Anxiety can present in many different ways and forms. The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, discusses the various conditions within the anxiety spectrum ad nauseam and is beyond the scope of this article. It describes this spectrum anywhere from panic attacks, to phobias, to obsessive-compulsive disorder, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to generalized anxiety and its subsets. Anxiety is even more prevalent that depression, and many times these go hand in hand. It is important for organic causes such as hyperthyroidism, carcinoid syndrome and pheochromocytoma to be ruled out.
Anxiety can be acute (lasts more than 2 days and doesn’t last more than 4 weeks) or chronic (occurs more days than not for at least 6 months). It can be a beneficial part of our existence when used in the short term. For example, alerting us to danger. But sometimes it can take over one’s life and interrupt their daily activities, their sleep, their diet and lifestyles, and even to the point one just doesn’t even want to go out and socialize. This can lead to serious health concerns and cause relationship issues.
Anxiety can stem from a myriad of causes or a combination of them. Besides the aforementioned conditions, caffeine, poor sleep habits, poor diet, lack of exercise and other reasons below can all play a factor.
Let’s face it: we live in very stressful times–whether it is the economy, our jobs, inclement weather, our health or the health of loved ones, or even our pets. These in time can take deleterious tolls. For example, numerous studies have linked anxiety with cardiovascular disease. Not only does it increase its occurrence, but it also increases the risk of an adverse cardiovascular event (stroke or heart attack). Studies have shown that the prevalence of anxiety is high at approximately 70% to 80% among patients who have experienced an acute cardiac event. Even among the patients that have not experienced these events, the prevalence of anxiety is estimated to be between 20-25%.
A meta-analysis (a combination of many similar studies) looked at 249,846 people and the association of anxiety with the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) in initially healthy people, using data from the US, Europe, and Asia. They determined that anxious people had around a 25% greater risk of CHD and an almost 50% higher risk of cardiac death over a mean follow-up period of 11.2 years. The study factored in all other risk factors and health conditions and still found that anxiety caused these results.
For many a decade, conventional medicine has ignored the mind-body connection. Naturopathy on the other hand has seen mind, body and emotions as one, working interchangeably and has a whole. Only until recently has conventional medicine and research paid more attention to these matters. This is especially due to the work on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by Jon Kabat Zinn, PhD from MIT in molecular biology.
Conventionally, anxiety, regardless of etiology or form, tends to be dealt with anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, sleeping medications, and at times, counseling. Naturopathically, we tend to go a step further. We encourage counseling, but at the same time will look at the whole person: diet, lifestyle, nutrition and social support. We follow a therapeutic order, utilizing the less forceful, least invasive means possible, while always still meeting the patient where they are. We have nutrition and lifestyle modifications at our fingertips. We might use botanical medicines or physical medicine (examples include massage, craniosacral therapy, osseous manipulation therapy and hydrotherapy). We can utilize other methods such as cell salts (tissue salts) or flower essences.
Naturopaths tend to utilize such lifestyle modifications and additions as simple as cutting back on caffeine, breathing exercises, yoga and exercise in general. The list is almost endless.
Many patients may already be on medications and might be worried about potential interactions. These are logical, justifiable and legitimate concerns. This is where homeopathy can play a significant role in your healthcare.
Homeopathy is a system of medicine that has been around for over 200 years. In fact, before the advent of Penicillin in 1928 and its more widespread usage in the 30’s and 40’s, all medical schools in the US taught homeopathy. Homeopathy sustained as the major form of medicine until the 1950’s as pharmaceutical medications became more widely used.
It was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, MD, a German physician. He was concerned over the medical practices of the day, including blood-letting and purging patients with poisons such as arsenic. He felt there had to be a better way. So, he developed homeopathy, based upon the principle that like cures like, which comes from the father of medicine Hippocrates (460-377 BCE). Homeopathy also uses the principle of extremely dilute substances. The more dilute the substance, the more powerful and deeper acting the remedy is.
Homeopathy is considered an “energetic” medicine and therefore, does not interact with any medications, supplements or herbs. Much like naturopathy, it takes a person’s physical, mental and emotional picture, much like a jigsaw puzzle, and puts the pieces together to match them to 1 of about 5,000 remedies–a seemingly daunting task indeed. Although the science and art behind homeopathy is very challenging, a good naturopath that utilizes homeopathy doesn’t tend to have much difficulty in finding a good remedy to match your entire self.
Basically, there are two kinds of homeopathy: acute and constitutional. Acute is what people are more familiar with. This tends to be the individuals that go to their local health food store and purchase a blue tube, in 30C potency (strength) that has an indication on it. For example, you might see a remedy that’s called Spongia tosta and its “indication” is dry cough. This is an acute remedy, because you have an acute condition. The reason there’s an indication on the label is because the food and drug administration (FDA) governs homeopathy. So, although it may say “dry cough,” the remedy may and can be used for many, many more conditions. This is why it is of the utmost importance to seek a qualified health practitioner, such as an ND (naturopathic doctor) to utilize these medicines appropriately and deftly. Furthermore, you can only get a potency stronger than a 30C via a prescription by your physician.
There are many well known homeopathic remedies that are used in anxiety. Arsenicum album, Phosphorus, Carcinosin, Syphylinum, Natrum muriaticum, Calcarea carbonicum, Gelsemium sempervirens, Aconite napelus and Sulphur, just to name a few. This is where “constitutional” homeopathy rains king. The constitutional homeopathy is the aforementioned jigsaw puzzle metaphor Again, more of a reason to see a trained physician to get a good remedy that helps with not only your anxiety, but with any and all of your help concerns. Homeopathy is all about optimizing your one true self. It enables the genes you were given at conception and makes them work at a more optimal level.
Just to give an example of how powerful this medicine can be, I’ll give you a case I had about a year ago. This was a 49-year-old female that presented to my office with concerns of peri-menopausal symptoms, panic attacks, extreme anxiety and insomnia. Her peri-menopausal symptoms included hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, volatile emotions ranging from weeping and crying to extreme irritability and chronic migraines. Her anxiety presented in the form of inability to cope with day to day interactions and circumstances and these lead to panic attacks. The icing on the cake for her was that she had insomnia from the racing thoughts which worsened her anxiety and lead to more panic attacks.
Upon speaking with her and getting a good picture of her mental, emotional and physical self, I gave her Arsenicum album 1M, 3 pellets dissolved under her tongue, in office, one time and to return in 2 weeks. She returned in two weeks and said she didn’t know what I did or gave her, but she had not had one migraine, went from 4-6 hot flashes a day, to only 2 in two weeks and no episodes of night sweats. She only reported one episode of crying and that was because her dog got sick and she had to take him to the vet. She reported that her boyfriend commented on how stable her mood was. Her sleep was the best it had been in years. The vaginal dryness didn’t correct, so I prescribed one softgel of vitamin E 400IU, punctured and apply topically to the vulva and inside the vagina.
I told her to return in 2 weeks. Upon follow up, she reported that she still had no peri-menopausal symptoms, was able to cope 95% more in her day to day interactions, and no panic attacks. I saw her for another 6 months in my practice before she moved away and I only had to re-dose her remedy (the Arsenicum album) once, at a lower (weaker) potency of 30C.
Dr. Born utilizes integrative medicine to focus on chronic disease, with a strong interest in difficult to treat and refractory cases, gastrointestinal issues, neurological and neurodegenerative disorders, endocrinology, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, autoimmune disease, development and behavioral issues, HIV/AIDS, and geriatrics.