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Feature:
Anxiety Disorders

Safe Use of Complementary Health Products and Practices for Anxiety

Anxiety and College Students

"Anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students," even though depression is also increasing among young people.

In fact, "more than half of students visiting campus clinics cite anxiety as a health concern", according to a recent study of more than 100,000 students nationwide by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.

A yearly survey conducted by the American College Health Association found that "nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months."

Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a specific event (such as speaking in public or a first date), severe anxiety that lasts at least six months is generally considered to be a problem that might benefit from evaluation and treatment, according to the NIH's National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH).

Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but all the symptoms cluster around excessive, irrational fear and dread.

Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse.

Research studies funded by the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) have investigated several natural products and mind and body practices for anxiety. As with any treatment, it is important to consider safety before using complementary health products and practices. Safety depends on the specific therapy, and each complementary product or practice should be considered on its own.

Mind and body practices such as meditation and yoga, for example, are generally considered to be safe in healthy people when practiced appropriately. Natural products such as herbal medicines or botanicals are often sold as dietary supplements and are readily available to consumers; however, there is a lot we don't know about the safety of many of these products, in part because a manufacturer does not have to prove the safety and effectiveness of a dietary supplement before it is available to the public.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) offers research information on a variety of natural products and practices for anxiety, along with specific warnings on any that may have side effects. Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting use of natural products. For a full list of alternative products and practices, go to www.nccih.nih.gov.

Two of the main safety concerns for dietary supplements are:

  • The possibilities of drug interactions—for example, research has shown that St. John's wort interacts with drugs, such as antidepressants, in ways that can interfere with their intended effects.
  • The possibilities of product contamination—supplements have been found to contain hidden prescription drugs or other compounds, particularly in dietary supplements marketed for weight loss, sexual health, including erectile dysfunction, and athletic performance or body-building.

Find Out More

Read More "Anxiety Disorders" Articles

Worried Sick / Types, Diagnosis and Treatment / Safe Use of Complementary Health Products and Practices for Anxiety

Summer 2015 Issue: Volume 10 Number 2 Page 9