Do Vitamins Actually Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression?

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

December 10, 2021

Depression Vitamins

Depression and anxiety are common mental health disorders that impact many people. Various factors can contribute to the development of mental health disorders, and with the emergence of COVID and other social stressors, we have seen an increase in anxiety and depression in the US.

If left untreated, these conditions can have a negative impact on your quality of life and your ability to function in different areas of your life, including at home, school, and work. Understanding effective treatment options are crucial to managing and reducing your symptoms of anxiety and depression. Read on to explore common symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as common and emerging treatment options.

Anxiety and Depression in the United States

It is no surprise that anxiety and depression rates have recently risen. Research conducted post–COVID-19 showed that 31% of people reported symptoms of anxiety or depression; this is double the rate prior to the pandemic.

Anxiety in the United States:

  • Is the most common mental health disorder
  • Impacts over 40 million people
  • Impacts 19.1% of the adult population with some form of anxiety disorder
  • Affects 7% of children between 3 and 17 years old

In the United States, major depression is also common and:

  • Impacts 17.3 million adults
  • Affects 7.1% of all adults
  • Is more common in females than males
  • Is highest among 18- to 25-year-olds

Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can include a variety of symptoms, ranging from minimal to mild, to moderate to severe. Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling restless, tense, or on edge
  • Feelings of dread
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Racing or rapid heartbeat
  • Sleep problems
  • Stomach upset including stomach aches and diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking

Symptoms of Depression

Like anxiety, depression symptoms can look and feel like many different things; anxiety and depression share some of the same symptoms. They can also range in severity and have a significant impact on your ability to perform normal everyday tasks, such as showering, going to work, and taking care of your responsibilities. Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Physical aches and pains including gastrointestinal problems
  • Restlessness and difficulty concentrating
  • Talking or moving slower than normal
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment Options

You may be aware of common treatment options for anxiety and depression, such as psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

Psychotherapy tools, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, can teach different ways of thinking, acting, and responding to different anxiety triggers. Psychotherapy also can help uncover false beliefs that may be contributing to the anxiety and depression symptoms.

Anti-anxiety medication, such as benzodiazepines, and anti-depressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are often used to help reduce and manage symptoms as well. If you need help paying for your prescription medication, ScriptSave® WellRx can help you save up to 80% off your prescription costs.

Researchers are working hard to identify alternative ways to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression, and what they have uncovered may surprise you. Nutritional interventions, such as your diet and vitamin intake, can play a major role in reducing or exacerbating the existence of mental health symptoms. More specifically, researchers are uncovering a link between vitamin B and your overall mood and mental health; deficiencies in vitamin B12 and folate are connected to an increased risk of depression.

Foods rich in B-group vitamins include:

  • Fish
  • Leafy greens
  • Lean meats
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables

Research also shows omega-3 EPA, otherwise known as fish oil, is effective in treating symptoms of depression both on its own and when used in conjunction with a prescribed anti-depressant. Additional findings suggest that folate-based supplements can help treat the symptoms of major depression.

More research is needed to validate the effectiveness of other vitamins, such as vitamins D, C, and E, in the treatment of mental health disorders. However, emerging research gives merit to certain amino acids being effective in treating mood and mental health disorders. More specifically, N-acetylcysteine has been shown to reduce symptoms of major depression and improve functioning when taken in doses of 2,000 mg or more per day.

Talk to Your Doctor

While more research is needed to determine the extent to which various vitamins and supplements can help treat and manage the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, current research suggests that some supplements and vitamins can be an adjunct to your current treatment plan.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can provide information on appropriate treatment recommendations including psychotherapists, medication, supplements, and other alternative interventions.

Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.

Resources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/messages/2021/one-year-in-covid-19-and-mental-health

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders#:~:text=Over%2040%20million%20adults%20in,develop%20symptoms%20before%20age%2021.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770181/

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