Anxiety is a problem that affects everyone. For many, anxiety is a physiological problem which means your thoughts affect your nervous system which in turn creates a flight or fight response. The best and ultimate way to deal with anxiety is to confront anxious thoughts and change them in order to change the physiological response.
Not everyone’s anxiety is the same. Anxiety can be hard to pinpoint especially in the case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder where anxiety may not seem to have a root cause. For these people, changing the way our brains chemically work may help to reduce anxiety. This can be done in one of two ways by suppressing the anxiety through sedation, or by improving neurochemicals that enhance our mood, perception and cognitive function.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that is purely anxiolytic. Increasing and/or modulating the GABAergic system can help to greatly reduce the effects of anxiety. This is because GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Drugs like alcohol, GHB, phenibut, benzodiazepines and barbiturates are all GABAergic. GABAergics are best for people who have physical symptoms of anxiety (ex. increased heart rate, sweating and dizziness)
Unfortunately, while GABA drugs may be great for anxiety, most are also negative on cognition. This is because GABA works against the central nervous system which negatively affects cognitive skills. For this reason, there are not many nootropics that work as GABA substances. Phenibut is a product often sold in nootropic stores however it is not a nootropic. Other nootropics like piracetam and picamilon are derived from the GABA structure however they do not have GABAeric effects.
Serotonin is another vastly important neurotransmitter. It is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, social behavior, appetite, bodily functions and aspects of cognitive functioning. Serotonin is unlike GABA because it is not inhibiting or sedating. There is a definite correlation between serotonin malfunction and anxiety.
Many anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs are focused on the aspects of anxiety. These drugs are meant to influence the level of serotonin in the brain. Unfortunately, some of these drugs have negative side effects on cognition. This problem can be related to how these drugs interact with other neurotransmitters.
There are several nootropics that have serotoninergic effects. Serotonin itself cannot cross the blood brain barrier but the precursors, l-tryptophan and 5HTP can. These supplements are generally not mentioned as nootropics however they may offer some small benefit to cognitive functioning.
The other two nootropics that have shown to have serotoninergic effects are aniracetam and noopept. Both of these nootropics have shown to provide anxiolytic effects in animals. The alleged anxiolytic effects are similar in both substances by interacting with 5HT (serotonin) receptors. This is a unique anxiolytic side effect of these cholinergic nootropics not seen with the other racetams.
Other Ways Nootropics May Be Anxiolytic
There are many reports of other non-serotoninergic racetams like piracetam being anxiolytic. While this may be entirely possible, there have been no studies to confirm this. It is highly likely that these effects are not chemical as piracetam and other racetams affect acetylcholine and glutamate. These systems have very little positive effect on anxiety.
These nootropics may work in a way to help by increasing mental capacity and learning. Increasing the working of the brain may help to open new pathways and ways of thinking. This may become especially effective if nootropics are combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The goal behind CBT is to inwardly confront anxious thoughts through behavioral action stimuli. Using cholinergic and ampakine nootropics may help to increase the effectiveness of CBT.
Other secondary actions may help to reduce social anxiety. Many people suffering from social anxiety may suffer from a lack of conversational skills which can further increase anxiety. Conversion can also be harder for these people due to inward anxious thoughts. Nootropics may help in these situations by improving conversational skills which may give social anxiety sufferers further confidence.
There are not that many nootropics to help with the chemical problem of anxiety however all nootropics may be helpful as anxiolytics if used in the right manner. Understanding the root of the anxiety is the first step. Using supplements and drugs may help but are never a permanent answer.
Nootropics have been seen to be safe. They are ok to combine with anti-anxiety drugs with the exception of MAO-A inhibitors. It is best to always confront your doctor before starting nootropics if you are depressed or anxious. Changing one neurotransmitter can affect the others and this should be avoided in those suffering from mental conditions.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014299901010056 – aniracetam anxiolytic
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394010004313 – noopept anxiolytic