is also a bad idea – it is more likely to make the anxiety worse!

There are also many self-help programmes available that can quickly and effectively help you on the road to recovery. The most important thing is to take powerful action to restore both your health and your confidence. The process begins with gaining an understanding of the symptoms and why they happen. This in turn helps us to lose our various fears, and by doing so we can effectively turn down our Fight or Flight response.

By: Steve Cowley

About the Author:

Steve Cowley has run full-time Fitness and Martial Arts Clubs for over 25 years. His goal is to empower people to take control of their own lives and achieve freedom from fear and limitations. For further information about his recommendations visit

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