Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 1, 2021

When you go for a job interview or are about to give a speech, anxiety is there to make you doubt yourself.

What if you choke? Are you appropriately dressed? How will others perceive you?

Questions like these are what make people fearful. However, there’s another question we’ve spent hours researching, and that’s whether or not fish oil can help reduce anxiety.

Read on to learn more about the effects of fish oil on mental health.

Is Fish Oil Good For Anxiety and Mental Health?

fish oil capsules in a sachet

Fish oil contains an abundance of omega 3 fatty acids, which offer a number of benefits for major depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and other cognitive health disorders.

According to clinical trials published by JAMA Network Open, fatty acids found in fish oil result in a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms [1].

In addition, researchers found that a diet rich with high levels of fish oil supplements may significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

One common cause of anxiety and depression is neuroinflammation - the inflammation of nervous tissue.

Fish oil is considered one of many natural treatments for anxiety and depression, as it possesses anti-inflammatory benefits that cushion brain membranes and lower levels of inflammation.

These fats also interact with hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for regulating mood.

This further contributes to the treatment of anxiousness by helping a person relax.

Lastly, omega 3 acids make up a large portion of the brain.

Therefore, patients with low concentrations of omega 3s are more likely to suffer from mental issues.

By restoring omega 3 levels, patients have noted a significant reduction in anxiety levels and mental blocks.

What Does Fish Oil Contain?

salmon fish, oil and seeds in a table

Fish oil contains two omega 3 fatty acids known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which have numerous health benefits.

These acids (EPA and DHA)  are naturally found in fatty fish such as sardines, trout, mackerel, and salmon or in an extracted form such as fish oil capsules or fish oil tablets.

Another type of omega 3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can be found in plant food sources such as chia seeds, walnut, soybeans, and canola oil.

Fish oil also contains considerable amounts of Vitamin A and D, which boost the body’s immune system.

The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) suggests limiting the intake of oily fish to two servings per week. This is because oily fish contains a considerable concentration of mercury, which is harmful in large amounts. 

To avoid mercury poisoning, omega 3 supplements are a safer option as these toxins are broken down during the manufacturing process.

When used at an appropriate dosage, fish oil is generally safe and has no side effects.

However, for people under medication like blood thinners and blood pressure medications, consult a registered dietitian before taking any omega 3 supplements to learn about possible interactions.

3 Main Benefits of Taking Fish Oil Supplements

toy heart held by a person's hand

Fish oil has numerous benefits for the human body, with lots of them listed below.

1. Improving Heart Health

According to a systematic review by the American Heart Association, fish oil can minimize the effects of heart disease [2].

Fish oil contains unsaturated fatty acids, which help elevate high-density lipoproteins (HDL), aka ‘good cholesterol’ levels, and minimize blood pressure. Other benefits for heart health include preventing heart attacks and regulating heartbeats per minute.

2. Mental Health Management

puzzle pieces in paper head silhouette

Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, both of which are essential for normal brain function.

As our brains consist of 60% fatty acids, fish oil plays a key role in treating depression and anxiety.

A deficiency of omega-3s in the brain has been linked to depression, anxiety disorders, and other cognitive health issues.

A meta-analysis by medical students:

“suggest that taking fish oil supplements is beneficial in the treatment of depression when compared with placebo, and the data suggest that the best outcomes occur when the fish oil is used as an adjunct to standard antidepressant therapies. [3]” - Mansoor D. Burhani, Physiology and Biophysics Researcher

Besides aiding depressed individuals with depression, fish oils can also help reduce symptoms of other psychiatric conditions such as:

  • Clinical anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Dementia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Although studies have confirmed the contribution of fish oil in managing cognitive health issues, more research is necessary to determine its significance as a stand-alone treatment.

3. Reduce Inflammation

Fish oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties which may help treat chronic inflammation.

Extreme inflammation is known to cause health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and depression. By managing the inflammation, the risk of contracting these disorders is minimized.

Fish oil is also effective in managing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as joint inflammation, morning stiffness, and joint swelling.

4 Most Common Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety is a neurological disorder that can be difficult to understand. Symptoms typically revolve around a fear of future expectations or ‘what could possibly go wrong.’

Common indicators of anxiousness include:

1. A Feeling of Extreme Worry

man holding his head in worry while reading a paper

Feeling worried about everyday situations or expectations is an everyday occurrence.

For people who suffer from anxiety, however, this worry is taken to an extreme.

As a result, extreme overreactions to the triggering event occur, which in most cases is disproportionate to the amount of danger or risk involved.

Extreme worry can be categorized as anxiousness if you:

  1. Experience feelings of worry regularly for at least six months and/or
  2. Have extreme difficulty in trying to control your fears

2. Agitation and Panic Attacks

woman seated on bed hugging herself

When someone undergoes anxiousness, their entire nervous system reacts by sending impulses and effects throughout the body.

That occurs because the brain interprets a particular situation as a threat, triggering the ‘fight or flight’ response to prepare for what it believes will happen next.

These effects include an elevated heart rate, dry mouth, sweaty palms, and shaking.

While these effects are crucial in an actual life-threatening situation, they can be overwhelming when the threat is simply in one’s head.

In circumstances where these symptoms are taken to an extreme, the individual truly believes their life is on the line, categorized as a full-blown panic attack.

3. Difficulty Concentrating

woman with both her hands on her head in panic

Focusing on a task can be next to impossible during the middle of an anxiety crisis.

Research suggests that anxiety affects the brain's working memory, making it very difficult to dedicate attention to any task [4].

As a result, people who suffer from anxiousness often experience a decline in cognitive performance, as their brains focus on the fear of the future.

4. Restlessness

man worrying while leaning towards a wall

People who experience anxiety often feel ‘on edge’ and have a strong desire to move around by pacing back and forth.

This restlessness results from the brain interpreting danger in the environment, influencing the individual to seek refuge or move to a safer location.

As a result, another common symptom that can indicate anxiousness is someone who experiences frequent restlessness - especially over prolonged periods of time

FAQs

How Much Fish Oil Should I Take for Anxiety?

According to studies, the optimal omega-3 dose ranges between 300 mg to 3,000 mg per day.

How effective the fish oil depends on EPA and DHA concentration. In most cases, liquid fish oil is more concentrated with omega-3s compared to capsules.

Does Fish Oil Help With Panic Attacks?

Daily doses of fish oil with an omega-3 concentration above 2,000 mg can help reduce panic attacks.

It is due to the fatty acids present in fish oil, which help keep the brain in an optimal functioning state.

What Vitamins Help With Anxiety?

Natural vitamins such as Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D can help manage anxiety and promote overall cognitive health.

These vitamins contain anti-anxiety properties and play a vital role in treating cognitive health issues.

How Long Does It Take for Fish Oil to Work?

On average, it can take between 1-6 months before any significant changes can be seen.

Take Fish Oil In Your Diet Regularly and Watch Your Worries Melt Away

So, according to the findings of various researchers and study authors, individuals who suffer from an anxiety disorder, depression, and other cognitive conditions have low omega 3 levels.

Omega 3s are essential nutrients that offer numerous health benefits to the body.

Based on multiple studies over years of extensive research, fatty acids contained in fish oil have been found to positively impact mental and heart health and other bodily functions.

By increasing omega 3s intake, many of these symptoms have been greatly reduced, and over a long period of time, even disappeared completely.

If you suffer from panic attacks, restlessness, or worry more than you should about everyday scenarios, a high-quality omega 3 supplement might be the solution to your problems.

Make sure to let us know how fish oil benefits your cognitive health.


References:

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2702216
  2. https://newsroom.heart.org/news/strength-trial-finds-new-fish-oil-medication-did-not-reduce-the-risk-of-cardiac-events
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6087692/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656338/

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