|September 2, 2015||
Help Your Patients Cut the Cord on Anxiety
Post Courtesy Labrix Clinical Services, LLC
Anxiety is a normal response to stress and can be beneficial in many situations. Worries and doubts are a natural part of life, but for many people this stress response can become so excessive as to become unmanageable, to the point where it colors and defines day to day living. It is estimated that approximately 18 % of the US adult population experience a diagnosed anxiety disorder, defined as constant and overwhelming worry and fear. Women are 60% more likely to experience anxiety over their lifetime than men, and symptoms of anxiety and depression can develop or worsen during or after pregnancy.
While the technological world may provide avenues for convenience and communication, it is also a major source of stress as we are rarely ever “unplugged” from the major sources of stress in life: work, family, relationships, finances, and health. Numerous studies have reported associations between anxiety and smart phone and social media use.
The hormone cortisol, released from the adrenal glands, serves two important physiologic functions: first, it provides the diurnal rhythm of cortisol which is highest in the morning, giving us our energy for the day; it is an integral component of mental and emotional well-being. Cortisol is also released as part of the stress, or “fight or flight,” response, along with norepinephrine and epinephrine. Symptoms of low and high cortisol levels manifest in a myriad of symptoms such as irritability, nervousness, fatigue, worry, sleep difficulties, and diminished stamina and motivation, all symptoms associated with general anxiety disorder (GAD).
A common hormone imbalance, “estrogen dominance,” occurs in women when progesterone levels are not high enough to counterbalance the effects of estrogen. Among its many physical signs, estrogen dominance may manifest in such mental and emotional symptoms as difficulty concentrating, increased forgetfulness, foggy thinking, mood swings, tearfulness and depression – all of which can be a part of the spectrum of symptoms that make up anxiety, or can be causes of anxiety. Any provider who has worked with women sees this spectrum of symptoms associated with the monthly cycle, pregnancy and post-partum, and with the changes of perimenopause and menopause.
Finally, imbalance among the neurotransmitters serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and glutamate may manifest in all of the aforementioned symptoms, as well as the additional symptoms of addictive behavior, poor impulse control, obsessive behaviors (OCD), and cravings for food, alcohol and drugs
Labrix offers combo testing which allows you to test your patient’s hormone and neurotransmitter levels. A simple four point saliva test measures the sex hormones estradiol, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA, and the diurnal rhythm of cortisol. The ratio of estrogen and progesterone can be measured, which is an effective tool for assessing estrogen dominance, responsible for many of the symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance. Four point cortisol testing is an invaluable tool for addressing adrenal dysfunction. Providers and patients alike are often surprised at the reported low levels associated with feeling “wired but tired.”
The addition of neurotransmitter testing provides an insight into mental health function and the imbalances that may be contributing to your patient’s symptom picture. Understanding the neurotransmitter pathways and the essential nutrients that serve as cofactors in the creation and conversion of neurotransmitters can be a great adjunct to current therapies and a natural starting place when addressing anxiety.
- Maldonado, M. (2014). The Anxiety of Facebook. Psych Central.
- Becker, Mark, Alzahabi, Reem, Hopowood, Christopher. Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety. Dept of Psychology, Michigan State University.
- Depress Anxiety. 2003;17(4):207-16.