Essential Oils for Mental Health: Anxiety
Anxiety affects more than 8 million people in the UK alone, making it one of the costliest illnesses and highest causes of disability. And while most people don’t want to term it a “mental illness” because of the stigma attached, it’s very much a real mental disorder that, left untreated, can have monumental consequences on the human psyche and health.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is defined as: “a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now.” 1
While anxiety has many faces, and symptoms can vary from person to person depending on the severity of the condition, there are some indicators that can let you know it might be time to seek treatment. 2
- Chest pain
- Neck tension
- Pulsing in the ear
- Burning skin
- Fear of impending doom
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Excessive sweating
Types of Anxiety
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Often OCD victims struggle with compulsions and repetitive behaviours. They can experience severe anxiety when not allowed to perform their normal repetitive tasks.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): is not as mild as it sounds. Typically, GAD can encompass any or all of the normal anxiety symptoms, and can come in the form of constant worry or fear.
Panic Disorder: Often people with Panic disorder feel uncontrollably upset over even small issues. This disorder can keep someone confined to their home for fear of the embarrassment an unexpected panic attack will cause.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a lingering fear and anxiety one is left with after one or more traumatic events. This condition is often seen in post-war veterans, and its effects can be very severe and long-term. A person with this condition may experience constant fear of danger, and
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Social Anxiety Disorder is sometimes confused for shyness, but the truth is, people who suffer from this disorder can have severe physical symptoms like heart palpitations, difficulty breathing and dizziness. People with SAD often feel scrutinised by everyone around them and fear peer condemnation.
Just as with most mental health conditions, there are many treatments for anxiety, medicinally and holistically, and the treatments vary for every patient, but a few of the most effective are:
Changing one’s lifestyle is probably the first and most important step in relieving any form of anxiety disorder. Proper sleep, social interaction, exercise in nutrition improvements will go a long way towards preventing and treating anxiety.
Counselling or Psychotherapy
Counselling can be an extremely necessary and effective factor in the treatment of anxiety. Often, any disorder has underlying causes, and seeking therapy can help uncover and deal with those.
Medication may not always be necessary, but can be an asset to someone with chronic mental illness. Oftentimes, less invasive treatments are not enough, and medication is a good way to bridge the gap until further information is gathered on the specific condition.
Alternative and Supplemental Treatment
Sometimes alternative treatments work even better than medical treatments, and symptoms can be alleviated with natural remedies.
Enter Essential Oils
Aromatherapy has been proved to be an extremely effective method of treatment for anxiety, and there’s evidence to back it up. In a study conducted on hospice patients, 28 were given essential oil hand massages, using bergamot, lavender and frankincense, for 5 minutes a day for 7 days.
The results concluded that these patients experienced significantly less pain than the patients in the control group, therefore having a positive effect on pain and depression. 3
But the results are not just experienced, they are actually physiologically measurable. According to Dr. Gayle Eversole of The Creating Health Institute, “The psycho-physiological effect essential oils can be observed with EEG. Cortical activity is altered in alpha, beta, delta, and theta waves.”4
Common Essential Oils Used for Treating Anxiety
Certain oils are found to be most effective for treating the symptoms of anxiety, such as the following:
- Clary Sage
Studies show that clary sage has a significant effect on stress, causing the body to release certain stress-reducing hormones almost instantly.5
Bergamot is proved to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
Many studies have been conducted on lavender and prove it to be effective for relaxation.
Rose has been shown to reduce anxiety by calming the emotions and reducing the heart rate.
- Ylang Ylang
Reduces cortisol levels and promotes joy and hopefulness.
Decreases irritability. Calms emotions.
Promotes tranquility and peace.
Known for its sedative properties.
Using Essential Oils for Depression
Each essential oil listed can be effective remedies for anxiety symptoms, or they can be combined to make blends to treat multiple conditions.
For example, ylang ylang, sandalwood, chamomile and frankincense have very calming, sedative effects, so combining these can strengthen their powerful effects.
Experiment with different blends in your diffuser, or prepare an anxiety blend for your roller bottle to keep in your handbag when feelings of panic begin. When applying essential oils topically, the wrists, neck and soles of the feet are found to be the most effective application points.
Essential oils have been used for centuries to treat multiple illnesses, but mental conditions such as anxiety are the most common. When used correctly, aromatherapy stabilises emotions and increases focus and mental clarity. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the recommended combinations or try using one of these essential oils alone to target your specific needs.
Always seek professional treatment for mental illness, as these conditions often worsen, but don’t be afraid to also use alternative treatments such as essential oils if they are effective for you.
- Mental Health Foundation. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-anxiety
- Anxiety Centre. http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms.shtml
- Safe Harbor. http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/using-natural-remedies-in-thetreatment-of-emotional-and-mental-states/
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://www.adaa.org/