Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. But for some people, anxiety becomes a severe, persistent problem that’s hard to control and can interfere with daily activities; this is called an anxiety disorder. Effective conventional treatments for anxiety disorders, including psychotherapy and medication, are available.
Some people turn to complementary health approaches to help them reduce anxiety and cope with stressful situations, such as medical procedures. Certain complementary health approaches may help relieve this type of anxiety; however, complementary approaches have not been proven effective in treating anxiety disorders. Here are 7 things to know about complementary health approaches for anxiety:
- Although some studies suggest that acupuncture might reduce anxiety, the research is too limited to allow definite conclusions to be reached.
- In some studies in people with cancer or other medical conditions, massage therapy helped to reduce anxiety; however, other studies did not find a significant beneficial effect. Massage has not been shown to be effective in treating generalized anxiety disorder.
- Mindfulness meditation may have a small to modest beneficial effect on anxiety-related symptoms. However, meditation has not been shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders.
- Relaxation techniques may reduce anxiety in people with chronic medical problems and those who are having medical procedures. However, conventional psychotherapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy) may be more effective than relaxation techniques in treating anxiety disorders.
- Kava extract may produce moderately beneficial effects on anxiety symptoms; however, the use of kava supplements has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage.
- There is some evidence that suggests melatonin may help reduce anxiety in patients who are about to have surgery.
- Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.