Anxiety is a common emotional disorder characterized by overwhelming feelings of fear and panic that affects your daily quality of life. Psychological and pharmacologic therapies alone or in combination are effective ways to treat anxiety. Although scientists are not completely sure what causes anxiety, some evidence links the disorder with abnormal brain chemistry and a deficiency of vitamin C.
Anxiety disorders affect more than 25 million people in the United States, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Women are 60 percent more likely to suffer from anxiety over their lifetime than men and the disorder can occur at any age, although 85 percent of cases in adults are between 18 and 59 years of age, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with anxiety often have depression.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient and antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. Adult males and females require 90 mg and 75 mg, respectively, of vitamin C daily. A dietary deficiency of vitamin C causes bleeding gums, decreased wound healing, dry skin and painful joints. Vitamin C is required for growth and repair of tissues, including collagen, and synthesis of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin.
A deficiency of vitamin C reduces production of neurotransmitters associated with anxiety. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that communicate between nerve cells and affect mood and sleep. Scientists at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, found anxiety and depression symptoms are associated with increased excretion of norepinephrine and cortisol, a stress hormone, among healthy middle-aged women, according to research published in the "Journal of Psychosomatic Research" in October 2004. Medications such as serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs, target neurotransmitters in treating anxiety. Scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City report that SNRIs selectively inhibit depletion of norepinephrine and serotonin and are effective in treating patients with anxiety and depression in research published in "Human Psychopharmacology" in 2010.
A vitamin C deficiency impairs your ability to respond to stress and increases your risk of anxiety. Chronic stress changes the chemical balance within your brain that controls mood, which can result in anxiety disorders. Cortisol is a steroid hormone your adrenal glands secrete in response to stress. According to research published in "Psychology Today" in April 2003, cortisol triggers the "fight or flight" response to stress, but frequent exposure to high levels of the hormone makes you more susceptible to depression. People with vitamin C deficiencies are less able to respond to stressful situations than people with high blood levels of vitamin C. Scientists at the University of Trier in Germany found that compared to the placebo, vitamin C supplementation palliates cortisol and response to psychological stress, according to research published in "Psychopharmacology" in January 2002.
- American Psychiatric Association: Anxiety Disorders
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin C
- Psychopharmacology: A Randomized Controlled Trial of High Dose Ascorbic Acid for Reduction of Blood Pressure, Cortisol, and Subjective Responses to Psychological Stress
- Alternative Medicine Review: Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep
- Springboard: Vitamin C - Ascorbic Acid