Naturopathic Treatment For Anxiety Using Biofeedback, Therapy, Counseling In
New Jersey New York
We've all experienced the feelings of worry or apprehension about the future that can go by the name of "anxiety". Small events and big can bring them on: a friend missing an appointment, an overdue term paper, a job interview; all part of normal life. For anxiety to be considered a medical problem, it has to be an experience that persists or recurs over a long period of time without improving and interfere with normal daily activities.
Medically, there are five kinds of anxiety disorder that should be treated with professional help: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder. The treatment can vary. Counseling and medication may be prescribed. However a naturopathic approach, can make use of a number of natural, non-drug therapies which can be very effective.
The "Nature" of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathy is not new. Considering its emphasis on looking at the entire person rather than at their disease and on using natural remedies, some have said that "naturopathy" is the first kind of medical system humanity developed, originating in ancient times.
The differences between a medical doctor and a naturopath arises from the naturopath's concentration on providing assessments of the whole person – mental and emotional states included – rather than assessing the body in isolation.
Naturopathic physicians also favor natural, non-drug therapies over synthetic products. Philosophic similarities between naturopaths and allopaths are fundamental: "First, do no harm", the basic command of the Hippocratic Oath, and the importance of preventive medicine.
The Naturopathic Approach to Treating Anxiety
When an anxiety sufferer consults a naturopath, the practitioner will first sit down with them and conduct a thorough interview, so that the person's current state can be understood. All factors – emotional, physical, mental – are important, as abnormal anxiety comes in different forms and can be caused by many different things.
From this interview along with other assessment tools comes a careful identification of the underlying causes, and then a plan of treatment can be evolved. Sometimes the cause is simple -- as simple as too much caffeine, which can cause anxiety symptoms – and in that case the solution is simple too: eliminate or sharply limit the caffeine. Or anxiety may be arising from a physical problem, such as low blood sugar levels. The naturopathic practitioner can address the physical cause, and correcting it will make the anxiety disappear.
A treatment plan can include herbs and other natural supplements that help bring the patient's body back into a healthy internal balance. B vitamins like folic acid, inositol and B12 have been shown helpful for anxiety, as have magnesium, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and passionflower (Passiflora species).
An effective natural therapy is biofeedback training. Using biofeedback equipment, the patient learns to pay attention to the body's messages about its internal status – such things as heart rate, breathing, muscle activity – and to bring them back to a balanced state when anxiety arises.
Causes of anxiety
Everyday simple anxiety often has simple causes – things like too too much to do, too little time, drinking too much coffee or tea – and can be eliminated by changing habits and simplifying routines.
But there are forms of anxiety that are harder to treat, and spring from complicated roots. Post traumatic stress disorder, for example, which afflicts many people who have lived through personal tragedies, natural disasters, severe accidents, wartime trauma and the like, is a long-term illness with many possible symptoms.
Sleep difficulties, irritability and sudden temper outbursts, problems with concentration, passing out, constant painful memories, and inappropriate emotional reactions are characteristic of PTSD. Other serious anxiety disorders show other spectrums of disabling symptoms.
The symptom that all anxiety disorders share is persistent fear and uncertainty that does not arise from a real threat. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnotic and Statistical Manual lists the following: panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder with anxious features, and the specific phobias.
The symptom list of one of the commoner illnesses in this group, generalized anxiety disorder, includes: anxiety, worry, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, tiredness, muscular tension and pain, and disturbed sleep.
How common are these disorders?
Anxiety disorders are the commonest kind of psychological illness experienced by Americans: about 18 million people 18 years and older have an anxiety disorder in a given year, according to National Institutes of Mental Health estimates. The increasing tendency toward unhealthy habits – lack of exercise, tobacco, alcohol and substance abuse – may contribute to these high rates. The cost is high in reduced job performance and damage to personal relationships.
Women are twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders as men. The most affected group is between 25 and 44 years old, of low socio-economic status, and separated or divorced. Although the disorders can severely affect sufferers' lives, only 15 to 36% are treated.
Anxiety Disorder Treatment with Biofeedback
One of the most successful treatments for anxiety disorders is biofeedback training. This is a therapy, proven in clinical trials, that uses electronic biofeedback equipment to monitor and display elements of the bodily state, such as breathing and muscular tension, in real time – and permits the patients to learn how to recognize and control them. It s success for anxiety control compares well with other non-drug therapies such as meditation and Progressive Relaxation.
Biofeedback therapists evaluate anxiety sufferers.
The biofeedback practitioner will follow up on a thorough medical evalution that rules out physical causes of anxiety like some medical conditions and medications, with a psycho-physiological assessment. This can include an EEG, monitoring breathing rates, heart rhythms, muscle activity, fingertip temperature, and electrical conductivity of the skin while resting, during a mild stress test, and while recovering.
This monitoring is likely to show findings such as: rapid, shallow breathing, imbalance between various brain-wave patterns, small artery constriction in the fingers, muscle contractions in the forehead, neck and shoulders, a reduction in the normal variability of heart rate, and markedly increased sweating. These are characteristic of anxiety disorders.
The assessment result will be a profile that lets the biofeedback specialist design a customized training program so the patient can learn to correct the abnormal bodily changes that occur during bouts of anxiety.
What happens during biofeedback therapy/counseling?
If you decide on biofeedback therapy, you will learn how to track your own bodily state using the same kinds of equipment the therapist uses to perform your initial assessment. With small electrodes painlessly attached to your skin, you will be instructed by the therapist how to watch the monitor that shows the ongoing changes in your body. The goal is to learn to recognize symptoms and sensations corresponding to abnormal changes, and to bring them back into the normal range, thus stopping a possible anxiety episode before it can get underway.
The electronic biofeedback training, which may be combined with cognitive behavior psychotherapy, can include learning to control your electrical brain activity, muscle tension activity, breathing patterns, skin conductivity, heart rate variability, and finger temperature.
Practicing biofeedback skills: your part in your training
As a biofeedback therapy patient, you'll get "homework" assignments from your practitioner. Like any skill, biofeedback self-regulating takes practice. Your therapist or counselor will also expect you to chart your symptoms.
Your homework might include:
- modifying your current patterns in diet, exercise,
and other daily habits
- self-monitoring and recording experiences, symptoms,
- biofeedback self-regulation practice with portable
- relaxation exercises
Homework is crucial to your success
With biofeedback, you are learning to increase levels of physical self-awareness, and increase your control of your bodily state. "Homework" is vital in learning how to do these things in all kinds of daily-life situations, not just in the clinic. Studies have shown that biofeedback patients who asucceed in mastering anxiety are habitual practicers. They may not do it every day, but they do do it.
Practicing regularly between sessions will:
- Increase your total training time, leading to faster improvement;
- Transfer your new skills to the outside world. You've learned to slow your breathing rate or warm up your hands in the clinic, but can you do it at work ? At home? Learning to improve your bodily state in various situations may require you to purposely practice in those situations;
- Get you to the point where you have good conscious control over unhealthy habitual behavior like tensing your shoulders or breathing rapidly and shallowly;
- Eventually make self-control automatic. It may take several months to master a particular relaxation skill, but when you've practiced enough, you'll be doing it at the first sign of worry and anxiousness, without having to think about it. You will have beaten the problem.
Is biofeedback really effective against anxiety?
In the majority of controlled, randomized clinical studies, biofeedback has compared favorably with other non-drug relaxation techniques like meditation. The success of meditation and biofeedback in reducing and controlling anxious symptoms and responses may be due to the fact that they correct basic abnormalities in attention patterns, cognition and perception patterns, and physical arousal. With stress management biofeedback techniques, patients may gain more control over the life events that bring on their anxiety episodes.
If you like to discuss how biofeedback may help you call me today at 201.618.3534.
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