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Common Products Known to Worsen Anxiety

While Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder are both quite common, often the result of brain chemistry, psychology (the way we think through and understand our thoughts and emotions), and stress/previous trauma, it's important to first rule out external causes of before solidifying a treatment plan. Here are some common culprits:

  1. Medicines like over-the-counter decongestants (Sudafed, Afrin, phenelephrine nose drops) and prescription meds like prednisone can cause jitteriness and insomnia.

  2. Tobacco. While many smokers believe cigarettes to have a calming effect, research suggests the opposite is true.

  3. Soda. I've met a remarkable amount of individuals who average a 12-pack of soda or several 2 liter bottles of soda a day, and they are unable to sleep and unable to function due to anxiety. Yes, anxiety may have been a problem before the soda, but with that amount of caffeine and sugar, treating your anxiety - whether it be with individual therapy, self-help tools, or medication management - will be an uphill battle. There are 234 grams of sugar in a 2 liter bottle of Coke, that's 56 teaspoons of sugar. People often feel unable to stop drinking soda because it seems to help with energy, but they then find themselves addicted, craving the sugar, and riddled with mood swings as the sugar wears off.

  4. Coffee and energy drinks. Pay attention to how these drinks affect you. As is the case with soda, many people feel reliant on coffee and energy drinks to get through the day. But in large amounts, caffeine can increase your heart rate, make you feel jittery, and cause insomnia. Caffeine can linger in your bloodstream up 10 hours after consumption. Additionally, people metabolize caffeine in different ways. If you're an impaired metabolizer, a cup of coffee can have a much stronger effect for you than for someone who metabolizes coffee normally.

  5. Sugary, processed foods. High amounts of sugar found in processed foods and juices can worsen anxiety and insomnia, and cause significant mood swings (think about a sugar "crash"). There's a an entire field of "nutritional psychiatry" premised on the importance of diet in mental wellbeing. Focus on eating whole grains, healthy proteins, good fats (e.g., almonds and olive oil), fresh fruits and vegetables.

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