Your palms are sweaty, heart is beating a mile a minute, and your brain is sending you mixed signals that confuse and scare you.
Anxiety is no joke, and it affects millions of people in the United States.
There are many treatments for anxiety disorders, but can melatonin supplements help relieve anxiety symptoms?
Anxiety: Definition, Causes, Treatments
Both a natural reaction and a mental disorder, anxiety can sometimes be taken too lightly by people. Everyone can feel anxious, but not everyone has an anxiety disorder, so what’s the difference, and what can help?
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion caused by stress or fear about something. It is a natural response and can be healthy to experience in small doses.
However, if these feelings of anxiety cause issues with your quality of life, especially for extended periods of time, it is likely an anxiety disorder.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders:
- General anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety
- Panic disorder
The disorders listed above can exist within you by themselves, but it is also common for more than one type of anxiety to coexist together.
Living with anxiety disorders can be very taxing and unsettling, sometimes a near-constant battle. Additionally, sometimes a mental disorder can take on physical attributes in the form of panic attacks, fatigue, sleeping issues, nausea, and more.
When this is the case, seeking outside help can be critical.
Possible Treatments for Anxiety
As with many illnesses, anxiety has many types of treatments to try:
Some mental illnesses require medication in order to preserve a good quality of life for the patient. It is always best to try to work through your anxiety with other measures before medication, but sometimes medication is necessary and it should not be looked down upon.
Anxiety can be caused from many different things, but is either usually born from a trauma or inciting incident, or is a result of a chemical imbalance in your body. Both could require medication, but chemical imbalances are more prone to require it.
Therapy and Counseling
There are different types of therapy to try, and your therapist will likely base treatment around your specific anxiety disorder(s).
In therapy, you and your therapist talk about your disorder and your life in general. In many cases, the therapist will try and get at the root of your anxiety and will use different methods to confront it.
Different types of therapy include: behavioral, humanistic, psychodynamic, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Alternative medicine can include things such as activities like yoga, aromatherapy, cupping therapy, acupuncture, and even massages. These don’t actually treat anxiety, but can work to help you feel more calm and relaxed overall.
While perhaps not a cure for anxiety, lifestyle changes can significantly help reduce the effects of anxiety and support a better quality of life.
Such changes include reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, quitting or lowering the use of recreational drugs and cigarettes, eating healthy and exercising regularly, and getting a lot of good-quality sleep.
Additionally, surrounding yourself with things that make you happy can be beneficial. So can taking time out of the day to treat yourself well, may that be words of affirmation, buying something new, or making time to be around those you love, can be helpful.
What is Melatonin and What Does It Do?
Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces naturally to help aid sleep. However, some people cannot produce enough melatonin naturally or have lifestyles that could require additional melatonin. That’s where melatonin supplements come into the picture.
Melatonin and All Its Uses
Your body naturally produces melatonin at night and lessens production during the day. When you have high levels of melatonin, your body binds receptors and allows for a less alert, more relaxed feeling. This feeling helps keep your circadian rhythm (internal clock) running smoothly, maintaining a healthy sleep and wake cycle.
People who benefit most from melatonin are those who have occasional trouble sleeping, and those who have disrupted their circadian clock -- jet lag, shift workers who work at night, etc.
Although aiding sleep is melatonin’s primary function, melatonin is also an antioxidant and can help aid eye and ear health, as well as maintain a healthy body temperature and regulate hormones.
Who Shouldn’t Use Melatonin?
Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, are on heavy medications (such as blood thinners, sleeping medications, depression medications, immunosuppressive medications, and blood pressure medications, among others), or if you are an alcoholic.
Children and the elderly should also take caution around the supplement, and should ask their doctor before use.
Does Melatonin Help With Anxiety?
Most of the studies completed either show that melatonin can help to promote restful sleep in those who otherwise have a tough time falling asleep because of anxiety, or that the anxiety in question remained unchanged. On a positive note, there are few circumstances where anxiety is proven to be worse.
One study in 2017 showed that melatonin can increase GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in some parts of the brain. These high levels can have a calming effect, which in turn can help lower feelings of restlessness and tension.
Of the studies done, the most promising have been centered around people who are about to go into surgery. The melatonin was treated as a cross between a sedative and a placebo pill. Some studies showed that the melatonin did better than the placebo. Other studies showed that it could help with post-surgery restlessness, but that is in contention.
The main reveal from these studies is that the type of emotional tension that melatonin could possibly help is stress-induced anxiety, i.e. normal feelings of anxiousness that come during something stressful or before something stressful is supposed to happen. There is little evidence that melatonin can help with anxiety disorders, other than possibly alleviating some side effects by helping to promote better sleep.
If you think melatonin can help with your stress, consult a doctor first, especially if you are on other medications. Most of the studies used a 3-10 mg dose, so figuring out what dosage to take with your doctor is a priority.
Melatonin as a sleep aid can perhaps lessen feelings of restlessness and tension by helping the user get better sleep habits, but in terms of being a treatment for an actual anxiety disorder, there isn’t really any evidence.
Anxiety can be treated with things such as therapy, lifestyle changes, alternative medicine, and medication, so if you feel like you’re struggling with anxiety, seek professional help so you can get further guidance on the best route to feeling like yourself again.