Constitutional Remedies for Panic and Anxiety Disorders
Recently, a friend and I were driving down Hwy. 400, headed towards our favourite restaurant and looking forward to a leisurely lunch. The traffic slowed down due to construction ahead, and we proceeded in a stop-and-go manner.
“Get off the highway!” my friend suddenly exclaimed. I thought she was concerned about being late and wanted me, the driver, to take an alternate route.
“Don’t worry. We’ll start to move soon; once we get past the bottleneck,” I assured her.
“No! Get off the highway, please!” she repeated with an increased sense of urgency in her voice. “I am having a panic attack!”
What is Panic Disorder?
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear, accompanied by severe physical reactions when there is no apparent cause or real danger. The physical reactions can include chest pain, heart palpitations, breathlessness, vertigo, sweating, and more. Sufferers describe the feeling as losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying.
The term ‘panic disorder’ suggests that it is a recurrent problem. People with recurrent panic attacks can be in constant fear and anticipation of the next attack.
People suffering with panic disorders can develop phobias about places, such as shopping malls, where previous episodes may have occurred. They also develop fears related to the experiences that have set off an attack in the past, such as an airplane flight, or driving on the highway – as was the case with my friend.
A Case of Panic Attacks
May was at work and preparing for an important presentation to a client. Suddenly, she felt an intense wave of fear come over her. Her heart pounded, the room started to spin, and she began perspiring profusely. She sat in the boardroom trying to catch her breath, waiting for the episode to pass.
The next attack came two weeks later, during the elevator ride to her 8th floor condo unit. “Luckily, no one was in the elevator,” she told me. From that day on, she started taking the stairs, both at home and work.
The next episode took place when May was out with her friends in a crowded restaurant. After that, she started becoming fearful of having episodes in public and began avoiding social situations.
During her initial homeopathic consultation, May told me her life had shrunk and she described herself as a recluse. She was distressed, crying, and in complete despair. She had seen her medical doctor initially and was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed the panic disorder and prescribed the medication Zoloft. Shortly after taking the drug, she experienced side-effects of sleeplessness, nausea, and excessive sweating; she had to be taken off the medication.
Her search for answers, and a natural solution to her problem, led her to homeopathy.
Since prescribing a homeopathic remedy for anxiety and panic involves a detailed investigation of all physical and emotional symptoms involved in any particular case, I proceeded to ask May all about her symptoms and experiences with anxiety. During the two hour interview I discovered her restless and fearful nature, an inability to concentrate for long periods of time, sensitive eyes, chilly nature, right sided head-aches, and sinus troubles. I also learned about her childhood traumas. Based on my understanding of May’s nature, I chose the homeopathic remedy called Natrum arsenicosum.
“I felt this ridiculous calmness after taking the second homeopathic pellet,” May reported during our subsequent meeting. She had experienced some anxiety during the six weeks between appointments, however she was “able to talk myself out of it and remain in control.” May started to take the elevator again and resumed her social life. She felt confident knowing that, if and when the anxiety or panic returned, she could take the prescribed homeopathic remedy.
Why Homeopathy Makes Sense
When choosing a remedy, a homeopath is looking for a common thread between a patient’s physical, mental, and emotional states, as well as the parallels between the characteristics of the remedy and its manifestations in the human organism.
Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted natural substances in energetic or vibrational form. They work with the body’s own healing intelligence. Homeopathy is based on the important fact that the human organism is always trying to maintain homeostasis; trying to heal and balance itself. For example, nasal catarrh (defined as excess mucus caused by inflammation of the nose) is the body’s way of transporting toxins out of the system in an effort to regain balanced health. In the case of nasal catarrh, a homeopath will prescribe a remedy to accelerate the expectoration of the mucus, thus working with the body’s own healing intelligence in order to restore balance.
Conventional (or allopathic) medicine treats the symptoms themselves, and thus assumes that once the symptoms are gone (usually suppressed), the person is healthy. However, suppressing the illness can cause it to be driven into a deeper and more complex state.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
‘Anxiety’ is a word that we use to describe feelings of worry, unease, nervousness, and fear. It is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response – our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened. In moderation, anxiety is a normal response to daily stresses, such as having butterflies in the stomach before an interview or an important meeting.
But when persistent anxiety starts to interfere with daily functioning, such as social life, parenting, self-care, relationships, and leisure activities, it is then considered a disorder. Anxiety disorders can manifest as exaggerated or imagined worry and tension, such as anticipating disaster, agonizing over health, money, family, work, or being judged in some way.
The difference between anxiety and panic is best described in terms of the intensity of the symptoms and the length of time they occur. Panic attacks are much more severe and last for longer periods.
A Case of Hypochondriases (aka Health Anxiety)
Jacob, an elementary school teacher living with his wife and two children, had always been a health conscious person with no major health concerns. After a stressful situation at work, he started experiencing bouts of anxiety and feeling fatigued. As a result, Jacob spent most of his spare time doing internet searches of his symptoms, which made him feel even more anxious.
Jacob had at least two or more appointments per week with some type of health professional, and he demanded all sorts of testing in the hope of finding answers and regaining his health. Every new sensation in his body triggered another round of worry and doctors’ visits.
One doctor, who could not find any abnormalities in Jacob’s medical tests, suggested he seek psychiatric treatment. The psychiatrist diagnosed Jacob with anxiety disorder and suggested medication. Jacob refused the medication and continued searching for natural means to address his health.
During his consultation, Jacob described the biggest trauma he had sustained as a 12-year-old, when his father left the family never to return. “My life has never been the same,” he told me. “I enjoy my work and my family life, but I have this underlying sense of ‘Who cares?’ in my dealings with people.”
Now at 38, Jacob was still burdened with the grief of his father’s abandonment. This prolonged grief, along with his gentle but friendly nature, poor memory, loss of appetite, craving for fruit juices, and specific types of headaches, all pointed to the homeopathic remedy Phosphoric acid. He was instructed to take two doses and to see me again in six weeks.
“I am no longer consumed with my father’s disappearance,” was the first thing Jacob said during our second meeting. He also reported feeling “lighter” and not so obsessed with his health. The number of medical appointments had decreased as his physical energy increased. With continued treatment over a period of six months, Jacob was happy to regain his strength and energy, and he became much less anxious about health matters.
More about Homeopathy
In consulting with a patient, a homeopath’s task is to determine each person’s essence, or the core issues that create their anxiety and panic as a coping mechanism. Anxiety comes with a different trigger for each individual. In Jacob’s case, it was the unexpressed grief over losing his father. As such, the homeopathic remedy is always tailored to the individual’s reactions and personality type.
Sometimes there are things holding us back from being happy and we are not aware of them. Homeopathic remedies are capable of unlocking the body’s ‘stuck’ energy, setting us free and allowing us to proceed with our higher purpose.
Whether you have anxiety about driving a car or flying in an airplane, a fear of the unknown, being ill, or performing in public, homeopathy can help. Consult a Classical Homeopath for a closer look at what’s holding you back and causing you grief.