Anxiety Disorders

An emotional state characterized by a sense of inner disturbance or uncertainty, anxiety is a subjective feeling of a potential threat, a state of worry over a particular situation that an individual perceived as threatening.

When someone is faced with a problem, e.g. going for an exam, there is a tendency to be anxious. This form of fear is transient and usually disappears once the problem is solved.

However, anxiety becomes a disorder when the apprehension is excessive and persistent even after the trigger is removed. The abnormal level of fear that is seen in anxiety disorders often interferes with activities of daily living, such as performance at school or work, and social interaction.

Factors that may predispose to the development of anxiety disorders include family history (those who have a first degree relative with anxiety disorder may be a risk of developing it), use of recreational drugs (such as cocaine, cannabis), previous history of trauma (such as physical/sexual abuse, assault), lack of warm parental care, etc.

There exist many types of anxiety disorders with each of them having specific symptoms. However, the following are common symptoms:

  • excessive worry
  • inability to concentrate
  • irritability/restlessness
  • sleep problems
  • muscle tension
  • tiredness
  • withdrawal from triggers of anxiety
  • excessive sweating
  • trembling

Anxiety Disorder Forms

An individual with panic disorder (a form of anxiety disorder) will have sudden onset of intense fear with shortness of breath, choking, fast/pounding heart rate, and feeling of impending doom. In contrast, those suffering from social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, often avoid social gathering due to fear of being embarrassed/rejected, or of poor performance. Other types of anxiety disorder include:

  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • agoraphobia
TreatmentTreatment of anxiety disorder involves lifestyle changes, use of medications, and behavioral therapy. There are few medical conditions that may have symptoms of anxiety. Such conditions should be ruled out before a diagnosis of anxiety disorder is made. Examples are hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone in the body), asthma, COPD, etc

Cranial and Vagus nerve stimulation for depression, anxiety and insomnia.

What is Cranial electrostimulation?

Cranial Dense Electrostimulation is a new form of treatment that involves stimulation of specific zones of the head with electric current. Small, very thin acupuncture needles are applied to the head and connected to the electrostimulation device. This therapy helps decrease anxiety, insomnia, and depression. The functional MRI study shows that this type of stimulation reduces activity in the cortex. An electroencephalogram reveals that it makes changes in brainwaves activity, reduces repetitive negative thoughts, and promotes relaxation. It also increases different neurotransmitters in the blood such as endorphins, serotonin, and melatonin that play essential roles in the treatment of these conditions.

What is Vagus nerve stimulation?

Vagus nerve is 10th cranial nerve that regulates the Heart, Lungs, and digestion. It mainly belongs to the parasympathetic nervous system (”rest and digest”). Vagus nerve stimulation is a new form of therapy that has promised results for people suffering from depression. There are a few ways to stimulate the Vagus nerve. The first way is to insert a permanent device with a surgical procedure, and another is to stimulate it from the ear. The reason for that is because a branch of the Vagus nerve reaches the external part of the ear and innervates it. There is an old and known form of Chinese acupuncture, auriculotherapy, where small acupuncture needles are inserted into the ear and stimulated with the electric current. External stimulation of the Vagus nerve through the external ear can be a safe alternative to an invasive medical procedure.


Although some people can experience immediate response, usually the effect of both therapies is cumulative. Research shows that it can take from 3 weeks to 3 months to see changes in the brain metabolism. Some stubborn and resistant cases may take several months to respond.

The side effect of the therapy is a minimal – some small bruises, dizziness, or intolerance to the electric stimulation.

References

1. Vagus Nerve Stimulation Effective in Resistant Depression – Medscape – May 16, 2013

2. Daniel L. Kirsch, PhD, Francine Nichols, RN, PhD. Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation for Treatment of Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Volume 36, Issue 1, Pages 169-176

3. Zhang, Z.-J., et al., The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture therapy in depressive disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis, J. Affect. Disord. (2009)

4. J Fang, P Ron., et al., Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation Modulates Default Mode Network in Major Depressive Disorder. Biological Psychiatry February 15, 2016; 79:266

5. Zhang Z-J, Ng R, Man SC, Li TYJ, Wong W, et al. (2012) Dense Cranial Electroacupuncture Stimulation for Major Depressive Disorder—A Single-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Study. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29651. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029651

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