Anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state ranging from mild unease to intense fear. Anxiety differs from fear in that while fear is a rational response to a real danger, anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause. Though some anxiety is normal and, in fact, healthy, higher levels of anxiety not only are uncomfortable, but can lead to significant problems.
Anxiety is often accompanied by a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms relate to the chest, such as heart palpitations (awareness of a more forceful or faster heartbeat), throbbing or stabbing pains, a feeling of tightness and inability to take in enough air, and a tendency to sigh or hyperventilate. Tension in the back and neck muscles often leads to headaches, back pains and muscle spasms. Other symptoms can include excessive sweating, dry mouth, dizziness, and digestive disturbances.
Anxiety can be the result of both physical and psychological factors. For example, extreme stress can definitely trigger anxiety, and so can stimulants such as caffeine. Anxiety can also be triggered by elevations in blood lactic acid levels. Lactic acid is the final product in the breakdown of blood sugar (glucose) when there is a lack of oxygen.
¹The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines, Michael Murray N.D., 2002
²The Herbal Drugstore, Linda B. White M.D., 2000
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