Anxiety is a general feeling of being worried. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time as a result of life experiences, but those with generalized anxiety disorder feel anxious frequently or excessively, not necessarily as a result of a particular situation.

Signs and Symptoms

What Causes It?

Anxiety can result from many specific causes, such as an underlying medical condition or drugs you are taking. However, there may be no specific cause. Factors such as genetics and early life experiences may play a role.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about when you feel anxious, what it feels like, and your medical history. He or she will give you a physical examination and may take blood or urine samples for laboratory tests. In some cases, you will have an electrocardiogram (EKG) to rule out heart problems.

Treatment Options

Treatment Plan
Sometimes anxiety has a specific physical cause. A treatment plan can be made once the cause is identified. However, there are a variety of ways to treat anxiety that has no physical cause. Short-term counseling can boost your self-esteem and help you learn coping strategies and problem solving techniques. Your healthcare provider may also suggest trying a method of relaxation such as deep breathing techniques. In some cases, your healthcare provider will prescribe drugs to help you until you have mastered these techniques.

Drug Therapies

Antianxiety Medications Antidepressant Medications

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Mind-body techniques, nutrition, and herbs may be an effective way to treat anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, biofeedback, meditation, and self-hypnosis can help you relax and reduce your anxiety. Talk with your health care provider about these techniques.

Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, it is important to work with your provider on getting your problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted.

A tea (3 to 4 cups per day) or tincture (10 to 20 drops four to six times per day) from the following herbs will help to reduce anxiety and strengthen the nervous system. Kava kava (100 to 200 mg two to four times a day) and St. John's wort (300 mg two to three times per day) may be taken as dried extracts to maximize effectiveness in moderate anxiety.

Essential oils of lemon balm, bergamot, and jasmine are calming and may be used as aromatherapy. Place several drops in a warm bath or atomizer, or on a cotton ball.


Although very few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the following remedies for the treatment of anxiety based on their knowledge and experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. A constitutional type is defined as a person's physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual. Acupuncture
Many people report feeling less stressed after receiving acupuncture therapy. This finding has led researchers to speculate that acupuncture may have some beneficial effect when used to treat anxiety directly. In a study of 55 healthy volunteers, acupuncture applied to a "relaxation" point in the ear led to a greater reduction in anxiety than sham acupuncture (needling inactive points). Acupuncturists treat people with anxiety based on an individualized assessment of the excesses and deficiencies of qi located in various meridians. In the case of anxiety, a qi deficiency is usually detected in the kidney or spleen meridians. In addition to performing needling techniques, acupuncturists may also employ lifestyle and breathing techniques as well as herbal and dietary therapy.

Therapeutic massage can be helpful in reducing anxiety and alleviating stress.

Following Up

Follow your health care provider's instructions, and practice relaxation techniques as needed.

Special Considerations

Be sure to tell your health care provider if you are pregnant. Call your provider if you experience any significant side effects from prescribed medications.

While the herbal tea suggested above is safe during pregnancy, you should avoid the dried extracts of kava kava and St. John's wort if you are pregnant.


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