What Can CAM Do for Anxiety?

Désirée A. Lie, MD, MSEd


December 03, 2014

Alternatives for Anxiety

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by worry that is difficult to control and that negatively affects quality of life; symptoms include poor sleep, headaches, and muscle tension.[1]

The lifetime prevalence rate of GAD ranges from 6%to 17% worldwide, and in any given year, up to 40 million US adults meet criteria for an anxiety disorder.[1,2] Remission rates are low even with pharmacotherapy, and up to 60% of patients do not achieve remission.[3] Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to be helpful in the long term.

Other primary anxiety disorders include phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, all of which can cause distress and disability. Anxiety is often also a comorbidity associated with primary conditions, such as migraine and irritable bowel syndrome, and stressful situations, such as surgery or the loss of a loved one.

Many patients avoid professional care because of stigma and instead seek alternative therapies. Complementary and self-help options—often without strong evidence for efficacy—are widely available online and in health food stores. Categories of therapies include lifestyle management and stress reduction strategies, mind/body interventions, herbals, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and homeopathy.[4,5]


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