If you experience excessive worry, persistent fears, social phobias, or panic attacks, know that you are not alone. Over 12% of our population is impacted by these symptoms.
Most of us are familiar with ‘fight or flight’ – a sympathetic nervous system response which prepares the body to either face off or flee from danger. Some symptoms of sympathetic arousal include: accelerated heartbeat, perspiration, goosebumps, pupil dilation and the paling or flushing of the skin. If you are one of over four million Canadians plagued by an anxiety disorder, chances are you feel any combination of these symptoms on a regular, if not daily basis.
Unlike the reasonably mild, short-lived apprehension caused by an important meeting or presentation, anxiety disorders are persistent and can grow progressively worse, filling their victims with overwhelming fear and negatively affecting the quality of their lives.
Here are some of the most common types of anxiety disorders.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):
Characterized by six months or more of excessive and uncontrollable ‘free-floating’ worry about a number of events or activities. Related symptoms include irritability, tension, sweating and insomnia.
- Specific Phobia:
An excessive and persistent fear of specific objects (ie, animals) or situations (ie, heights, flying).
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:
Once referred to as shellshock, PTSD is a debilitating condition that often follows a terrifying physical or emotional event causing the person who survived it to have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories/flashbacks of the ordeal. Persons with PTSD often feel emotionally numb, have difficulty concentrating, and may startle easily.
- Social Phobia:
Some people experience excessive fear in social situations where they believe they are going to be judged negatively or make fools of themselves (i.e. eating/talking in public, meeting new people).
- Panic Attack:
A panic attack typically has a sudden onset, and combines physical symptoms ( palpitations, shortness of breath, increased perspiration, trembling, nausea and diarrhea) with an intense feeling of impending doom, fear of dying and/or fear of insanity. Attacks may last anywhere from a few minutes to a half-hour. Panic attack sufferers often develop anticipatory anxiety about future attacks, and may begin to avoid situations they associate with anxiety (i.e., going out in public or air travel).
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
Obsessions are persistent thoughts or fears that preoccupy the sufferer’s mind and are difficult to remove. For example, the person might be obsessed about germs and worry endlessly about picking up bacteria from doorknobs. Compulsions are specific, ritualistic actions that are performed over and over, often to deal with an obsession (i.e., washing the hands a set number of times after touching a doorknob). Interestingly, those affected by OCD are often well aware that their thoughts and actions are irrational, but are unable to voluntarily control them without going through great anxiety.
There is hope for those seeking natural alternatives to alleviate anxiety. Homeopathy is a system of natural medicine which stimulates the body to rebalance itself. It was developed in Germany over 200 years ago by physician and hygienist Samuel Hahnemann, and has been used successfully since then to treat a wide variety of mental, emotional and physical ailments.
Homeopathic treatment involves taking a case history, detailing your health concerns, an overview of all body systems, and the health of your family, both present and past. Because we are all unique beings, the way you experience stress and anxiety is of utmost importance. Based on the information gathered, a single homeopathic remedy is selected specifically for you, designed to bring all body systems back into balance.
Homeopathy is a subtle, non-invasive system of medicine which is safe for people of all ages, expectant or nursing mothers, even infants. It does not interfere with existing medical treatments, and can be effective even if you are currently taking anti-anxiety medication.
Here are some examples of how homeopathy’s individualized approach towards case analysis can effectively get anxiety under control. I’ve included a few additional details to highlight how well-selected remedies can aid in other aspects of a case.
Charlene is a vibrant, 32-year old woman who came to see me primarily for digestive issues which were compounded by financial and work stress. A self-described worrier, a unique feature of her anxiety was that she felt as if her abdomen was full of water. She also described it as ‘sloshy, queasy, and balloony,’ and that she always felt her anxiety there (her solar plexus). I prescribed one dose of Kali-Carbonicum 200CH which greatly reduced Charlene’s gastrointestinal discomfort. One month and one dose later, Charlene informed me that her overall coping skills were much improved, and she no longer felt an uneasy stomach. Another bonus: headaches she had previously experienced daily dissipated over the first few weeks of treatment, and have been kept at bay with the occasional re-dose every two to three months.
James is a portly 35 year-old who complained of feelings of anxiety, discouragement and lack of confidence. He was unable to concentrate or see things through, though he was given to formulating many plans and ventures. James worried excessively about his family and money. At work he was happiest ‘doing things [his] way.’ He had an insatiable appetite (for food, alcohol and sleep) and was always burning hot ‘like a furnace.’ I prescribed one dose of Sulphur 12CH. After three monthly doses of Sulphur, James was pleased to report that he felt relaxed, and was finally able to complete tasks as he now had the ability to take smaller, more manageable steps.
Jennifer, 22, was experiencing daily panic attacks which had her in a constant state of fear (think Edward Munch’s The Scream). She had an extreme fear of dying and described her episodes as small heart attacks. In addition to death, Jennifer had an extreme fear of being alone, which became exaggerated towards midnight, affecting her ability to fall asleep. I prescribed a weekly dose of Arsenicum Album 30CH which significantly reduced the frequency and intensity of Jennifer’s attacks. Insomnia was no longer an issue, and her quality of sleep was much better. After two more doses, Jennifer no longer had panic attacks, irrational fears or chest discomfort, and therefore no longer needed Arsenicum. She still likes to keep a bottle around ‘just in case.’
Andrea, 28, originally came to see me for pain associated with endometriosis. In addition to ongoing, debilitating pain (she literally hobbled in, hunched over), Andrea experienced frequent attacks of vertigo (dizziness) and anxiety and apprehension, usually brought on in the presence of strangers. She described herself as a chilly type, and I noted that her hand was clammy on shaking it. Based on her symptom totality, I prescribed Calcarea Carbonica LM/1, three drops daily, and asked Andrea to keep in touch. Within a few days her overall pain was under control and no longer affecting her ability to walk. Within two and a half weeks, Andrea noted a further reduction in pain, and a complete change in her anxiety levels (she described herself as less edgy; relaxed and content). Andrea continued taking Calcarea Carbonica for approximately 5 months, at which point her monthly cycles became more painful, and her vertigo relapsed. She was quite upset at the thought of switching remedies, as she hadn’t had a panic attack in months, and was scared to experience them again. On careful reassessment of her symptoms, I prescribed Phosphorus LM/1, three drops daily, which has continued to keep her anxiety and other health issues in check.
NUTRITION FOR ANXIETY
Let us not disregard the importance of nutritional support in the treatment of anxiety. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), particularly Omega-3 Fatty Acids, play a critical role in both nerve cell structure and function. A B-Complex Vitamin (B-50), taken twice a day will help support the nervous system. Avoid stimulants like coffee, refined sugar, and alcohol. Did you know that hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) shares many symptoms with anxiety? Try ‘grazing’ throughout the day – don’t starve your mind! Nuts, raw food bars, vegetables with nut butter or hummus, or a high-quality protein shake can all help keep your blood sugar (and moods) stable.
Address your stress. Regular bodywork like massage therapy, shiatsu and chiropractic care can help you wind down, especially if you have been clenching or tensing your body. Try to take some time out in your day to go for a walk, read a book, laugh or cry, exercise, take a relaxing bath or meet a friend – whatever works to keep you centred in times of stress.