By Guest Blogger Dr. Carlo Carandang
It may seem like a cliche, but I chose to become a psychiatrist as a way to help myself. I always suffered from anxiety, but never considered that help was available until I went through my psychiatry clinical clerkship as a medical student. During my psychiatry rotation, I soon found my calling- helping others who had mental suffering would also be the way I could help myself.
I went on to become a fully trained psychiatrist, and have treated thousands of patients with anxiety and other disorders. In the meantime, I honed the knowledge and techniques it takes to relieve suffering from anxiety, and this culminated in the writing of a self-help book on anxiety, Anxiety Protocol, and the creation of a self-help website for people with anxiety, AnxietyBoss.com. In the book and website, I detail all the same information and techniques that helped me relieve my own suffering from anxiety, and has helped the thousands of patients that were treated by me for anxiety.
Anxiety is defined generally as more than fear, and fear is an essential component of survival, but it can help us or it can destroy us in the same time. People who excel under pressure are masters of using their fears and stress to their advantage in order to achieve things, however the majority gets stuck in difficult situations because their anxiety levels alter their focus. Many people dealing with anxiety are always looking for the fastest and easiest way to cure and diminish its symptoms. But few of them really question themselves “Can anxiety be cured without the use of drugs?” This is a huge problem in our society. Prescriptions and medication have serious side effects people aren’t aware of.
When to “Medicate” and When to “Not Medicate”?
The thing is cases of severe anxiety and types of anxiety that do not respond to psychotherapy treatments are more recommended to be treated with anxiety medication. The downside? Many people with mild forms of anxiety are prescribed medication – a huge mistake that psychiatrists often make. You see, in our field, there’s this misconception that everything is treated with medication, no matter how advanced or early staged the condition is. Medication should only be advised when the patients fail to show improvement from psychotherapy or if the symptoms are indeed severe. The first treatment for anxiety is psychotherapy combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
In my 15 years of working with patients suffering from anxiety, I have always advised my patients that medication is not the first solution in order to cure anxiety. People should know that drugs aren’t always the answer. There are many other ways to cope with anxiety and all of the further tips can be included step by step. Make them part of your lifestyle in an attempt to keep anxiety under control.
Yes, one may say that anxiety and relaxation do not go so well together but there are certain ways to relax when dealing with anxiety. One of the most effective ways to relax is to visualize pleasant and calming scenes as it can distract attention from negative thinking. This type of therapy can prove helpful in panic attacks, social anxiety or excessive worrying.
Lavender, known as Lavandula angustifolia, is a plant belonging to the mint family and is originally from the Old World. A research from 2014 has compared lavender oil, Silexan to placebo and paroxetine related to anxiety disorder and discovered that lavender oil was more efficient than the placebo and had fewer side effects than paroxetine. (Kasper et al., 2014). Another study showed that lavender oil had effects similar to lorazepam (Woelk and Schalke, 2010).
Another study (Amsterdam et al.,2009) has shown that chamomile had positive effects on anxiety disorder symptoms compared to placebo. However, further studies are required in order to sustain these findings.
Ginkgo Biloba is a plant that comes from China and has shown to be efficient in diminishing anxiety and it proved to be safe and well tolerated by patients (Woelk et al., 2007).
Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine which diminishes anxiety and lowers high blood pressure. By lowering the blood pressure, the body is able to relax more and stress less, which can in an indirect way, decrease any anxiety attack.
Boswellia resin has been used as incense at religious and cultural ceremonies for centuries and those who smell the incense associate it with relaxation and a meditative state. Research has confirmed the neurobiological and anxiolityc effects of it, as it has been shown that it creates incesole acetate, which has neuropharmacological effects on the brain.
A Diet Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids belong to the polyunsaturated fatty acids family and are extremely important for the proper functioning of the body. Several studies (Kiecot-Glaser et al.,2011 and Buydens-Branchey et al.,2006) have shown that omega 3 fatty acids reduced anxiety in the healthy participants of the study and in a group who was dealing with substance abuse.
Studies have shown that exercise is a great anxiety and depression reliever and just 10 minutes of walk a day can have a huge impact on one’s wellbeing. Even if the effects are temporary, being active can be just as efficient as taking a pain killer for a headache.
Yoga and meditation are also great methods for relieving anxiety symptoms as they relax the muscles and induce a state of wellbeing.
A healthy diet is a must, not only for controlling our weight, but also for maintaining our mind in balance. Even if sugary foods can bring relief for the moment, their action is for a short period of time and it is usually followed by a crash of the sugar levels in the human body. This creates a state of depression and anxiety. To avoid this from happening, we must have a diet based on grains, fibers, fruits and vegetables.
Studies show that massage therapy is a very efficient way to fight anxiety and depression as it changes the biochemistry of the body.
A study at the Touch Research Institute proved that a therapy of 30 minutes of daily massage on adolescents diagnosed with depression for a period of 5 days brought a positive change in their behavior and mood. Ever since, many other studies have shown the benefits of massage therapy on anxiety and depression.
This kind of massage has been scientifically proven to be an excellent therapy to relax and diminish anxiety symptoms. Have you ever realized how calming it is when someone massages your ear? At times, the person becomes so relaxed that they can even fall asleep.
All in all, you have many alternative ways you can try before you decide to use prescription medication for anxiety. Whether you try different varieties of tea, workouts or a calming massage, you’ll find yourself amazed by the wonderful effects of these methods in dealing with anxiety. And why not pamper yourself and try them all? There’s definitely no harm in that! It’s time to get off the fence, and make your health a priority. You’re worth it.
Dr. Carlo Carandang is MD, Psychiatrist, contributor in many research journals and publications, and founder at AnxietyBoss.com. Dr. Carandang, an anxiety expert, is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and has a medical license from Washington State. He has seen patients for 15 years, with extensive experience treating patients with anxiety and depression. Dr. Carandang has been on the medical staff of multiple hospitals, including the University of Texas Medical Branch Hospitals, Maine Medical Center, Spring Harbor Hospital, Southern Maine Medical Center, and IWK Health Center. He was on the faculty at two medical schools, teaching medical students and residents, first as Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, and most recently as Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine.
Dr. Carandang was Assistant Editor for the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and was an ad hoc reviewer for numerous other psychiatry and medical journals. Finally, Dr. Carandang has extensive experience with research in the areas of anxiety, depression, and psychopharmacology, as evidenced by his 32 publications and 6 research grants to date. His first book, Anxiety Protocol, is a self-help book on anxiety.
I would love to know if this helped you in any way, or if you suffer with anxiety. Please share your thoughts, Dr. Carlo will be reading.