Your Anxiety May Be Triggered by Something in Your Body, Not Your HeadSummer 2012
Have you been diagnosed with anxiety or depression? Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar? They’re based on actual peoples’ experience.
Jordan feels constantly tense and nervous and startles at the slightest noise, jumps at a stranger brushing past him, winces at bright lights and, as the day goes by, feels progressively fatigued and depleted. He worries constantly that he won’t make it through the day or be able to meet his family and work obligations. He’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and put on an antianxiety drug, Xanax.
2. LaTisha has vertigo and experiences loss of balance and terror while walking up or downstairs, taking an escalator or walking along a catwalk, even if it is one floor up. She’s been diagnosed with a phobic disorder and put on BuSpar, an anti-anxiety drug. 3. Abdul experiences waves of panic that come on suddenly. His heart races, his pulse throbs, the world spins and he can hardly catch his breath. He feels as if he’s dying and losing his mind. He’s been diagnosed with panic disorder and put on Paxil, an anti-depressant.
4. Marisol feels afraid to leave the house. When she does, she suffers a panic attack that comes out of nowhere. She can be sitting in church, shopping at the supermarket, standing in line at the bank or driving down the street. She’s been diagnosed with agoraphobia and put on Zoloft, an anti-depressant.
The medications taken by these four individuals helped take the edge off of their symptoms but did not remove the problems. That is because not one of them has mental illness. Here’s what was really going on…
1. Sensory defensiveness (hypersensitivity to ordinary sensation) triggered Jason’s anxiety.
2. Inner ear dysfunction (which controls balance) triggered LaTisha’s space phobias.
3. Mitral valve prolapse (a cardiac disorder) triggered Abdul’s panic attacks.
4. Type two diabetes triggered Marisol’s on-going panic to the point where she felt too afraid to leave her house.
Anxiety symptoms are not specific to anxiety disorders. Any anxiety symptom can indicate a biological problem.
• Sugar imbalances, heart problems or vitamin deficiencies can produce symptoms which are identical to a panic attack.
• Head injuries, brain tumors, strep throat and encephalitis can create obsessive-compulsive behavior.
• Environmental pollutants and allergens can produce panic-like symptoms.
• Sensory defensiveness can mimic or result in anxiety, panic, depression, mania, OCD, ADD and even depersonalization.
• Inner Ear Dysfunction can create panic attacks and space related phobias such as fear of heights, flying and enclosed spaces and, according to Harold Levinson, MD, author of Phobia Free, may be the underlying cause of dyslexia in many cases.
Unfortunately, many medical doctors and mental health practitioners are largely unaware that something physical, neurological, structural, sensory, or environmental can produce symptoms that mimic anxiety or panic. Without further exploration, they quickly dispense a tranquilizer or anti-depressant pill and suggest psychotherapy. These actions can have dire consequences:
Unnecessary Drugs: All drugs create side effects, sometimes dangerous. Psychotropic drugs can be addictive and weaning off from them too quickly can lead to extreme mental duress, even suicide. Many studies now question the actual effectiveness of anti-depressants in particular, describe potential short and long-term dangers, and note that exercise and amino acid supplementation often get comparable results.
Unnecessary Therapy: People can struggle in psychotherapy that is expensive, time-consuming, unnecessary and completely misses the mark.
Lost Time: Years may go by as drugs, psychotherapy and often an endless pursuit of self-help techniques and stress reduction strategies fail.
Left in the Dark: Not knowing what is wrong and helpless to know how to get better leaves many people feeling invalidated, confused, frustrated, at a loss and even more anxious. Unable to cope successfully with ordinary situations, they may watch their career and personal life fall apart without knowing how to stop the downfall. Despairing of getting better, they become depressed as well as anxious.
Undiagnosed Serious Condition: Worst of all, a serious organic condition such as hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism or a brain tumor can progress undetected worsening as time goes by.
If you suffer anxiety or panic, how do you know if the primary trigger is mental or physical? Here are some distinctions (see table below).
If you suspect that your anxiety, panic or depression may be triggered by a physical problem, you need to ask questions and take charge of your own health to hunt down the potential cause. This could include:
• Nutritional deficiencies leading to malnutrition, malabsorption, addictive food cravings
• Digestive issues like Candida overgrowth and food sensitivities
• Illness like viruses, bacteria, thyroid problems or sugar imbalance
• Cranial/sacral misalignment that disrupts nerve conduction
• Neurological issues like head trauma
• Sensory processing problems like sensory defensiveness
• Internal toxicity from toxic overload
• Environmental toxicity like mercury poisoning
• EMF sensitivity from overexposure to radiation
Find a holistic MD or Naturopath for evaluation and treatment using natural means, a holistic nutritionist for diet and an osteopath or someone trained in neuro-cranial restructuring or bio-cranial to correct cranial/sacral misalignment and especially if you’ve ever had head trauma.
Sharon Heller, PhD is a developmental psychologist and author of Anxiety: Hidden Causes (Symmetry, 2011—paperback or free download on Kindle) and Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, What To Do if You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World (HarperCollins, 2002). For more information on holistic solutions for anxiety, panic and sensory processing disorder, go to www.sharonheller.net.