Anxiety Treatment News: Anxiety Help for Fears and Phobias

/ December 23rd, 2012/ Posted in Mental Health / No Comments »

Anxiety Help for Fears and Phobias

Looking for anxiety help? If you struggle with panic attacks, chronic worry, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder, here’s help that’s practical and powerful.

Anxiety disorders are generally very treatable, but when you experience one, you probably find it hard to overcome. The reason is that, while you have the ability to recover, anxiety literally Tricks you into using methods which make your fears worse rather than better.

This is the most natural thing in the world. Anxiety often feels like something that has invaded your life, something you have to resist and oppose. However, the worst problems come from our efforts to resist and remove anxiety, rather than from the anxiety itself.

People don’t get fooled by this trick entirely on their own. All too often, well meaning friends, doctors, and therapists get fooled by it as well, and unwittingly suggest methods to their patients which make the situation worse.

For instance, there’s a well publicized technique called “thought stopping”, in which snapping a rubber band against your wrist is supposed to help rid you of anxious thoughts. This is not the kind of anxiety help you need! It doesn’t work, because the more you tell yourself not to think something, the more you’ll think about it.

If you want a quick demonstration right now, take two minutes and don’t think about dancing elephants.

See what I mean? Don’t even think about thought stopping!

When anxiety Tricks you, you get fooled into using recovery methods which actually make your fears stronger and more persistent. The more you fight an anxiety disorder, the more it grows. It’s like putting out fires with gasoline.

People who struggle with chronic anxiety often say “the harder I try, the worse it gets”. This scares them, and makes them think they can’t recover. What it really means is they’ve been using methods that made it worse, and they need new methods.

Here on this site, you’ll find anxiety help that works. I’ll show you the anxiety treatment methods I’ve used in Chicago to help people overcome fears, phobias, and panic attacks for the last 20 years. You can use these therapy methods to outsmart the Anxiety Trick and achieve your own recovery from anxiety disorders.

Anxious, Fatigued or Depressed? Pills, Exercise or Diet Shouldn’t Top Your List of Treatments

Anxious, fatigued or depressed? You are not alone — one in five Americans is popping pills for these issues — but pills, exercise or diet shouldn’t top your list of treatments, says Bay Area author, founder of and integrative medicine physician Dr. Lissa Rankin.

“What if I told you the medical profession has it all backwards?” Dr Rankin asked in her recent TEDx Talk.

“We’re suffering from an epidemic that modern medicine has no idea what to do with. People suffering from this epidemic are fatigued, anxious, depressed and suffering from vague physical symptoms…”

At a time when one in five Americans is taking prescription medication for these maladies, there is no question that there is an epidemic happening, and even more so among women.

According to a report from MedCo, a pharmacy benefit manager, one out of every four women has a prescription for some form of mental health medication.

In fact, these medications are the most widely prescribed of all medications here in the U.S. according to a Wall Street Journal article:
Psychiatric medications are among the most widely prescribed and biggest-selling class of drugs in the U.S. In 2010, Americans spent $16.1 billion on antipsychotics to treat depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, $11.6 billion on antidepressants and $7.2 billion on treatment for ADHD, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription-drug sales.

Statistics like these make me wonder whether our ideals about “mental health” might not just be skewed. They also make Dr. Rankin’s claim that she has a better solution all the more interesting. In fact, she says she has already had success in diagnosing the root cause of why her patients are depressed and anxious. She uses a wellness paradigm she calls the Whole Health Cairn, which helps patients evaluate their whole health in a paradigm-shifting way.

According to Dr. Rankin:
Cold, hard scientific evidence in reputable medical journals clearly proves that to be truly healthy both mentally and physically, it’s not enough to eat right, exercise, sleep eight hours a night, see your doctor for regular check-ups and take your medicine. This is why my Marin County integrative medicine practice was full of well-intentioned health nuts who were still depressed, anxious and sick.
When asked in an interview about her thoughts on antidepressants, she told me:
At least 75 percent and in some studies, up to 100 percent, of the effect of anti-depressants has been proven to be attributable to the placebo effect — which I believe is good news. This means that the potent cocktail of hope, positive belief, the support of a medical practitioner who cares and the physiological self-healing mechanisms that get triggered by the body when it wants to heal, are ever-powerful. Some studies even suggest that placebos work when the patient knows it’s a sugar pill. So why do we need the pill? Sure, every doctor will report some case studies where it’s truly a biochemical process, and once the biochemical disorder is reversed pharmaceutically, everything else falls into place. But I’d argue that most of the time, even if there is a biochemical component, it’s not purely biochemical.

This is shocking to me as one of the “25 percenters.” My Zoloft saved me from a bone-crushing bout of postpartum depression and I can assure you it wasn’t a placebo effect. I was sure Zoloft would not work for me. I had read those reports, but with three children to care for I was willing to try anything. For my family’s sake and with much grumbling, I resorted to popping my blue pill.

I remember the day I noticed it was working.

Another friend of mine also says she knows exactly when her antidepressants kicked in. She was driving in a busy mall parking lot, rushing to make a return with two yipping dogs in her car, when someone rudely rushed into the parking spot she had been waiting for. She says, she thought to her self, “Oh well” and kept looking. Then she stopped her car in shock. This kind of thing would have normally led to obscenities being screamed out the window, at the least.

So, we may be the exceptions to those reports of the placebo effect, however, could we be helped more by Dr. Rankin’s approach? Would looking at the whole of my life and figuring out my root cause eliminate my need for the little blue Zoloft pill I am terrified to stop taking?

To this Dr. Rankin says, “Patients know their bodies better than any doctor. If the patient tells me taking psychiatric medications is what they need in order to heal, I’m all for it. I’m just not a fan of treating every negative emotional state or vague physical symptom with psychiatric medications to the exclusion of helping patients diagnose and treat what’s underlying the depression or anxiety.”

According to Rankin, to know for sure whether or not I indeed “need” my Zoloft, I would need to look at my whole life — love life, professional life, creativity expression, spirituality, sexuality and see if there is anything out of balance. Once diagnosed and “the root cause underlying depression or anxiety” was found, her next step is “helping patients create an intuitively-driven, patient guided step-by-step action plan aimed at healing what is out of balance.”

The number one question she asks patients is: “What do you need in order to heal?”

And the answers they give are often shocking. Such as:

• I need to leave my husband.

• I need to move to Santa Fe.

• I need to finish my novel.

• I need to hire a nanny.

• I need to eat a vegan diet.

• I need to switch careers.

• I need to quit drinking.

According to Dr. Rankin, “Once the patient makes the diagnosis and writes ‘the prescription,’ the challenge lies in implementing the changes necessary to heal from the core.”

But not all doctors agree. One psychiatrist I spoke to about this subject wasn’t sold on Dr. Rankin’s approach, saying that “she’s simply presenting a PowerPoint of the obvious.”

“Yes, doctor, we would all prefer ‘healthy relationships, healthy professional lives, creative expression,’ but what interrupts that? It’s not so easy to simply talk/wish/guilt/’whatever’ ourselves into ‘changing.'”

But Dr. Rankin says she has had success with her program, as paradoxically simplistic and difficult as it may be.

One of her patients credits Dr. Rankin with newfound energy and relief from both malaise and physical illness, saying:

“When I first came to Lissa I had a myriad of mysterious medical maladies and zero mojo. I had invested six years of my life into various medical tests, treatments and failed plans of action… I (now) have boundless energy… and never have I been so happy.”

According to Dr. Rankin, “You can medicate someone all you want, but unless you’re helping her heal what underlies her depression or anxiety, you’re just putting a sad Band-aid on her soul, and the results will be limited.”

Well, I’m not quite ready to tear off my sad little band-aid, but I am happy to know there is an alternative for the growing number of pill poppers like me.

Fearless Youth: Prozac Extinguishes Anxiety by Rejuvenating the Brain

Once adult lab mice learn to associate a particular stimulus—a sound, a flash of light—with the pain of an electric shock, they don’t easily forget it, even when researchers stop the shocks. But a new study in the December 23 issue of Science shows that the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) gives mice the youthful brain plasticity they need to learn that a once-threatening stimulus is now benign. The research may help explain why a combination of therapy and antidepressants is more effective at treating depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than either drugs or therapy alone. Antidepressants may prime the adult brain to rewire faulty circuits during therapy.

Nina Karpova, Eero Castrén and their colleagues at the University of Helsinki’s Neuroscience Center created and extinguished fearful behaviors in mice. First, Castrén placed mice in a cage and repeatedly played a tone just before electrically shocking their feet. Soon the animals froze in fear whenever they heard the tone, at which point Castrén put them through “extinction training.” He moved the mice to a different cage and played the same tone again. This time there was no electric shock.

Researchers have previously shown that young mice less than three weeks old quickly learn that the tone is no longer a herald of danger and stop freezing in fear. But adult mice are harder to put at ease. Even if the adults become less fearful during extinction training, their relaxation is not permanent—a week later the tone turns them into statues again.

In Castrén’s study, adult mice that took fluoxetine while they went through extinction training behaved much like young mice—they lost their fear much faster than mice that were not taking the drug, and their anxiety did not return. In contrast, mice that were given fluoxetine but never went through extinction training remained anxious.

Castrén makes an analogy between these findings and the consensus that antidepressants in combination with therapy are almost always more effective than either antidepressants or therapy alone. Scientists know what most antidepressants do at the molecular level—they change the amounts of neurotransmitters in the spaces between neurons, for instance—but how these changes treat depression remains an open question. Research has not supported the idea that antidepressants treat depression simply by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. More recently, researchers have hypothesized that depression kills neurons whereas antidepressants like Prozac encourage new neural growth in the brain. Castrén’s study suggests Prozac returns regions of the brain to an immature state in which neurons make or break more connections with one another than is typical of the adult brain. In other words, Prozac increases brain plasticity.

Castrén looked for characteristic electrical and molecular signs of plasticity in the brains of mice that received fluoxetine and in those that did not. Specifically, Castrén looked in the amygdala at neural circuits responsible for fear responses. He found that fluoxetine increased levels of a cell-adhesion molecule associated with young neurons and decreased the levels of a transporter protein associated with adult neurons. He also found greater changes in membrane potential in neurons from the brains of mice that had learned to relax. These neurons were also better at synchronizing their communication through a process called long-term potentiation, which is crucial for learning and memory.

“We know that a combination of antidepressant treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy has better effects than either of these treatments alone, but the neurobiological basis is not known,” Castrén says. “We show a possible mechanism is bringing the network into a more immature and plastic state.”

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