Anxiety; A Naturopathic Medicine Approach


by Michael Lonardo, PSc.D, TND.  | September 6, 2017 |

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.  Anxiety  encompasses a wide range of diagnoses which include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, phobias, PTSD and depression as well as social anxiety.

The first thing when meeting a new client is to learn from them in what way anxiety affect their lives.  I need to know as much as possible about their triggers, I need to know why and what they worry about.  Essentially they need to take me on a tour of their brain.  In addition I want to know how they know it is anxiety.  Were they diagnosed this way?  Did a friend tell them?  Do they agree or disagree with it?

Anxiety affects people differently but generally speaking anxiety affects potentially every single organ in some way or another in addition to our nervous system.  Some people have some of the symptoms or all of them and sometimes very few, just the mental and emotional symptoms, and many of us don’t even identify with having chronic anxiety or anxiety disorders or anxiety symptoms.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

The physical symptoms of anxiety refer to how we experience anxiety in our bodies. Examples include:

  • A feeling of restlessness, feeling “keyed up,” or “on-edge;”
  • Shortness of breath, or a feeling of choking;
  • Sweaty palms;
  • A racing heart;
  • Chest pain or discomfort;
  • Muscle tension, trembling, feeling shaky;
  • Nausea and/or diarrhea;
  • “Butterflies” in the stomach;
  • Dizziness, or feeling faint;
  • Hot flashes;
  • Chills;
  • Numbness, or tingling sensations;
  • An exaggerated startle response; and,
  • Sleep disturbance and fatigue.

These symptoms are caused by the physiological changes that occur in the body during a fight-or-flight response. Unfortunately, our bodies do not distinguish between a real and present danger in the environment (fear), and an imagined or anticipated danger in the future (anxiety).

Behavioral symptoms of anxiety

The behavioral symptoms of anxiety refer to what people do (or don’t do) when they are anxious. Behavioral responses reflect attempts to cope with the unpleasant aspects of anxiety.

Typical behavioral responses to anxiety may include:

  • Avoidance behaviors such as avoiding anxiety-producing situations (e.g., avoiding social situations) or places (e.g., using the stairs instead of an elevator).
  • Escaping from an anxiety-producing situation (like a crowded lecture hall).
  • Engaging in unhealthy, risky, or self-destructive behaviors (such as excessive drinking or drug use to deal with the anxiety).
  • Feeling compelled to limit the amount and scope of one’s daily activities to reduce the overall level of anxiety (e.g., remaining in the safety of one’s home).
  • Becoming overly attached to a safety object or person (e.g., refusing to go out, away from home, to school, or to work in order to avoid separation).

Ironically, these coping strategies often worsen and maintain an anxiety disorder.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety in its most basic form is an emotion. However, this emotion produces a set of feelings. Common words used to describe the feelings of anxiety include:

  • apprehension,
  • distress,
  • dread,
  • nervousness,
  • feeling overwhelmed,
  • panic,
  • uneasiness,
  • worry,
  • fear or terror,
  • jumpiness or edginess.

Some individuals, especially children, may not even be able to describe their feelings and may at times simply answer, “I don’t know what I feel.” Interestingly, many people find the emotional component of anxiety most distressing. However, the other symptoms of anxiety, such as thoughts, behaviors, and physical responses cause the greatest disturbance in terms of their daily functioning.

Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

Finally, there are the cognitive symptoms of anxiety. Whether we realize it or not, it is often quite common to have thoughts running through our mind when we feel anxious. Even when we do not feel anxious, we have thousands of thoughts every day! The thoughts people experience when anxious are commonly referred to as worry (Bourne, 2000). Although the content of the thoughts may vary depending on the person and situation, common themes include:

  • “What if _ happens?”
  • “I must have certainty.”
  • “I can’t possibly tolerate not knowing_.”
  • “What do these physical symptoms mean?”
  • “People will laugh at me.”
  • “I won’t be able to escape.”
  • “I am going crazy.”
  • “Oh my God, what’s happening to me?”

Depending on the nature of the specific anxiety disorder, and a person’s own unique anxiety history, the possible worrisome thoughts may vary.

The psychological symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Problems with concentration, or difficulty with staying on task;
  • Memory difficulties; and,
  • Depressive symptoms such as hopelessness, lethargy, and poor appetite.

 

Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

There’s definitely a connection between IBS and anxiety.  Even those of us who don’t necessarily suffer from anxiety have experienced nervousness, will notice that our gut is definitely affected and we may have loose bowels, bloating, difficulty digesting, or we might not have an appetite or want to eat.  These all are common in people who have chronic anxiety. Genitourinary symptoms, such as frequent urination, or frequent thirst, often leading people to think that they have diabetes. Also, there might be a delay in urination, so you feel like you have to go to the restroom, you go and then there’s a moment where you can’t really go, and you’re trying to force yourself.  It is called urinary hesitancy.   Finally,we have the autonomic; the symptoms that are related to the autonomic, or automatic, nervous system, such as a dry mouth, dilated pupils, sweating or flushing, and this also related to our GI symptoms.

This is just small list anxiety symptoms.   Clearly you can tell, they affect basically every single system in the body. Our nervous system, which is what is affected in anxiety, consists of our brain, our spinal cord and all of our nerves. Nerves go to and from different body organs and our nervous system is divided into the voluntary and the involuntary, or autonomic, nervous system and our autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. So our sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” nervous system. This gets turned on when we sense an immediate danger and our body is primed to respond to that danger.

The parasympathetic nervous system is turned on when we’re sleeping and digesting, and when we’re a state of otherwise calm, when there is no danger around. You can think of these two systems as a seesaw. One gets turned on while the other gets turned off and our body should be able to toggle back and forth between these two arms of the autonomic nervous system easily and without getting stuck in either one and depending on the situation and what’s going on. So imagine that you’re walking through the forest, and you’re feeling calm, and you’re feeling at peace, and then you look down at what you think is a stick on the ground that starts to move, your autonomic nervous system is going to kick you into the sympathetic, fight or flight, response. In this response your body will be primed to either fight, flight, run away, or freeze. And these three responses are what will get us away from the danger or meet that impending danger and this is what our body will respond with in order to ensure our survival when there are dangerous situations that we’re faced with.

Once that danger’s gone, we’ve either fought, flown, or frozen and the danger has forgotten about us and left, we’ll return to the parasympathetic nervous system. We need the parasympathetic nervous system turned on when we’re eating and when we’re sleeping. If we have problems, so if we get stuck in that fight or flight response for too long, either because we perceive there to be danger, or our body simply can’t switch back into the parasympathetic state, we’re going to have problems with feeling relaxed, sleeping soundly, and digesting our food properly.

In today’s world some of us experience chronic stress, their system is simply overworked.  This keeps the sympathetic nervous response far longer than we should be.  For someone with anxiety this just makes their situation worse. There’s a hypothesis, or personality theorists hypothesize that some of us are just born with a higher level of neuroticism as part of our constitutional tendencies. So I see that a lot of anxiety will run in families, especially in female clients, many of them will have grown up with a mother who suffered from anxiety. So there’s definitely a nature component to the nature-nurture debate in terms of what causes anxiety. So, while we can’t really affect our nature, or our genetics, we can affect how those genes are expressed and we can look at the environmental factors that might trigger those genes to be expressed.

That’s why I’m here!  As a naturopathic doctor I’ll take a full assessment so I may understand what someone’s symptoms of anxiety are, what external factors they face, the environment of their life  and look for possible causes that might be making their anxiety worse or making it difficult for them to function and perform day to day.  Essentially making what is preventing them from living the life that they know they can live.

Let address chronic stress. When one is stressed out, like I when you encounter a snake in the grout in the back yard, our body will release hormones called norepinephrine and epinephrine. Those are our fight or flight hormones. Those do not last long and when they run out, our body starts to make cortisol. Cortisol is a more long-term stress hormone. However, when we’re stuck in that sympathetic state our body becomes, in theory our body becomes unable to produce as much cortisol for long periods of time, that our adrenals get “fatigued”. Another theory is that our brain stops responding to cortisol and we develop a kind of cortisol resistance.   We’ll see a lot of brain fog, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, especially around the abdomen, and people will experience a lot of inflammatory symptoms, so that’s when we see joint pain and muscle aches and potentially, worsening of depression as cortisol can kind of motivate us and get us going, because, if you think about it, when we’re in a state of fight, flight or freeze, that’s an action-oriented state, once our body stops responding to that, we enter this kind of burnout and exhaustive phase.

What’s more, once our body stops responding to cortisol, in order to maintain that sympathetic tone, to stay in that fight or flight state, that for whatever reason our body is turned on to, we start to make those catecholamines, norepinephrine and epinephrine again and that contributes to those symptoms of anxiety. So essentially what anxiety is, is a high cortisol, high norepinephrine state, where we have that racing heart, we have those tense muscles, we’re looking for danger and our body, for one reason or another, expects that there’s some kind of danger that it needs to defend itself against.

So, not all stress is bad stress. You think of a new mom, she’s full of love and all these feel-good hormones, but the lack of sleep, the added responsibility, all of the things that having a new baby might mean to her and her life, are going to contribute to more stress hormones going through her system. And so I’ll ask a lot of my clients if they’re stressed and, even though I’m kind of getting a sense of high stress from them in terms of their level of busyness, and their level of downtime and just the demands on them in their day-to-day life, a lot of them will say that they don’t feel stressed, that they love their job. So it’s not about whether you love your job, or whether or not you love the things that are, basically, getting piled onto your plate, it’s your body’s perception of those things. So, our body does well when it has enough down time, it has enough restful sleep, and it gets enough breaks. So that keeps that toggle from the sympathetic nervous system, to the parasympathetic nervous system, fluctuating in a healthy way, without getting in one or the other.

Another common cause of anxiety that I see, or definitely a factor that exacerbates anxiety symptoms, is blood sugar imbalance. So, when we wake up in the —a lot of us wake up in the morning and we have cereal, or we have those packaged oatmeals. So, in North America we eat high-carb, high-sugar breakfasts, or we skip breakfast, or we just eat a lot of carbs and sugar in general throughout the day. When you eat a food that’s high on the glycemic index, that contains a lot of easily digestible carbs or refined flours and sugar, we get this immediate spike in blood sugar, as those sugars are absorbed directly into our blood stream. When we get this high level of sugar, we might feel a lot of energy, we might feel really good, we get a lot of dopamine release, and it feels pretty awesome, we get a lot of immediate energy that our body can use. But then, because our body wants to maintain a certain level of blood sugar, what gets released next is a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps that glucose, that sugar, get inside of our cells, where we can use it for energy. If our blood sugar shoots up too high our body sends more insulin into the blood stream to lower that sugar. Sometimes it sends too much insulin and our blood sugar plummets, we get hypoglycaemia symptoms: dizziness, “hangry”, irritability, weakness, fatigue, you’d kill someone for a piece of toast kind of situation, and carb cravings, and we respond by eating more carbs and the cycle begins again. That can exacerbate anxiety because our energy levels are going to be rising really quickly and falling really quickly. Stress hormones are going to get triggered everytime we enter a hypoglycaemic state. And, because cortisol also releases sugar into the blood, so cortisol and insulin work together. Going through this eb and flow of blood sugar, basically riding the blood sugar rollercoaster, is going to exacerbate and mimic a lot of the anxiety symptoms that I described. So a lot of people I talk to, when they’re experiencing anxiety, oftentimes, during the day when they’re experiencing anxiety, it’s between meals, or it’s after a high carb, high sugar meal. And, so a big part of managing their anxiety, or at least creating a terrain where their mental health can function optimally, and their emotional wellness has a chance to function optimally, is to get their blood sugar nice and level. And this means adding protein and fat to every single meal, lowering those refined carbohydrates, beginning each day with a high-fat, and high-protein breakfast. Nutrient deficiency is another really big cause that I look for when it comes to anxiety. So, the happy hormone, serotonin, which is implicated in both depression and anxiety, that’s what the antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs like cipralex or prozac act on, so those selective-serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. This is a hormone that gives us a feeling of satisfaction, it gives us a feeling of uplift, it’s often what tanks when we crave carbs, and so eating carbohydrates kind of perks our serotonin levels up. In order to make serotonin, we need an amino acid called tryptophan, which we get from protein, and we need the vitamins B6, magnesium, B12, and zinc, and iron. And those take tryptophan and turn it into another amino acid called 5HTP, which then gets turned into serotonin. And then, once we have enough serotonin, that gets turned into melatonin, which helps us sleep and regulates our circadian rhythms. So any break in either of those pathways is going to result is us having lower levels of serotonin and melatonin available to our nervous system for us to have proper mental and emotional regulation. When we’re stressed out, our demand for those nutrients goes up, because our adrenal glands are also sucking in a lot of those nutrients to make cortisol and the catecholamines. Protein is super important, not just for blood sugar regulation, but to give us the amino acids that we need to make the proper neurotransmitters. So, I mentioned serotonin, I also mentioned norepinephrine and epinephrine and other ones include dopamine, GABA, which is a nervous system calming neurotransmitter, glycine, another nervous system calming neurotransmitter, and a good source of glycine is collagen, or gelatin, and tyrosine, which makes dopamine and also makes the catecholamines. So we need tryptophan, which makes serotonin and melatonin, we need GABA, which makes GABA, and that calms our nervous system down, we need tyrosine, which makes dopamine, this is a feel-good hormone that helps us seek rewards and feel motivated, and energized, also tyrosine gets made into thyroid hormones, again, which helps us feel energized and keeps our energy levels stable and our metabolism revved up, and the catecholamines, norephinephrine and epinephrine, which we need for that fight or flight response and that we’re going to be burning through a lot more quickly when we’re in that fight or flight response. And then glycine, another nervous system-calming amino acid. And glycine also helps balance the nervous system. Typically we don’t suffer from protein deficiency in North America, but I see it more and more, especially low-quality sources of protein. So, chicken nuggets, yeah they have chicken in them, but they only have about 10 grams of protein and a ton of trans fats and a lot of processed carbohydrates. So, although we might be eating hamburgers and chicken fingers and omelettes on waffle, we’re not necessarily getting enough good sources of protein. So, ensuring protein from things like legumes, nuts and seeds, clean animal products, fish, like salmon, and white fish, are all really important and I often suggest people get 30 grams of protein per meal, so three times a day, but it depends on your weight, it depends on your energy demands and it depends on your lifestyle and how stressed out your are, because our demands for protein definitely go up during stress. It also depends on how level your blood sugar is and if you’re getting those hypoglycemic symptoms, sometimes those people need to increase their protein, while decreasing some of the carbohydrates, especially those refined carbohydrates, and give their body more fiber-rich carbohydrates that the body has to work harder to extract and release into the bloodstream. Another really common cause, or contribution, or exacerbation to anxiety is iron deficiency. We see this a lot in menstruating women. It’s not super common in young men to have iron deficiency, but women who are menstruating every month, especially women with heavy periods, and who are experiencing fatigue, definitely need to get their ferritin levels tested. Ferritin, in our blood, will tell us what our iron stores are like, how much iron we have available to our tissues. Iron is useful for participating in lots of different chemical reactions in the body, as part of normal metabolism, but it’s also important for carrying oxygen to our tissues and oxygen is what we need in a process called oxidative phosphorylation, which gives us energy.  No oxygen, no energy and what will happen is, if we lower levels of iron in our blood and lower levels of oxygen, our heart starts to beat faster in order to send more volumes of blood to our tissue. So, it figures, if, with each heartbeat, I’m not sending as much oxygen, if I just double up my heartbeats, I might send double the amount of oxygen and try to meet the demands of the tissues that I’m sending oxygen to. You can kind of figure out, then that quick heartbeat mimics those heart palpitation symptoms of anxiety and can trigger some anxiety symptoms. Iron’s also go this grounding affect. It gives us this nice, level energy. And there’s a very specific feeling to iron deficiency fatigue that a lot of women may have experienced. It’s not quite like a sleepiness, or a lethargy, it’s a very specific feeling of just depletion. So it’s important to get ferritin checked and then find a kind of iron that you can take every day to build your levels up, at least for a few months, and one that’s easily absorbed.

Another reason why iron might be low is in the case of leaky gut, or malabsorption syndrome, so this can occur in somebody with inflammatory bowel disease, or celiac disease, where the intestinal cells are just not able to absorb as many nutrients, or somebody with IBS, so, just generally sluggish digestion, inefficient digestion, perhaps a lack of stomach acid, or a lack of those digestive enzymes that help us absorb our food. IBS and leaky gut are other common symptoms and causes of anxiety. So it’s kind of a chicken or an egg situation. Our gut bacteria produces serotonin, dopamine. We’ve got about 5 trillion in our gut, and that’s about 10x more cells than we have in our bodies. For the most part, when it comes to a cell-to-cell basis, we have 10x more gut bacteria than we have cells. So we’re more gut bacteria than us. Our gut bacteria, there’s good ones, there’s bad ones, we haven’t been able to isolate all of them, there’s very little, relatively, that we know about the microbiome, but a lot more research is coming out, especially in the area of mental health. We know that these gut bacteria can make their own neurotransmitters. They can even specifically ask for food, so a lot of people with sugar cravings have a dysbiosis going on where the gut bacteria need those refined carbohydrates and that sugar, in order for them to grow. And so they’re sending out ghrelin, or hunger-stimulating signals to try and get us to eat more sugary foods. Our gut bacteria also make most of the serotonin in the body and our gut cells also make most of the serotonin in the body. So if we have unhealthy gut cells, they’re not going to be able to regulate our nervous system. And if we have an imbalance in gut bacteria, again we won’t be able to regulate our nervous system, because we won’t be producing those neurotransmitters that we need to balance and to be able to toggle seamlessly between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The gut is also where a lot of our immunity lies. And our immune system is going to be the cause of low-levels of inflammation, especially if there’s a little bit of autoimmunity or food sensitivities, or allergies going on. Low levels of inflammation are going to affect our brain. So there is a hypothesis that depression is caused by low-grade inflammation in the brain. We don’t have pain receptors in our brains, so we‘re not able to detect inflammation in the way you would with an inflamed knee. If you injured your knee or had arthritis in your knee, and you would notice that your knee was red and swollen and it would hurt to touch and you wouldn’t be able to walk on it. We don’t get those symptoms in our brain because of the lack of pain receptors and so how brain inflammation might manifest is brain fog, difficulty concentrating, depression, anxiety, mental chatter, negative self-talk, negative thoughts, those symptoms that are really common, mental symptoms, in something like depression and anxiety.

There’s a lot more we need to research about this, but there’s something called LPS, lipopolysaccharide, that’s produced by some of the “bad” gut bacteria. When rats were injected with lipopolysaccharide, or when human volunteers were injected with lipopolysaccharide, we mimic the symptoms of depression. When those same people and rats were given EPA, which is a very anti-inflammatory fatty acid that’s from fish, marine sources like salmon and sardines, the depression symptoms went away. There are also some studies in depression with prednisone and corticosteroids, which lower inflammation really rapidly. They come with a host of side effects, so that they’re not that great of a remedy for depression, but they actually lowered depressive symptoms. There’s a lot of a connection that we’re noticing, between inflammation and depression and anxiety and we’re just not sure to the extent that inflammation causes depression. I tend to think that, probably most cases of depression and anxiety have some kind of inflammation present, especially when we consider that just chronic, turned on, sympathetic nervous system and high levels of cortisol is going to contribute to a cortisol resistance in the brain and increase neuroinflammation, especially in the hypothalamus.

We also know, as I mentioned before that symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of IBS often go hand in hand. And so, a lot of the anxiety symptoms that people will get are looser bowels, bloating, loss of appetite, just difficulty digesting their food. And a lot of symptoms that people with IBS will get are anxiety. And one of the treatments for IBS are selective-serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which, you guessed it, are also drugs that treat anxiety.

Another common cause that fits really well into my practice, my focus is on mental health and hormones, and these two areas overlap, probably more than they don’t overlap, it hormonal imbalance. Especially in women, men have their own host of issues when it comes to hormonal imbalance, but women, because their hormones are cycling and going through different phases all month long, they’re more susceptible to problems with proper hormone regulation, especially in the face of female endocrine disorders such as PMS, PMDD, PCOS, all of the acronyms, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts, and just dysmenorrhea, so painful and heavy menstruation, or irregular cycles. All of these point to symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Estrogen and progesterone are the two female hormones and they do have effects, yes on the ovaries, and they control ovulation, they control building up of their uterine lining and shedding of the uterine lining, when those two hormones fall away, and that causes their period to occur, so they definitely control their fertility, but they also have affects on other tissues in the body. One of those tissues, one of those organs, is their brain, their nervous system, so estrogen can work a little bit like serotonin and, so what you might notice, right before their period when their estrogen levels drop, or women that are going through menopause and have a drop in estrogen levels, is they’ll get irritable, get depressed and crave carbs like crazy. A lot of women get something called premenstrual dysphoric disorder which is where they have fluctuations in their estrogen levels. So, lowering of estrogen, or insufficient estrogen, may cause some of those more depressive anxiety symptoms, progesterone acts like a GABA agonist, which, I mentioned before, is a calming neurotransmitter. So, lower levels of progesterone, and I see this in a lot with women who have something called “estrogen dominance”, women with PCOS as well, and women who have high estrogen symptoms, or conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids, and fibrocystic breasts, and those kind of symptoms, or conditions where estrogen levels tend to be high, and progesterone levels tend to be low or deficient, they’ll often have anxiety with these symptoms. And lower levels of progesterone, especially premenstrually, often are related to low mood and anxiety, and cravings. So, looking at hormones, especially when the client sitting across from me has a lot of menstrual issues, and irregular cycles and all of the other things I mentioned, I’ll definitely look into hormones and promote proper estrogen detoxification and building up of progesterone. A common cause of low progesterone is being in that fight or flight state. So, now I’m starting to reveal how this web interconnects, how everything is tangled together and how cortisol and blood sugar all relate to everything. So, cortisol, it uses the same precursor to make progesterone, and, when our body needs more cortisol, it will steal progesterone from the system to make cortisol. Because our body has to prioritize sometimes, and getting away from that snake in the grass, and saving our life is more important than making babies to our body in the short-term. So, we suffer in the long-term if that snake in the yard never goes away and we’re always kind of worried about juggling all the things in our lives. But a lot of women who are chronically stressed, or are in that sympathetic nervous state, will have lower levels of progesterone, so doing a lot of adrenal support is one of the ways that we help their bodies build up some progesterone.

And then, finally, as mentioned earlier, there’s a reason that we have anxiety, it’s not an irrational fear. A lot of the time when I sit across from clients, the things that they’re worried about are legit things to worry about. Maybe they’re out of work, or there’s financial worries, maybe there’s just so much on their plate that it’s difficult to find any time for themselves, or make ends meet, maybe they’re unhappy with their career, they’re relationship is in jeopardy. There are all kinds of things that people deal with on a daily basis. That being said, there’s also people who are just primed to be more neurotic than others, based on that spectrum of neuroticism in terms of personality and constitutional predisposition. I think we all know there are some people who are just a little bit more anxious than others and that diversity in human personality probably helped us evolutionarily and so I think there was obviously an evolutionary advantage for someone who’s nervous system was a bit more responsive. Those people could get away from danger, they were expecting danger more often, and they probably ended up surviving and passing their genes on to their ancestors more readily than those who were way too laid back and didn’t think about danger and got themselves into risky situations.

Those who are a little bit more neurotic may be predisposed to negative thinking, over-estimating the negative outcomes of certain events or maybe engaging in critical self-talk. Especially in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, there’s definitely a connection between early childhood trauma and or just trauma in adulthood, some of these experiences can teach us to turn our nervous system on, or to get triggered more easily as a way of surviving in the future. There’s different areas of psychotherapy that deal with these phenomena, and they term them different ways, but they can be called core beliefs, or certain mental schemas, so when our brain experiences very strong emotions, the amygdala wires those emotions down in implicit memories. They’re really tightly wired and those memories get triggered again whenever there’s a situation that reminds us of the situation that wired down those responses. It might be a certain smell, or a certain sound, or a certain song, something that activates those memories, which may not be conscious, because the amygdala is pre-verbal, will trigger those feelings of fear and prime our body to respond. And the problem is that we’re surrounded by potential stimuli all the time that can trigger that. And so, really understanding what triggers anxiety symptoms, where those triggers may have come from, and bringing those memories up to the cognitive, cerebral cortex and rational mind, so that we can help dissolve those memories, is a big part of psychotherapy and how we manage anxiety with psychotherapy. Especially if we think the cause of anxiety may be related back to some sort of childhood trauma or implicit memory that was consolidated.

Those are some root causes of anxiety that I would look for as a naturopathic doctor, among many others. What an intake will look like is a 60 to 120 minute conversation with the person in front of me where I get to know them and understand the environment surrounding the phenomena of their symptoms, the symptoms themselves, and all of the other different factors that might be contributing to the anxiety that they’re displaying.   We get personal; I’ll ask about period health, I’ll ask about sleep, I’ll ask about their energy levels, I’ll ask about any other physical symptoms they might be experiencing, their digestion, what their stress levels are like. We’ll go through a review of systems, looking at every single organ system and trying to create a tabulation of how anxiety might be manifesting for them, and we may even explore what their core beliefs are, or implicit memories are in future visits. And we’ll talk about diet. And then I’ll make some recommendations as I begin to understand what those root causes of anxiety might be. So we’ll look at whether they may be experiencing nutrient deficiencies, leading to an imbalance in proper neuroendocrine production, if there might be some inflammation going on, if they may be experiencing some digestive issues, or some hormonal imbalances, or if there’s chronic stress going on in their life. And so what we’ll do is, once we find out the causes, we’ll engage in some psycho-education, so I really believe in empowering my clients to understand their bodies, to be able to notice when things are triggering them, to notice what exacerbates their anxiety, what makes it better, and to develop a self-care plan where we’re eating right, we’re thinking right, we’re exercising right and we’re getting enough rest, if possible.

If you need help in this area go on over and schedule yourself for an initial consultation.  I’d love to help you too!

 

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