GABA enables your brain to stop persistent worrying thoughts going around and around deficient GABA activity can cause anxiety
GABA & Serotonin Deficiency Anxiety

www.PeterSmithUK.com © 2010 Updated 2014 #2

The Nature of GABA

GABA: The Brains Natural Valium

GABA is a calming inhibitory neurotransmitter, it’s like the brains natural endogenous Valium.  
GABA enables your brain to put an end to persistent worrying thoughts going around and around in your mind.  
We believe the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin enable the brain to calm and control anxious thoughts, so when they are deficient it can make it almost impossible to stop worrying thoughts dominating and overwhelming our mind and turn into anxiety, even “normal” everyday worries or concerns can ruminate, escalate and cause terrible stress.  

Symptoms of lack of GABA/serotonin include:-
  • anxiety, feeling fearful, general (free floating) anxiety disorder or GAD,
  • panic attacks,
  • nervy/stressed disposition,
  • persistent worrying thoughts going around and around in the mind, cannot switch of the mind,
  • inability to relax,
  • insomnia due to an anxious mind or cannot switch off the mind,
  • physical aches and pains because the nerves keep firing, possibly causing/contributing to fibromyalgia,
  • headaches,
  • IBS
  • carbohydrate cravings. 
Adequate GABA and serotonin activity in the brain engenders a calm, stable feeling.  People with GABA dominant brains are often good organisers they can handle complex and stressful occupations.  A film producer for example has to manage multiple stressful situations and crises in a single day at a fast and demanding pace.  To cope with such a position requires healthy and robust GABA activity in the brain to stay calm and quickly put each stressful event/crisis behind them as soon as it’s resolved without dwelling on it and move on.  

Without adequate GABA and serotonin levels not only can worrying thoughts persist longer than they need to, but as they go around and around they can gain momentum, escalate and grow into enormous, disturbing levels of fear, stress and anxiety.  Persistent anxiety can ruin a person's life experience, it can debilitate their ability to function normally engaging in work, relationships and recreation.  

Below I’ll discuss the natural remedies that boost GABA and serotonin activity that you can use to stop your brain producing anxious thoughts, however to permanently overcome anxiety you should do a lot more than simply boosting GABA and serotonin levels in your synapses. 

Firstly you should improve the overall health of your brain to make your GABA and serotonin pathways healthier and more efficient.  This involves things like reducing sources of information in the brain such as food allergies, a leaky blood brain barrier,  leaky gut syndrome, poor diet, oxidative stress; also stabilising blood sugar levels to maintain a constant fuel supply to the brain for the smooth production of neurotransmitters;  it may also involve detoxifying the brain of heavy metal toxins such as mercury, cadmium and lead that can interfere with the production of neurotransmitters; correcting nutritional deficiencies involved in plotting brain function etc. etc.  

Secondly you should remodel the anatomy of your brain to change the way your brain processes and managers stressful thought processes, you may not be familiar with this but we now know that the brain changes its shape and internal connections according to how it's used, this is the new science of neuroplasticit. Brain scans have shown that with 3 months of brain training for just 20 minutes a day we can grow increased connections in the pre-frontal cortex part of the brain that gives us the ability to control and  ignore stressful signals coming from other parts of the brain and also diminish the size and density of connections in the amygdala part of the brain   involved in generating stressful thought processes. 

Using brain training to rewire the brain is genuinely a revolutionary new and powerful approach for the treatment of mental health problems, it's natural, drug/side-effect free and leads to permanent reductions in symptoms. I’ve never seen anyone completely cure themselves of anxiety or any other mental health problem with this technique alone, however I also never seen it fail to reduce symptoms; how would you like to permanently reduce your symptoms by 30 to 50% without drugs within three months? 

There are also nutritional remedies you can take to enhance your plastic changes in the brain while you perform the mental exercises.  

Thirdly you should also remodel your thinking processes or subconscious software that produce anxiety and install software that stops or prevents anxious thoughts with psychological techniques, I use cognitive hypnotherapy with NLP.  

This technique is especially useful for people with situational anxiety such as social anxiety, fear of public speaking, phobias etc.  What we believe happens is a region of the brain called the amygdala is constantly scanning the outside world and comparing what's going on around us to memories of previous stressful events, imagine for example meeting someone that was the spitting image of someone that used to bully you at school, immediately the amygdala would detect a match this person and the memories files of being bullied, it would then initiate the fight or flight response in our system completely automatically and beyond conscious control. Unfortunately this inbuilt warning system can malfunction and produce totally inappropriate stress responses or even panic attacks in ways and the things that may make no sense at all.  The good news is that thanks to neuroplasticity we can remodel the connection speed amygdala makes so for example it would no longer associate public speaking or flying with danger, we can also change or add new information to the traumatic or significant memory files that the amygdala accesses; this latter technique is what you would use in the case of say post-dramatic stress disorder where the amygdala is accessing genuinely traumatising memories. 

A common problem for people with anxiety can be that the anxiety may make them afraid to try hypnosis and psychological therapies. If this is the case a solution may be to increase GABA and serotonin levels with natural remedies first to calm down the anxiety sufficiently to enable you to engage in psychotherapies without becoming overwhelmed.  

Some psychotherapy techniques primarily involves the person connecting to and discussing their painful feeling/memories (what is called the associated technique) but even with the benefit of natural remedies boosting GABA and serotonin I don't recommend this type of therapy for anxiety disorders.   I'm a tremendous advocate of psychotherapy so it's with some considerable regret that I have to say I believe many psychotherapy techniques are in practice incapable of managing and treating many anxiety disorders.  What can happen is directly connecting to the anxious feelings can provoke  overwhelming feelings of anxiety, a so-called amygdala hijacking that is overwhelming and prevents any useful therapy being done.  Rather than remodelling the anxiety this type of therapy can end up reinforcing the problem. 

I suggest that any therapist reading this who feels I’m being unfair to there methods has never actually met someone with a real anxiety disorder phobias, or PTSD.  See later for more on this. 

Actually I also believe the same problem can occur with the way some meditation techniques are taught, mindfulness for example can be an effective way to remodel the brain however it has to be taught and practised in the way that a person with anxiety can do it without the anxiety  hijacking and over whelming them during meditation. 
 

The Anxiety Remedies Medicine Chest

GABA Metabolism

GABA is an unusual neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger in the brain) because it's also a simple amino acid (a building block of protein) and you can buy it as a supplement. I used to recommend taking GABA  supplements but as I’ll explain this is not a good way to increase GABA activity in your brain. 

The amino acid GABA is to big to pass through the blood brain barrier BBB (the membrane that separates the brain from the blood) when this membrane is in a healthy condition and can only pass through the BBB when it’s leaky.  So the GABA which naturally occurs in the protein we eat as part of our diet stays outside the brain where it is used up by the body for normal protein metabolism. 

The GABA from supplements stay outside the brain and is simply incorporated into the general pool of amino acids in the body. It’s another amino acid called L-glutamine that easily passes through the BBB and is first converted into the neurotransmitter glutamate which is the brains primary stimulatory neurotransmitter; glutamate is then converted into GABA which is the brains primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

Some GABA is reabsorbed back into the original cell and used again, some of the GABA however is absorbed by neighbouring glial cells where it can be converted back into glutamate, then glutamine and finally back into GABA. 
GABA Anxiety
Now you may think you could just supplement the amino acid L glutamine to help your brain make more GABA and for some people this does seem to help to some extent with their anxiety; but  L glutamate also makes the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and there is a little scientific evidence that in some people supplementing glutamine may cause glutamate to build up in the glial cells to potentially toxic levels.

Excess glutamate is believed to be a possible destructive force involved in the brain degenerate disease Alzheimer’s disease,  I'm currently writing a book on preventing brain degeneration, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease in which I discuss  the toxic effects of excess glutamate. {Insert reference}

As always brain chemistry turns out to be complicated and what look like simple solutions to mental health problems often turn out to be not so simple after all :(
 

GABA Supplements: not Efficient at Boosting GABA in the Brain but Helpful in an Unexpected Way…

I used to recommend trying GABA supplements and would regularly receive emails from people saying they had read that GABA couldn’t work because it is too big to pass through the blood brain barrier. I replied that I was aware that in theory GABA is supposed to be too big to get through the blood brain barrier but in the real world in some of my patients it clearly was getting through to the brain and produced a tranquillising effect. Its effects however were unreliable and unpredictable, firstly it would only work in some people and in these people it’s effects were unpredictable, sometimes it would cause a very drowsy feeling and other times not. So my suggestion used to be buy some and try it, but only take it when it would not be a problem if it made you feel drowsy afterwards.  
 

The Leaky Brain GABA Challenge
to Test the Health of Your Blood Brain Barrier

So if the science was saying that GABA molecules are too big to get through the BBB and therefore GABA supplements could not have a calming or anti-anxiety effect why it was clearly observable that in some people it was getting through the BBB producing and antianxiety affect. The explanation for these discrepancies turned out to be both simple and unexpectedly useful.   

The science is right the physical size of the GABA molecule is too big to get through a healthy blood brain barrier, but it is only just slightly too big to get through and if the blood brain barrier is not healthy but is more permeable or leaky than it should be then some GABA can leak through.  

Not only will a leaky blood brain barrier allow GABA to enter the brain but it could also allow other substances that should not be allowed into the brain such as half-digested food molecules, gluten from wheat for example, to pass from the blood into the brain whereupon they will trigger the brain’s defensive immune system causing inflammation and disruption of healthy brain function.    I don't think it's particularly common but I have met people that virtually cured their anxiety by healing the integrity of their blood brain barrier, their gut wall and avoided eating foods they were allergic to.
 

Performing the Leaky Brain GABA Challenge Test:

Perform a pre-test the day before by taking 500 mg of GABA on an empty stomach in the evening several hours before bed and see if it produces a noticeable sedating effect, obviously use common sense and only do this when you’re not going to do anything demanding like driving.
 
You should also look for changes in your pulse rate and breathing. If your pulse speed up or your breathing feel laboured do not perform the main test with a higher dosage and unfortunately you probably shouldn’t use this technique to test the permeability of your blood brain barrier; I should make it clear however that I’ve only ever anecdotally heard of these effects and I’ve never observed them in my practice. I’m just being really cautious and sticking to the first rule of medicine i.e. first do no harm.
 
If you observe this low dose makes you feel drowsy you’ve already gotten your answer, however if it does nothing to you the following night take 1500-2000 mg and see if his therapeutic test dosage produces a calming drowsy feeling.
 
If it does then you have a leaky blood brain barrier and you need to heal it as part of your mental health recovery program. 

Healing a Leaky Blood Brain Barrier 
See healing a leaky brain UNDER CONSTRUCTION 2016 (combime acetyl L carnitine 3000-4000 mg and pantethene with low infammatory diet and high antioxidants, rutin et al)
 
As you work on healing your leaky blood brain barrier once a month or so you would repeat the leaky brain GABA challenge test to assess your progress.
 
It is considered a prescription medicine in the UK, but available for sale in the US (I use Now Foods GABA from www.iherb.com). 
 

GABA and Human Growth Hormone A Fat Loss Technique

GABA supplements before bed have been shown in numerous studies to increases human growth hormone levels in the blood by up to five and a half fold with in 90 minutes of ingestion. This impressive GABA boosting effect is stronger than any other natural remedies can achieve and rivals what can be achieved with pharmaceuticals. You can combine high dose GABA supplementation with weight/strength training to turbo charge your weight-loss regimen. 
 
The rate of muscle growth is influenced by growth hormone levels, which are at their highest while you sleep. By holding back on your calorie intake and supplementing GABA before going to bed on the same days you do some strength-training, is an effective way you can increase fat loss.
 
Just to be clear strength-training involves using heavy enough weights to pushed your muscles to the point of failure, rest for a minute or so than repeat two or three times. 
 
The muscles will try to grow bigger in response to being overwhelmed, and as they grow they burn lots of calories. The calories have to come form somewhere, and as long as you don’t add the extra calories to your diet the muscles will eat into your body fat to get the calories they need. 
 
To benefit from this effect look up your recommended sedentary daily calorie needs and eat that amount or less. Take 3000−5000 mg immediately before bed on days you do an intensive weight/strength-training workout. I will go into more detail of this technique in a subsequent book but the basic principal is say you wanted to loose 10 kilo’s (22 lbs.) you set out to grow 2 kilo’s (5 lbs.) of muscle. GABA can help you do it. 
 
Strength-training can injure you if you don’t know what you are doing, so get some tuition and you must build up to it slowly over months if you are a novice to build up the strength and density of your ligaments and tendons. 

These high doses on of GABA may also induce a restful sleep. 
 
GABA Safety
 
GABA does not have any major side-effects and is generally considered very safe.  According to one website I have read it’s possible for GABA to produce temporary changes in one's breathing (either too fast or too slow) and an increased heart rate, however I have never observed this in my practice.  Another suggested side-effect of GABA that I've never seen is temporary and mild tingling sensations.
 
There are no known adverse interactions between GABA and other medications.  Intuitively one might think that combining GABA with tranquillising and anti-anxiety medications such as Valium or benzodiazepine may be too sedating; however this has not been reported in the medical literature and I have had people perform the leaky brain GABA challenge test while taking tranquillisers and antianxiety medications at the same time.
 
Theanine
Theanine is an compound found in tea.  Have you ever noticed that the effects of a cup of tea are very different from the effects of cup of coffee?  Tea can contain just as much caffeine as coffee and yet it feels far less stimulating and maybe even relaxing, this is because of the presence of theanine.
 
Theanine promotes a relaxed state, increases GABA levels and reduces anxiety.  What is particularly interesting and useful about theanine is that it is able to do this without shutting down the brain's ability to learn and remember.  In fact studies on rats suggest that theanine may actually improve learning performance, promote concentration and heightened mental acuity, making it perfect for students with exam anxiety, you could take theanine during and exam without it impeding your performance .
 
Theanine dosage, intake is most effective in the range of 50-200 mg, with no more than 600 mg being taken in a six hour period. FDA recommends a maximum dose of 1200 mg daily, although the reason for this limit is not clear, due to its demonstrated safety.
It may be taken at the first signs of stress with the effect being felt within 30 minutes and lasting for 8-10 hours.  There are no known adverse reactions to L-theanine and no drug interactions have been reported.  L-theanine is not affected by food and may be taken with or without meals. 
 
Theanine Cautions
 
Theanine made decrease blood pressure and so if you're already on hypertension medication you should monitor your blood pressure to make sure that it doesn't go to low.
Although it is probably safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers safety is not proven. 
 
GABA Tea
 
Some teas grown in high mountain areas are naturally very rich in theanine.  They tend to be very expensive but may provide a nice way of boosting your natural GABA levels.  You can find them online sold as GABA Tea.  All tea however and especially green tea can provide a useful daily GABA supplement, I drink two pots of Qi organic Jasmine green tea per day and attain a continuous GABA supporting affect from it.  Long before I even knew there was a connection between green tea, theanine and anxiety I noticed that when my supplier temporarily ran out I developed high stress levels and occasionally became too agitated to easily fall asleep. 
 
In addition to its beneficial calming effect the antioxidants in green tea have been shown to significantly reduce your cancer risk particularly to bowel cancer.  You need to drink at least for Chinese cups, about two of our mugs of green tea per day.  Green tea should not be made with fully boiling water, the resulting beverage will have less antioxidants and probably taste horribly bitter, the perfect temperature is 80° C (176° F).  If you're serious about regularly drinking green tea you can buy sophisticated kettles on which you can set the temperature you want the water heated to.  I put a mark on my kettle to simply indicate how full to make it with boiling water and another mark to top it up to with cold water to make 80°C water.
 
B3 (Niacinamide)
 
There is some evidence dating back from the 1970s and 80s that high doses of vitamins B3 produces a diazepam like anti-anxiety effect.  I have to admit I do not have any clinical or personal experience with this so I don't know if it works.  Benefits are supposed to be observable within two weeks please e-mail me if you try this remedy and find an effective. 
 
Vitamin B3 comes in different forms.  As little as 300mg of the niacin form of B3 can produce a harmless ‘hot-flush’ reaction on the skin within a couple of hours lasting 30 mins or so.  The first time you get this reaction can be a bit alarming, because it looks just like a severe allergic reaction, it is totally harmless however and even claimed to be good for the skin.  Because of the flushing effect you cannot take niacin in the high doses needed for anxiety, use the niacinamide form of B3 instead. 
 
Medical Update on B3 and Heart Disease
It has been observed that high doses of B3 raises the so-called good HDL cholesterol and it used to be believed that this would be protected against heart disease.  Unfortunately research done in the last few years showed that although the three does raise HDL cholesterol it does not reduce mortality from heart disease, so it turned out to be a dead end like so many other approaches to prevent heart disease.  I'll be publishing a book on preventing heart disease and a revolutionary breakthrough that has been shown to be able to reverse arterial disease in 2013.
 
Inositol
 
Very high doses of inositol (18 g per day, 18,000 mg) have been used in properly conducted scientific trials and shown to reduce the frequency of panic attacks as well as the leading drug fluvoxamine.  The improvements from inositol were obtained more quickly and with fewer side-effects than the drug (1).  The same high dosage of inositol has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of OCD, but not in patients that were found to be resistant to antidepressant drugs (2).
 
Despite inositol being helpful in some panic disorders and depression the dosage of 18 g needed to achieve significant results is in my opinion too high to be practical for long-term use.  I've observed several people who have tried this dosage and found it to be effective in short-term use.  Perhaps for occasional use at times of severe symptoms it could be useful.  Inositol is fairly tasteless and can be taken in powder form to reduce the number of capsules one has to swallow and the cost.
 
A modest dose of 1000-1500 mg taken with dinner or lasting at night appears to be capable of producing a mild antidepressant and sleep benefiting affect.
 
Melatonin
 
Melatonin is not strictly an antianxiety medication and is only included in the antianxiety remedy chest because of its benefits as a sleep aid.  On those occasions when anxiety is keeping you awake melatonin may provide some additional help.  Melatonin may be combined with all the other remedies described in this book at the same time.
 
Serotonin & Anxiety
 
Although GABA is the brains primary inhibitory neurotransmitter it is common today to prescribe antidepressant drugs that increase serotonin (SSRIs) to treat anxiety
 
The fact that serotonin increasing antidepressant drugs can be helpful at relieving anxiety symptoms indicates both that serotonin deficiency may be involved in anxiety and that brain chemistry is very commentated. 
 
One of the main reasons that antidepressant drugs are being prescribed for anxiety is that compared to antianxiety medicines they have less side-effects, they are less addictive and less likely to cause harm if accidentally or deliberately over consumed.  To be frank compared to antidepressants research and development of useful antianxiety medication is in the doldrums. 
 
Serotonin increasing antidepressant drugs take up to 4 to 6 weeks to begin relieving symptoms of anxiety and therefore cannot be used in the same "as needed" way as theanine can.  The amino acid tryptophan can boost serotonin levels overnight.  Therefore the natural remedies are quick acting and enable you to fairly quickly test the efficacy of boosting either serotonin or GABA.
 
Which Neurotransmitter to Boost for Anxiety GABA or Serotonin 
 
Both GABA and serotonin are inhibitory (sedating) neurotransmitters and as such can enable us to control anxious thoughts.  It will vary from individual to individual whether increasing GABA or serotonin levels will have the best therapeutic effects with anxiety disorder.  As mentioned elsewhere in this book at this point in time there is absolutely no reliable way of measuring neurotransmitter deficiencies in the brain (please don't waste your money on your intestines) and so which neurotransmitter is more important in your individual case is best determined by personal trial and error. 
 
I would therefore recommend using theanine (to increase GABA levels) and tryptophan (to increase serotonin levels) when you start trying to rebalance your brain chemistry for anxiety so that you have everything you need to experiment and establish your individual makeup. 
see Serotonin chapter for more. 
 
How to Increase GABA
 
GABA Diet:
 
GABA level rise after eating carbohydrates if you get a very relaxed feeling after eating carbs it may be because you’ve just elevated deficient GABA levels.  To benefit from this effect you can frequently consume complex or low GI carbohydrates.  You should balance the carbs in a GR/zone way by always eating protein and oil at the same time and you must watch the total glycaemic load. To look up the GI (glycaemic index) and GL (glycaemic load)  of the specific carbs You don’t want to become an overweight diabetic from the GABA diet!  See Balancing Blood Sugar chapter.  
 
Glutamic acid (which makes GABA) rich foods are: almonds, halibut, mackerel, jumbo oats, beef liver, walnuts, rice bran, lentils.
 
GABA Supplements (daily amounts):
 
  • Theanine typical dose: 100-200 mg, you can take up to a maximum of 1200 mg over 12 hours for extreme episodes.  (Lamberts tablets are excellent value)
For a quicker effect use capsules, open the capsule and hold the powder under your tongue to absorb the theanine sublingually (thanks for that tip Libby).  Alternatively you could open the capsule into a bottle of water to sip throughout the day. 
 
  • Always add a B complex 50 mg when taking individual B vitamins at a high dose.
 
Additional Useful Supplements for Anxiety
 
  • Inositol 1000-18,000 mg, (you can use this very high rather impractical dose to help you through periods when the symptoms are at their worst).
  • Melatonin 0.3 mg (300 mcg) –3 mg, (as a sleep aid, lack of sleep increases stress hormone levels the following day, these hormones ramp up feelings of anxiety).
  • Thiamine (B1) 200-600 mg, (possibly helpful, safe and worth experimenting with).
  • Niacinamide (no-flush B3) 1500-2500 mg, (I include this for research and experimental purposes only, antianxiety effects not established in my practice).
  • Tryptophan 1000-2000 mg taken on empty stomach ideally lasting at night, (tryptophan increases serotonin levels which may produce an antianxiety effect in your case).
 
Caution:
 
  • Reduce anti-anxiety medication incredibly slowly, whilst using supplements during the transition.  Get experienced professional help when you come off antianxiety meds.
  • Do not drive a vehicle after taking GABA or melatonin.
 
Anxiety Life Style, Meditation and Exercises
 
Exercise
 
Exercise is always good a study in 2013 found that the brains of stressed rats that ran developed more of the neurones (brain cells) that specifically release GABA.  These neurones shush and quieten down activity in the brain.  The increase in the GABA neurones was most notable in parts of the brain that are associated with processing emotions. 
(J Neurosci. 2013 May 1;33(18):7770-7. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5352-12.2013. Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. Schoenfeld TJ, Rada P, Pieruzzini PR, Hsueh B, Gould E. Source Department of Psychology, Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA).
Starting exercise if you don’t do any is the hardest part, once you get going it gets easier. 
 
Keeping Busy and Work To Control Anxiety
 
For people with anxiety disorder keeping busy may be a key component of the strategy they use to cope with their condition.  In psychotherapy terms this is referred to as an “away-from motivation” i.e. you are motivated to keep busy to avoid or move away from uncomfortable feelings, as opposed to “towards motivation” where one is motivated to do with thing because it brings positive pleasure and rewards into your life; away-from motivated activities are driven by the desire to move away from or avoid pain and displeasure, towards motivated activities driven by the desire to move towards pleasure and reward.  Wanting to be alone because you are a healthy naturally introverted person who enjoys doing things by themselves would be a towards motivation, on the other hand wanting to be alone because you have social anxiety disorder and feel anxious around people would be an example of an away-from motivation. Conversely a person may socialise with people they don’t even particularly like because they can’t stand or fear being alone as opposed to seeking other people’s company because they enjoy the company of others. In some quarters of psychotherapy away-from motivations are considered to be undesirable and rather unhealthy because rather than facing and dealing with their issues the person is simply avoiding them and yet the issues will still persist in the background constantly disturb them; obviously this is a possibility and there are circumstances when stopping a boarding one’s issues and facing them in therapy is the better option that simply carrying on and will lead to healthier long-term outcomes. However this isn’t going to be the case in all circumstances, for example I watched YouTube TED talk video of a woman with quite profound lifelong schizophrenia who had become a professor of law who said that one of the things that she used to cope with her condition was engaging her mind in solving very complex intellectual problems. My point is that if you have to live with an as yet not completely curable mental health condition and you find that engaging in healthy busy activities helps you to lead a better life it is wrong to consider this a negative distraction or avoidance of your problems.
 
Actually my personal recommendation in this regard is that you play both sides of the fence so to speak and on the one hand consciously identify activities that feel safe, stable, perhaps easy distractions from your uncomfortable feelings, what you could call safe ground and deliberately increase and develop your level of participation in these activities; you want to be able to quickly pick up one of these activities and find your way back to safe ground.  As you develop the aspects of your life that you can turn to to help you cope at times when your condition is very challenging you then may be able to increase your ability to do therapy/meditation where for a short and contained time you deliberately expose yourself to a manageable level of your problem state.  Just to be clear I’m not saying that you should principally build up your safety ground so that you can do therapy and that therapy/meditation is the ultimate goal, for I believe that consciously used away-from motivated activity is a useful tool for living with mental health problems in its own right. 
 
Meditation
 
If it turns out that you are someone that to some extent relies upon being busy as a means of controlling uncomfortable anxiety thoughts and feelings then the stillness that some meditations create may turn out to be an intolerable experience as opposed to be helpful therapeutic technique.
 
In theory you would think meditation would be great for anxiety but in practice it doesn’t always deliver what you might expect.  The principal problem is it can simply be impossible for people with anxiety to perform meditation.  In the past I taught meditation and like most meditation teachers I was convinced with enough perseverance anyone could overcome any initial uncomfortable feelings while learning to meditate, but when I met people with real anxiety disorder it was completely obvious that something different was happening for some of these people; meditation did not produce a calming effect but provoked an overwhelming rise of their anxiety condition that made it completely impossible to continue the meditation.  My believe that in the long run meditation would b helpful was so tantalising that I persisted trying to persuade these people to persevere not fully understanding at that time the severity and intensity of the symptoms.  I should say that this phenomenon does not always occur and some people with anxiety are able to learn to meditate and benefit from doing so. 
 
For those few unfortunate people who do experience this phenomenon there may be a way of adjusting the meditation technique to get around this problem and benefit from meditative techniques ability to remodel the brain in a way that reduces anxiety.
 
Firstly there is the problem of “stillness”. As discussed above many people and not just with people anxiety disorder avoid experiencing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings by keeping themselves preoccupied and busy with work and social activities, in other words being busy helps as a distraction from painful thoughts and feelings such that when they are not busy enough they will feel very uncomfortable. What can happen when one makes one’s mind go very still as you do during mindfulness meditations is that uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that you had managed to previously pushed of the background appear to well up and become much more apparent.
 
If the stillness that mindfulness-based meditations create is a problem I would recommend that you could try non-mindfulness-based techniques such as chanting and some of the kundalini Yoga type meditations.  If you think of mindfulness-based meditations as sitting quite still and passively kundalini yoga chanting type meditations are very different; they can be incredibly busy with you having to multitask chanting, maintaining a specific fast-paced breathing rhythm, perhaps tapping your fingers in a particular rhythm and simultaneously holding your mental focus or mind-eye on a specific point in your body. With this style of meditation your mind is so busy and preoccupied with the procedure you are performing that you are at least temporarily not bothered by any of the mental concerns. The busyness of the meditation crowds out all other thoughts and distractions and its strange paradoxical way creates its own inner stillness and calmness free from distracting thoughts worries and feelings. This type of meditation sounds complicated but actually it may even be easier for beginners to master because one of the big problems with “stiller” meditation techniques is that it can be difficult to hold one’s focus on the meditation and prevent the mind wandering off or being overwhelmed by uncomfortable feelings.  What happens when you do this style of meditation what happens is you settle into a melodic rhythm
 
There is a very important consideration you need to understand before simply picking a kundalini Yoga type meditation from a book or a YouTube video.  Different meditations have different effects and you need to know what you’re doing. The traditional descriptions of the effects of different meditations use completely non-scientific language, for example one meditation may be described helps to soften a hardened heart and develops one’s compassion, or this meditation strengthens one’s aura for greater self-protection.  However un-scientific this language may be brain scans have in fact shown that different meditations do indeed stimulate development of the brain in different areas.  As soon as scientific studies of the effects of meditation are able to help me pick and choose the best specific meditation for a particular problem I’ll use it, but at the moment science is unable to do this and in the mean time we have to rely upon the collected anecdotal evidence and wisdom of meditation practitioners over the centuries for guidance as to what effects a specific mediation may have. 
 
Using the traditional descriptions if you are suffering from an anxiety condition you do not want to do any meditations described as “opening” “softening” “expanding” etc., you want to be choosing meditations that are described as protecting, toughening, consolidating, strengthening the aura etc.  You are already open enough and overly sensitive to your surroundings, you don’t want to become more sensitive; you also want to stay away from any meditations that induce a “spacey” condition.  Instead you want to choose meditations that encourage a “grounded” experience. There are now many kundalini Yoga meditation teachers around the world and I highly recommend that before just trying these techniques on your own you attend a class or consult with one of these teachers, myself included. 
 
One last piece of advice about these busy chanting type meditations: straight after you stop the chanting don’t jump up and go about the rest of the day but spend some time just sitting peacefully; if you’ve done the meditation successfully and for long enough you may find that you experience a blissful and calm stillness immediately after the chanting stops. This may last from just a few moments through to many minutes, gently hold yourself in this healthy altered state of consciousness for as long as you can without being disappointed if you can only maintain it for a single minute, it’s not a performance or competitive exercise. The chanting part creates a meditative effect in its own right, however one can also use the chanting part as a setup exercise to achieve a still-mind meditative state. 
 
The second problem with some meditation techniques for people with anxiety is that they involve controlling and slowing down one’s breathing.  Now for the vast majority of people slowing down and controlling one’s breathing is an simple and effective way to change the state of stress within the nervous system. It quickly reduces the stress fight or flight responses and increasing the relaxation responses within their nervous systems; however there is a small percentage of people for whom slow breathing meditation techniques provoke stress responses, sometimes even extreme stress responses and panic attacks.  The good news for these people is that there is an alternative breathing technique which produces an almost instantaneous calming and antianxiety effect, this technique is called Buteyko breathing. 
 
Buteyko Breathing
 
UNDER CONSTRUCTION
 
Relaxation Response Training
 
Another potentially useful technique for anxiety is training yourself how to automatically on command switch off current stress responses in your nervous system and switch on a relaxation response.  I developed training program for this over many years initially as part of my strategy for treating irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and adrenal exhaustion but subsequently found it to be useful for a variety of conditions. It should be noted that this technique only teaches you how to switch off stress responses after they’ve occurred and it does not prevent them from occurring in the first place, nor does it treat the primary anxiety; it would however significantly reduce the negative physical consequences that the repeated unnecessary stress responses anxiety causes may be having on your body.  Like mindfulness meditations the relaxation response training programme involves stilling the mind and therefore may not be something that people with anxiety are able to perform at least until the condition is improved for the reasons discussed above. See Relaxation Response Training

References:
Double blind controlled crossover trial of inositol vs fluvoxamine in panic disorder.  Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 2001; 21:335-339
  1. inositol treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  American Journal of psychiatry 1996
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What I Treat
Today I use nutritional medicine and natural remedies to treat the health of the brain and metal health problems including bipolar syndrome, depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD; I do not treat psychotic conditions including schizophrenia at this time. I also use cognitive hypnotherapy and NLP when appropriate for a mind-body approach to mental health.
 
I practice at the Hale Clinic (central London) as a holistic medical practitioner and have been in practice since 1988.
 
Over the years I’ve trained in Nutritional /naturopathic medicine, Cognitive Hypnotherapy and NLP, body-centred psychotherapy, Chinese herbal medicine, Acupuncture, Bicom resonance therapy, meditation and Kundalini yoga, in the past I specialised in digestive health problems including IBS, bloating, candida, parasites, constipation and chronic fatigue syndrome including adrenal exhaustion.
 
For a more information on my practice and a list of conditions I treat click here About My Practice 
 
For bookings call the Hale Clinic reception
020 7631 0156
 
Mobile 07941 331 329
 
Email
info@balancingbrainchemistry.co.uk
 
My other sites:
www.petersmithuk.com
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