by Dr. Heather Herington, ND, DHANP
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time; this is part of the human condition. But when it interferes with our day-to-day activities we must pay close attention and perhaps seek professional help.
Anxiety comes in many forms, at times fleeting, at times causing immobility. On a positive note, it can serve as an early warning system to protect us from harm. It alerts us to what our body or mind sees as a deeper danger. When we can sort this out, see its positive intent, then we can release it.
In a mild example, anxiety due to stage fright makes sure we have our lines prepared, our act together. In conditions we consider neurological, as in Asperger’s, Autism, Tourettes or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) our anxiety has manifested to such a degree it takes over our personalities, drowning us in debilitating symptoms.
In between there are a host of states. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized as feeling anxious, seemingly for no reason, where it begins to affect daily activities. Restlessness, tension, irritability, impatience and/or an inability to concentrate are noted. Muscle tension, insomnia, dry mouth, headaches, fatigue, chest tightness, bloating, excessive sweating may be experienced as well.
Panic Disorder is scarier in that it is characterized by sudden terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, faintness or dizziness. Often people believe they are having a heart attack.
From stage fright to OCD to outright terror is a continuum that has its base in our nerves. It is an excellent example of the mind/ body connection, a condition that has many causes and so a variety of treatments.
In order to read the host of anxiety or nerve based ailments we must first understand its protective nature. All anxiety at its root cause is a protective signal that has become stuck in high gear. If we dig in, probe its positive intent it may suddenly make sense. The mind/body’s wisdom has spoken, and listening begins the path to healing.
One example of nerves gone wild is a person who panics every time they go over a bridge. We can see this as a metaphor for life changes or it may simply be that they were harmed on a bridge at some point in their life and so the body (and mind) interprets the bridge as dangerous and anxiety manifests warning us not to cross.
An example of deeply entrenched anxiety is in cases of people with Asperger’s or Autism; they show an extreme level of anxiety because for whatever reason the world is not safe. But even here we can often find our way in and unravel an early warning system that allows them to live safely in their own world, and in time emerge to connect with those around them.
In my experience the continuum of anxiety is well treated by Classical Homeopathy. It’s interesting to note that one hundred years ago medical doctors who used homeopathic medicine (there were far more then than now that did) sensed homeopathy worked/works so well in these kind of conditions because homeopathic medicines act on the nerves.
A century or two or three later we still can’t say exactly why homeopathy works but after almost 25 years as a naturopathic doctor board certified in homeopathy I can attest to its efficacy. To be able to effect healing in people with disabling symptoms without pharmaceuticals has been one of the highlights of my career.
Homeopathy is a whole person approach. A comprehensive system that takes all aspects of a person into account it doesn’t have one medicine for anxiety but a multitude depending on how the person presents. A few examples follow.
Aconite is a homeopathic medicine for panic, terror. It is a medicine to think of for survivors of an earthquake or after a terrorist attack. It has the same indications chronically. Early in my practice in Vancouver BC I treated a woman who had chronic anxiety after experiencing a San Francisco earthquake. She felt immense relief through Aconite. It was the homeopathic medicine freely distributed after the Bombay terrorist attack a few years ago.
A partial list of other homeopathic medicines with varying presentations of anxiety include Argentum nitricum, Arsenicum album, Gelsemium, Calcaria carbonica, Cannabis indica, Helleborus niger, Kali arsenicum, Lycopodium, and Stramonium.
Because PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has been a big part of my practice (mostly due to sexual abuse) I have had great success using Tracking, a mind/body technique developed by Dr Vern Woolf, PhD, hypnosis and other mind/body techniques. To me it is important for a patient to pinpoint the original cause of the anxiety, no matter how long ago. To understand the positive intent of the condition brings clarity and understanding and allows a thorough and meaningful resolution.
It must be noted that conventional or allopathic medicine categorizes the various anxieties as a condition or a disease. It is often useful to name a disease but it is not necessary. It is more important to see the uniqueness of the individual presentation, to treat the whole person.
As a naturopathic doctor I also look to adrenal and thyroid function, nutritional status, food sensitivities or allergies or toxicity (heavy metals, chemical poisons).
Botanical medicine--herbal teas, tinctures, salves, aromatherapy—all have the ability to soothe. Kava, passionflower, chamomile and other botanicals can give you a level of relief. Rhodiola, ashwangandha, licorice, nettles can rebuild the various body systems. (The list of plant helpers goes on and on.)
Daily exercise has its own magic as do yoga, meditation and deep breathing.
To sum up, anxiety in any of its forms is never for no reason. If you walk through your life in your mind from your earliest memories, sensing what’s bothering you you may find an early childhood trauma that has been suppressed. Or perhaps an encounter yesterday that has left you uncomfortable, anxious.
The bottom line is if we don’t pause to pursue the cause we are allowing our fate to be ruled by our unconscious, or drugs—pharma or recreational—that may mask a situation that can be resolved without further exploitation.
A comprehensive, multi-factorial approach will expose anxiety to its true message whether from past trauma, organ imbalance etc. It may also mean there are dangerous people or dangerous situations that we must avoid or resolve. Any or all of these can be the real culprits.
A homeopathic medicine can wipe the experience away like crumbs off a counter. Or the realization of some past event may do it. Something as simple as adding a probiotic can make significant changes.
One never knows how healing will generate. But one thing is certain, it does and it can,
One last mention: The world is at a crossroads. We heal ourselves, our anxiety, not just for personal freedom but so that we can do the greatest good for our planet. This is not a doomsday prediction. It is a reality that will bring us closer to viable connections, one in which inner strength will lead the way. Do your inner work to bring about outer peace.
Finally, take a deep breath and have your best day yet!