A Zero Tolerance Policy for Anxiety
In the years that I have worked with clients I have become less and less tolerant of anxiety. More and more I see feelings of anxiety as acute problems that need to be treated immediately.
Emotional symptoms are no different than physical symptoms. In the past both in conventional and natural medicines emotional symptoms were often overlooked or dismissed. New research shows that emotional states like anxiety and depression create permanent damage that can make a person more susceptible to future problems. Persistent emotional trauma is the way that I describe the situation many of my clients are going through.
When we look at physical symptoms we would never disregard them in the same way that we dismiss emotional symptoms. If someone comes in with acute knee pain then that is something that needs to be treated immediately. We would not let the process of pain go on for months and years the way medicine is willing to do with emotional pain like anxiety and depression.
In this case I find myself agreeing more with the pharmaceutical commercials that I see on TV then with my natural medicine colleagues. At least the drug companies are taking emotional problems seriously. This is a least a change from the previous medical perspective of seeing people with chronic low level anxiety or low level depression as high maintenance attention seekers or worse.
Acute and severe emotional states now get more support than they used to in conventional medicine. Acute severe anxiety, acute suicidal depression, acute and obvious post traumatic stress. Acute and severe conditions are all treated in a much more sensitive manner than in the past. This does not mean they are being treated more effectively. Drugs have not proven to be great tools for treating emotional problems.
Most people suffering with emotional imbalances are not in these acute states. If they are in an acute state then often they have just become so used to feeling uncomfortable that it does not feel “acute” to them. It might be chronic low level anxiety, it might be low level obsessive compulsive disorder, or low level persistent sadness or depression.
Very often people come in with and “explanation” for their current symptoms. Often this explanation is based on past experiences and has been reinforced by well meaning physicians and therapists. I see that many patients spend years in therapy working on the same emotional state, repeating the story that they feel explains their current emotions. If a patient had current knee pain we would not spend hours taking about the origin of the pain we would simply get the story once and then work to correct the function of the knee so that the person was no longer in pain.
There is no reason to use yesterday’s medicine to treat today’s problems. Yesterday’s medicines can include both ineffective natural medicines and ineffective pharmaceutical medicines. The problems with yesterday’s medicines start with the fact that blood testing does not show brain chemistry. In fact the the number one antidepressant is prescribed based on no testing at all. Today there is alternative testing that lets us see the balance of the brain chemistry. Yesterday’s treatments include pharmaceutical treatments that now have “black box” warnings that warn depressed or anxious people that these medicine can increase suicidal tendencies.
Now that we can test the levels of brain hormones that determine the emotional state we are much closer to being successful in correcting the problem. Through urine and saliva testing we can see exactly what the balance of brain chemistry is. This testing can basically show us the balance between chemicals that stimulate and relax the brain. You can think of there brain chemical as the gas pedal and brakes of the brain. When we test in this way we can see if a person’s brain is all gas pedal, all brakes, both or neither. Chronic anxiety can be caused by any of these situations and the approach to correcting it is different in each case.
Yesterday’s treatments also include the natural herbal approaches that can be messy, expensive or complicated, or even worse ineffective. As a naturopathic doctor there are no herbs that I haven’t tried to use to correct these problems. Again the problem we that with the brain chemistry test to guide us we never knew exactly what we were treating. Now that we can see the exact brain balance we can use supplements designed to correct those levels.