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Articles by Tamara Der-Ohanian, DSHM

Anxiety

As published in the February 2005 issue of Vitality Magazine

In a society that praises perfect physical appearance, youth, confidence, and material wealth, it is no surprise that many people develop feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and depression. The impossible to achieve false standards created by advertisers have eroded our self-esteem; making panic, fear, obsession and compulsion the coping mechanisms through which sufferers attempt to regain their dignity and power.

Low self-esteem, of course, is not the only factor that triggers feelings of anxiety. While there is not a specific cause, anxiety disorders appear to be impacted and triggered by the social/physical environment, personality traits, life experiences, and genetics. Women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders twice as often as men (women also frequent doctors more often) except with Obsessive – Compulsive Disorder, which occurs equally between men and women.

If you are constantly afraid of being judged, experience tightness in the chest, feel “out of control”, have extreme fears such as flying or heights, engage in ritualistic behaviour or have incessant unwanted thoughts, you may be suffering with the most common mental illness affecting 12% of all Canadians.

What are anxiety disorders?

When suffering from an anxiety disorder, a person will experience emotional, cognitive, behavioural, and/or physical stress. While everyone experiences some anxiety from time to time, anxiety disorders are distinguished by their persistent interference with daily functioning, such as social life, parenting, self-care, relationships, and leisure activities. Anxiety and fear are often confused. Fear is an alerting signal based on a known cause, while anxiety is a response to an unknown. Anxiety disorders are often accompanied by other medical conditions such as Depression, Schizophrenia, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, hypoglycemia, PMS, just to name a few.

Psychiatric Definition of Anxiety Disorders

According to DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by Psychologists and Psychiatrists) the following eight conditions comprise anxiety Disorders:

Panic Disorder: There are 2 types of panic disorders – one with agoraphobia and one without. With a panic disorder, panic attacks must be present. Symptoms of panic attack can include pounding heart, accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath, perspiration, tremors, chest pain or discomfort, feeling light-headed or faint, vertigo, nausea, fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, chills, hot flashes, and numbness or tingling in parts of the body.

Specific Phobias: Specific phobias are defined as an irrational fear of a subject, activity, or situation. Some specific phobias include, fear of dogs, heights, enclosed spaces, thunderstorms, crowds, snakes, abandonment and failure.

Social Phobias: Social phobias, also known as Social Anxiety Disorders, are characterized by an exaggerated fear of humiliation in various social settings.

Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia refers to fear of public places and/or open spaces. People suffering with agoraphobia can experience anxiety when in a situation or a place where a possible escape will be difficult or embarrassing. The places/situations can include leaving home alone, being in a crowd, etc.

Obsessive – Compulsive Disorder: Obsession – a recurrent and intrusive thought, idea, feeling or sensation. Compulsion – a conscious recurring pattern of behavior, such as counting, checking, or avoiding. The obsessions and compulsions can become disabling, time consuming, and interfere with a person’s daily routine. Some symptom patterns can include pathological doubt, intrusive thoughts, need for symmetry or cleanliness, religious obsession, and performance of rituals to control the anxiety.

Post – Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Persons suffering with PTSD have seen, or experienced, or have heard of an ‘extreme traumatic stressor’ to which they react with fear. There is a sense of helplessness, a state of hyper-arousal, and a constant reliving of the event and/or trying to avoid being reminded of it.

Acute Stress Disorder: This is a temporary PTSD. The unwanted symptoms only last for about 4 weeks after the stressful incident.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People with generalized anxiety worry about events, situations and activities for the majority of days within a six-month period. This type of anxiety can manifest as difficulty sleeping, restlessness and irritability.

Homeopathic Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

Homeopathy has over 200 years of success in treating and curing challenging mental and emotional conditions such as anxiety, panic, depression and phobias. The homeopathic approach is unique to other methods of dealing with anxiety-related problems because: 1) it treats the (whole) person and not just the symptom (anxiety) and 2) it sets out to treat the underlying cause and not just the effect (the anxiety). Furthermore homeopathic medicines are gentle, non-addictive, have no side effects, and are permanent in their effectiveness.

A homeopath’s task is to discover the key issues and themes that lie behind a patient’s anxiety. Each individual’s anxiety will have evolved in a unique way (according to their life circumstances), have characteristic trigger factors and center around a core theme. It is the homeopath’s challenge to uncover and understand the patient’s core issue and how it is instrumental in setting up a vicious cycle of anxiety. Once understood, the anxiety can be dramatically alleviated with the right homeopathic remedy, much like the right key opening the right lock.

In the case of Mark, a 34 year-old accountant, the anxiety was triggered by feelings of low self-esteem. Pointing to his chest regularly, Mark described his feelings of anxiety. “I have this big void here …I’m falling apart …feel unsure, shaky and out of control”. He also explained his feelings of unworthiness, continuous attempts to avoid people and sense of hopelessness. Based on his medical history, unique expression of anxiety and introverted character, I prescribed the remedy Natrum Muriaticum. During his second visit four weeks later, Mark reported a ‘positive shift’ in his energy. He felt less anxious, more grounded and hopeful. After 10 months of continued treatment, Mark felt more confident, more sociable and his anxiety attacks disappeared completely. In addition, his almost daily headaches discontinued.

Allison suffered from severe anxiety. She was unable to be home alone without feeling like someone was going to break into her apartment and rape or murder her. As a result she would check and recheck her door several times, to make sure it was locked. Allison ’s anxiety was triggered by her childhood circumstances of being physically abused by both parents. Within three months, with the remedy Arsenicum Album Allison’s anxiety was reduced by 90%.

Marianne described her anxiety as debilitating. The 54 year old had felt ‘out of control’ ever since her divorce 8 years earlier. Aside from suffering with rheumatoid arthritis and migraine headaches, Marianne engaged in daily compulsive behaviours. Her bedtime ritual involved opening and closing curtains 3 times, checking under her bed 3 times, and counting the hangers in her closet 3 times. She would lie awake until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. most nights obsessing over her failed marriage and how she could have done things differently. Veratrum Album was prescribed corresponding to the collection of her symptoms and behaviours. Within 4 weeks, Marianne’s anxiety level was reduced by 50% and her compulsive behaviour was reduced to a few times a week. She was falling asleep within 30 minutes and staying asleep through the night on most nights. After 3 months, her migraine headaches disappeared completely and her anxiety level was reduced further. According to her, the compulsive behaviours occurred “once in a while”. Marianne continues her homeopathic treatments to date, and one year later her rheumatoid arthritis is 60% better and improving.

Anxiety disorders can be hereditary, as was the case with one patient in her 20’s. Karen had a comfortable and stress free life. There was no reason for her anxiety, except for the fact that, both her parents, one grandparent and both siblings also suffered with anxiety disorders. She experienced great improvement on homeopathic zinc.

Elevated levels of anxiety can be caused by the use of “recreational” drugs. This was the case with 20 year-old Corey who was using ecstasy. In this instance it was important to investigate the addiction itself as well as the reasons behind it. The remedy Crotalus Horridus was prescribed 2 months ago, and according to Corey’s mother the improvement is apparent.

People are unique in their genetic makeup, appearance, personalities, circumstances, upbringing, culture and socialization. As a result, no two people express anxiety the same way. Homeopathy’s success is based on recognizing and honouring the uniqueness of each patient, and the results are remarkable.

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Tamara Der-Ohanian, DSHM, is a Homeopathic Physician practicing in Toronto. She can be reached at (416) 385-1001, or visit her web site at www.tamarader-ohanian.com

Winner! 2012 Best of Canada natural health awards