POLLUTION and unhealthy diets are causing a surge of panic disorders across Scotland, according to experts.
Health experts are blaming additives in food and drink and carbon dioxide levels for “anxiety” symptoms appearing in previously healthy people.
An author, who suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks for nearly 30 years, has revealed how her condition disappeared after cutting out coffee and fizzy drinks from her diet.
Liz Speirs, 42, from Glasgow, said she fears an anxiety epidemic has hit Scotland-particularly among children- as diets and pollution have worsened.
She said: “Scientific evidence indicates that panic attacks, anxiety, claustrophobia and agoraphobia will continue to increase because of the modern diet and levels of carbon dioxide.
“In my opinion, doctors are a bit too keen to prescribe pills to tackle anxiety. I am no condemning them because they are trying to help.
“But there are alternatives such as taking a closer look at what you eat and eliminating possible triggers.
“It is a simple and cheap way of tacking the problem and allows the patients take control of their lives.”
Ms Speirs, who first suffered from an anxiety attack at 11, has written a book about her findings in a bid to help others overcome anxiety.
She said that as she grew older, the symptoms worsened, and she even developed agoraphobia- a fear of panic attacks.
As a teenager, doctors told Ms Speirs that her anxiety was hormonal but she refused to take medication for her condition.
Two years ago, on the eve of her 40th birthday, she discovered how to control her panic attacks.
Ms Speirs said: “I was following this diet and had to cut out coffee. I immediately noticed a difference. The number of attacks decreased.
“I thought that if cutting back on coffee had such a remarkable effect what else might help.
“For a while I went back to basics cutting back anything processed and went fully organic.
“I felt much better but was still having panic attacks. It took me a while to tweak they were triggered by fizzy drinks.”
Recent research in Europe and theUShas backed her findings, by showing carbon dioxide as one of the main culprits.
She added: “I have now had more than two panic attack-free years after 29 years of suffering. I feel as if I finally have a life where as in the past I always felt as if I was dying.”
In Ms Speirs’ book- The Panic Free Steps- which is available online, the author lists at least 8 trigger chemicals and additives that brought panic attacks and anxiety symptoms on in minutes.
Other issues revealed were rising CO2 levels and products with CO2 disrupting the respiratory system, resulting in breathing problems and asthma.