There are many theories on what causes panic attacks and anxiety. However, one thing is certain: the amount of serotonin in your brain plays a critical role in controlling behavior, sleep, depression, panic, and anxiety. Also known as 5-HT or 5-hydroxytryptamine, serotonin is produced naturally in the human brain from an amino acid known as 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP).
The amount of serotonin in your brain is highly dependent on the levels of 5-HTP and tryptophan it has. Reduced serotonin activity in the neural synapses in the brain is common in those who suffer from panic or anxiety attacks and depression. Most of these attacks and depression are treated with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, like Zoloft or Prozac.
How 5-HTP is Effective for Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and SAD
These drugs increase serotonin levels in the brain’s synapses and have proven beneficial for some psychiatric issues such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and depression. A published study in Psychiatry Research showed 5-HTP supplementation to have alleviated panic symptoms in people suffering from panic disorder.
Low serotonin levels may initiate panic attacks and 5-HTP treatment increases serotonin availability to help reduce panic attacks in those who have anxiety disorders. Panic and anxiety attacks are two different things. While an anxiety attack is short lived and goes away with the elimination of the stressor, a panic attack anticipates another one even before the first is dissipated.
An anxiety attack is a reaction to certain stressors while a panic attack is both unpredictable and unprovoked. Fortunately, both are considered treatable with 5-HTP. Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, is a chronic mental health condition that causes anxiety, self-consciousness, embarrassment, and fear of being constantly judged or scrutinized by others.
5 HTP for social anxiety disorder (SAD) has been effective for many people just as it has proven to be helpful for those who suffer from either panic or anxiety attacks. Some of those afflicted with SAD prefer to take 5-HTP on a daily basis but some take it before an attack happens or at the exact moment that it does.
Factors Which May be Responsible for Panic Attacks
Research on what causes these attacks has been focused on serotonin, the chemical which the body naturally produces that helps the brain send and receive signals between the brain cells for mental balance maintenance. Apparently, serotonin plays a key role in the body’s response – “fight or flight” to significant life events, just as some factors are responsible for inducing panic attacks:
• Genetics: genes may be contributory to an individual’s risk of developing panic disorders that lead to panic attacks.
• Environment: being abused or having gone through traumatic events in early childhood may increase the risk of panic attacks.
• Brain issues: those with differences in chemical levels and brain activities and structures are likely to have panic attacks.
• Sensitivity anxiety: those who feel or sense anxiety more than they should and may even anticipate feeling or sensing it “in advance.”
Antidepressants Do NOT Prevent Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety disorders affect 13.3% or 19.1 million adults in the U.S. each year, according to NIMH, and are considered the most common of mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), OCD, panic disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. And while women have been shown to be more anxiety- and panic-prone, both men and women are affected by social phobia and OCD.
Often preceding depression, anxiety affects 18.8 million or 9.5% Americans yearly. While antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft can and do provide instantaneous relief, there has been no confirmation that these prevent anxiety attacks. Additionally, antidepressants have been shown to bring about several side effects which can potentially be fatal or life-threatening.
Does 5-HTP Help with Anxiety?
Long-term usage of antidepressants almost always results in dependency and withdrawing from them can prove to be as difficult as the condition itself.
With the emergence of the product, 5-HTP, however, those suffering from anxiety disorders have the option to have their condition treated through natural means. 5-HTP is produced by the body from tryptophan, an essential amino acid.
Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, a crucial neurotransmitter as mentioned at the start of this article. Unlike tryptophan, though, 5-HTP is capable of crossing the so-called “blood-brain barrier” easily to help relieve cases of mild to moderate anxiety attacks as well as suppress appetite, improve sleep patterns, and reduce pain.
Although tryptophan is present in some foods, eating them will not increase the levels of 5-HTP significantly to get sufficient benefits. This is the reason why 5-HTP supplementation is often recommended to raise such levels. These supplements are derived naturally from the seeds of a plant indigenous to West Africa known as griffonia simplicifolia.
Should You Take 5-HTP?
5-HTP in its natural form does not have the risk of the so-called Peak-X contamination that usually results from 5-HTP which has been synthetically-produced. Regardless, it works in the same manner as antidepressants, only safer, with minor or no side effects, and less expensive. It has a 70% absorption rate by the bloodstream, thus, increasing serotonin levels more quickly.
Before taking 5-HTP, it is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor first. The initial 5 HTP dosage for anxiety could be as low as 50mg taken thrice a day and increased to 100mg if the patient does not respond to the previous dosage. Those who have begun taking it should understand, however, that 5-HTP is not a miraculous treatment that will yield overnight results.
If side effects occur during the time you are taking 5-HTP, be sure to inform your doctor about it. Your doctor would know the most suitable dosage for your particular needs. Anxiety that lingers even while you are already on 5-HTP may not be the result of low serotonin levels but of some other underlying conditions which you may have; if this is the case, 5-HTP will prove to be ineffective.
If you plan to take 5 HTP for anxiety, reviews will be helpful insofar as you can find out the supplement’s pros and cons from those who have already experienced its effects. Most of these reviews have glowing praises for this supplement that can treat a wide range of conditions, from anxiety and panic disorders to weight loss and from insomnia to fibromyalgia.