|□ Constant worry;
□ Extreme reactions to stress;
□ Inability to sit still or relax;
□ Trouble concentrating;
□ Feeling that your brain is in constant over-drive even though you are fatigued;
□ Always fearing the worst;
□ Unable to turn off negative thoughts.
If you identify with any of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. And you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, anxiety is the most common health disorder in America, affecting 19 million US adults, or about 18% of the population.
Fortunately, anxiety disorders are highly treatable conditions for the majority of sufferers. Today there are more options than ever, including natural treatment methods that safe and effective for patients who are looking for alternatives to prescription drugs.
WHAT’S GOT YOU SO WORKED UP?
Anxiety is an unpleasant emotional affect, usually accompanied by a physiological sensation that is characterized by worry, doubt, and the painful awareness that one is powerless to control situations. The anxious person is hyper-vigilant, tense and insecure in most situations. Their heightened-negative state can lead to other health problems and bodily complaints, such as depression, chronic pain, digestive problems, insomnia, and cardiorespiratory irregularities that can be particularly prominent in those who suffer from anxiety.
Common symptoms and associated conditions can include:
- Cycles of depression
- Adrenal gland disorders
- Tight muscles
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Indigestion, acid reflux, GERD
- Light or sound sensitivity
- Attention deficits
- Trouble shifting attention from negative thoughts
- Social phobias
- Muscle twitches or tics
- Impaired bladder control
- Shallow breathing
- Bad posture
In clinical practice, I have found that people who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to be very sensitive to chemicals, medications, and even some natural therapies, such as deep muscle massage and intense exercise. These individuals thrive instead on gentle and restorative therapies. Special precautions must be taken with environmental chemicals and pollutants and to limit side-effects of medications and even nutritional supplements.
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DEALING WITH
There are serious medical conditions that may mimic anxiety or accompany anxiety, and these disorders must be taken seriously and treated appropriately. These may include: heart conditions which are frequently accompanied by dread and apprehension; hyperthyroidism; systemic lupus erythematosus; anemia; blood sugar disorders; respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia. All of these conditions can all result in symptoms that can be confused with or cause anxiety. Drugs like caffeine, alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, and even many medications, both prescriptive and over-the-counter, can all precipitate anxiety attacks.
Most people that have an anxiety disorder have another comorbid (that is, co-occurring and often related) condition, such as depression. Furthermore, there are actually several types of anxiety disorders, and one person can suffer from more than one type. It’s important to realize this because prescriptive medications can work wonderfully for some types, and not well for others. The more you know about what you suffer from, the more likely it is that you will be able to get appropriate treatment for your particular problem.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There are a couple of things that are good to-dos for just about anyone who suffers from anxiety. These include:
1. Low impact, low intensity consistent exercise. Good options include walking and water aerobics (but be careful of chlorinated pools.)
2. Diet and Nutrition.
- The best diet is one that is high in protein (such as fish, chicken and turkey) and essential fatty acids (EPA, DHA, GLA, ALA,) and includes lots of vegetables.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants which can be found in coffee, tea, diet foods and drinks, energy drinks, sodas, chocolate, and some pain relievers.
- Avoid simple sugars, including honey, high fructose corn syrup, and white flour.
- Avoid excito-toxins (such as MSG or hydrolyzed vegetable protein,) artificial ingredients or sweeteners (such as aspartame,) and preservatives.
- Dietary supplements should include broad spectrum B vitamins, Essential Fatty Acids, antioxidants, and CoQ10 just to name a few. Your specific nutritional needs should be determined by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
3. Use natural products in your home for cleaning and for personal care. They have the added benefit of being safer for the environment.
4. Relaxation Techniques.
- Breathing exercises
- Massage (avoid deep tissue work)
5. Counseling with a qualified licensed professional, minister, or other trusted source.
I NEED MORE HELP!
When an anxiety disorder begins to take over your life and affect your work and your personal relationships, further treatment is warranted. As mentioned above, pharmaceutical intervention may be a good option for you. Talk to your doctor about prescribing an anti-anxiety medication or antidepressant.
However, if you’ve already tried this route with limited success, cannot tolerate the side-effects, or are simply looking for a more natural approach, there are other options.
STILL NOT ENOUGH?
There are literally millions of combinations of neurological pathways and circuitry that functional neurologists use to achieve the desired effects. To affect these pathways, we may use a combination of:
- Feedback from muscles and joints, utilizing specific adjustments and neuro-specific exercises;
- Light and sound modifications;
- Balance and coordination optimization (vestibular rehabilitation);
- Cognitive learning exercises, such as number patterns or visualization techniques;
- Oxygen optimization techniques, such as postural enhancement, rib and chest expansion, along with breathing exercises;
- Customized nutritional plans focusing on the fuel delivery, metabolism and detoxification;
- Targeted Amino Acid Therapy which can include neurotransmitter testing to identify imbalances and to help to optimize the chemicals in the brain (such as serotonin and dopamine).