Depression Panic Attacks

Depression and Panic Attacks can often be linked. There is a simple reason for this and that is that low levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin can lead to both depression and panic attacks.

What’s more, people who suffer from panic attacks often find themselves placing restrictions on their lives. For example someone who experiences panic attacks may become to a greater or lesser extent agoraphobic. Agoraphobia being basically a fear of panic attacks.  If you start to fear things that you used to do easily you may well become depressed and frustrated.

So depression and panic attacks might coexist because of the same cause, or because one leads to the other.

Certainly, the treatment you choose for one would most likely effect the other. For example SSRI anti-depressants like Celexa/Citalopram are often used to treat panic disorder, although the dose may need to be altered to be effective for panic.

Likewise, a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) will teach you how to think more rationally and not be afraid of the symptoms of panic attacks. The same techniques can happily be applied to depression and the negative thought trains which surround it.

So basically establishing the link between panic attacks and depression is not really necessary for effective treatment.

Anxiety Diet

Anxiety diet is much like any other diet, you get out from it what you put in and you need to persevere to see results: less anxiety and a feeling of calmness and wellness. A diet that is good for anxiety is also a good depression diet; the two problems having related chemical/biological causes causes.

The important components of an anxiety diet:

Don’t over eat. Being bloated and full puts pressure on the diaphragm and lungs and makes breathing harder. Better to eat slowly and stop when you start to feel full. Also chew the food thoroughly – this is kinder to your stomach and allows you to get more nutrients.

Don’t under-eat. You need food and without regular eating your blood sugar will drop and this makes anxiety, panic and depression all the more likely.

Eat breakfast. Breakfast improves your mood and gets you off to a good start.

Don’t eat too much sugary food. Blood sugar rises are followed by blood sugar dips, which as I have already said lead to low mood and anxiety.

Don’t cut the Carbs! You need carbohydrates to fuel your body and promote Serotonin levels in your brain. Diets like the Atkins diet that rely heavily on protein are probably not going to make you feel better and may make you feel a whole lot worse.

Try to follow the normal healthy diet rules: fresh fruit and veg and less refined foods and bad fats! It is important to eat some fat though, good fats can be found in things like extra virgin olive oil and of course fish oil.

Eat fish regularly and supplement with a good quality Omega 3 oil. Read this post on why omega 3 is important for anxiety.

Cipralex and Weight Gain

Cipralex Weight Gain issues are part of one of the common topics I find in my inbox: the whole issue of whether SSRI’s make you put on weight and if so how can this be avoided. Many people have had issues with Celexa (citalopram) and weight gain, but as this personal experience shows, other SSRI’s such as Cipralex (escitalopram) can have weight gain issues.

I had a nervous breakdown 9 weeks ago, never felt that bad in my entire life…. Terrible anxiety, depression, tachycardia. I really did not want to take anti depressants as the side effects would have pushed me over the edge… I started getting a little better by myself but after 7 weeks I decided to start. My doc gave me cipralex and after only 2 days on that I felt much better, than noticed my weight had gone up by THREE kilos after 5 days on it!! Anxiety back of course. have been really watching what I eat, but the weight has not come off. I am hepatitis c positive and am scared to try duloxetine although that is the only SSRI that is good for severe anxiety/depression and has no weight gain associated with it. Duloxetine has been known to cause liver damage apparently. I am between a rock and a hard place as I need to up dosage from 5mg to 10 mg.

Sometime later this emailer followed up with:

I have been on Cipralex for 10 weeks now, and the weight gain is not such a major issue anymore, just have to watch what I eat. It has helped me a lot, I am on 20 mg now, and feeling almost back to myself. It took a while, but than I was not on the right dose. I was very ill, I’d had a mental breakdown and suffered from terrible anxiety and depression. It is worth sticking with it, at first you go up, almost as soon as starting the medication, than you seem to go down again, but you come up again as the drug accumulates in the system. Not quite like other anti depressants I have taken, but so far very helpful.

Firstly let me say how grateful I am to this person for sending me their personal experiences and allowing me to share them on this blog. It’s great that taking Cipralex has been positive and beneficial here, and I wish them all the best as they continue to recover! I think that it’s particularly interesting that weight gain hasn’t been such an issue in this case. It has long been known the SSRI’s have a tendency to cause weight gain, but not everyone suffers (indeed many SSRI’s list both weight gain and weight loss as possible side effects!).

No has a definitive answer to the question “why do SSRI’s cause weight gain?” but I have heard a theory which may have some credence. It is said that the action of SSRI’s like Cipralex on Serotonin receptors in some way causes the body to crave even more Serotonin, which it normally gets in the following way: the amino acid tryptophan enters the blood stream through consumption of foods containing the right kind of protein such as cheese, milk, fish, and meat. Tryptophan has a better chance of crossing the blood brain barrier and turning into Serotonin when it doesn’t have to vie for space with other amino acids. When you eat carbohydrate, insulin floods into your system and takes away amongst other things many of the amino acids that compete with Tryptophan for space. Tryptophan can then cross the blood-brain barrier and become Serotonin. Thus the best way to get a Serotonin hit is to eat carbohydrates (hence ice-cream can temporarily make you feel better). People on SSRI’s crave more Serotonin and therefore more carbohydrates and therefore put on more weight.

Is there something you can do about it? Probably yes, check out this post on how to avoid gaining weight on SSRI’s like Celexa, Lexapro and Prozac.

Natural Anxiety Remedies – Passiflora

Passiflora has long been used as a natural remedy for anxiety. There have been some studies which actually proved its effectiveness for treating anxiety when compared to a commonly prescribed tranquilizer. There is also a scientific reason for it’s calming, soothing action: the flavonoids that passiflora contains work on the areas of the brain that cause anxiety. Chamomile is relaxing for the same reason. The flavenoids in Passiflora may well also be one of a number of natural depression remedies. Interesting link on flavonoids here.

While supplements and herbal remedies are good for anxiety, remember to tackle the psychological causes.

So how is it best to take Passiflora? Well, there are two main choices really: you can buy a supplement which you take daily, normally as a capsule full of powder, or you can buy a tincture which you add to water and drink. passiflora does not taste particularly pleasant, but it’s not so bad.

The tincture has two distinct benefits: firstly you can control how much passiflora you want to take. Personally I like to try things at small doses first. Secondly, it often comes as a complex meaning it has other ingredients with it that are also natural anxiety remedies.

Side effects of Passiflora: depending on who you listen to passiflora is either as safe as houses or carries the same side-effect profile as every other drug/natural remedy on the market. This product might cause dizziness, drowsiness, upset stomach etc. If effected do not drive or operate machinery. Personally I have never had any trouble with passiflora and I don’t know anyone who has.

Also read: Anxiety Disorder Herbal Remedies

Tryptophan Anxiety Depression Cure

Tryptophan for anxiety and depression is now being touted as one of the best natural anxiety cures you can buy. It is always hard to know if something like Tryptophan is effective or not because it is not marketted by big pharma companies and is therefore not widely researched.

Hydroxytryptophan, to give it its full name, is an essential amino acid which the body cannot produce itself and therefore needs to find through diet or supplement. There are many food sources but you can buy a supplement in most countries called L-Tryptophan.

Tryptophan is thought to be useful as a treatment of anxiety and depression (and other mood disorders) because it is a precursor to Seratonin. Your body uses Tryptophan to make Seratonin which is one of the most important neurotransmitters effecting mood. It also makes Melatonin, which helps control sleep.

Common dietary sources are things such as egg, cod, soya and some cheeses and some meats. Turkey is always said to be high in Tryptophan, but actually cod has more per kg. While many people get enough through their diet others do not. It is hard for Tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier because it has to compete with other amino acids. The best way round this is to eat some carbohydrate with the Tryptophan, which will release insulin which helps Tryptophan’s passage into the area of the brain where it is needed.

It is hard to say if Tryptophan works as an anxiety cure or a depression cure. Certainly many people find that carbohydrates make them relaxed which is likely due to elevated Seratonin levels in the brain. If that strikes accord with you then maybe supplementing is worth a try.

In may be better to supplement with Tryptophan than with its nearest neighbour 5-HTP, which has a habit of converting to Seratonin outside the brain and is thought to cause heart valve damage. The only real way to know if Tryptophan works for anxiety is to try it!