This review of 27 studies suggests that relaxation training is an excellent alternative to valium—and will put you back in control!
In recent years, there is increasing awareness that anxiety disorders are very common in the general adult population. Approximately 10% of the population suffers with anxiety disorder, and the drug companies are quick to pounce on their fears with a host of addictive tranquilizers. Sometimes these medications are needed. I recommend, however, that even in people already taking these medications, natural remedies for anxiety be added so that people will feel better and need less medication. While taking these, I recommend that people then learn relaxation exercises that they can do when they start to feel anxious. After a while, you may be able to talk with your doctor about weaning off of your medication—but simply having them available will act as a "security blanket," leaving people feeling more comfortable even if they don't end up taking the medications.
For those just starting with relaxation training, I highly recommend the book The Relaxation Response, by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University. It is a very easy-to-learn technique.
Relaxation Training for Anxiety: A Ten-Years Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis
Gian Mauro Manzoni; Francesco Pagnini; Gianluca Castelnuovo; Enrico Molinari
BMC Psychiatry. 2008; ©2008 Manzoni et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Abstract and Background
Relaxation training is a common way to address anxiety problems. Lacking is a recent quantitative meta-analysis that enhances understanding of the variability and clinical significance of anxiety reduction outcomes after relaxation therapies.
All studies (1997-2007), both RCT, observational and without control group, evaluating the efficacy of relaxation training (Jacobson's progressive relaxation, autogenic training, applied relaxation and meditation) for anxiety problems and disorders were identified by comprehensive electronic searches with Pubmed, Psychinfo and Cochrane Registers, by checking references of relevant studies and of other reviews. Our primary outcome was anxiety measured with psychometric questionnaires. Meta-analysis was undertaken synthesizing the data from all trials, distinguishing within and between effect sizes.
27 studies qualified for the inclusion in the meta-analysis. As hypothesized, relaxation training showed a medium-large effect size in addressing anxiety. Cohen's d was .57 (95% CI: .52 to .68) in the within analysis and .51 (95% CI: .46 to .634) in the between group analysis. Efficacy was higher for meditation, among volunteers, and for longer therapies. Implications and limitations are discussed.
The results show consistent and significant efficacy of relaxation training in reducing anxiety. This meta-analysis extends the existing literature through facilitation of a better understanding of the variability and clinical significance of anxiety improvement subsequent to relaxation training.
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Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.