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Anxiety


  • What is a Panic Attack?

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

    A panic attack can be a very frightening thing. Some sufferers feel as if they are choking or having a heart attack. But knowing what's going on can go a long way in helping you cope with such an attack. Here is what a panic attack is, and some of its possible causes and symptoms.

    What Is a Panic Attack?

    When you experience sudden, terrifying feelings of fear over which you have no control, it may be a panic attack. Such feelings are often accompanied by physical sensations, such as pain in the chest or abdomen or a feeling of suffocation and choking. Panic attacks are often a symptom of an anxiety disorder.

    Causes

    As noted above, panic attacks are often a manifestation of an underlying disorder. Thus, to find the cause(s) of the attack, doctors and therapists must look at causal factors of the disorder.

    Sometimes, panic attacks don't have any apparent cause, or may have specific triggers. For example, you may experience a panic attack every time you try to get into an elevator or drive under a bridge. The elevator and the bridge are not causing the attacks, but something about your perception of them is. Thus, there is an underlying anxiety or fear that needs to be addressed.

    You may have a family predisposition for having anxiety or it could be a hormonal or a neurotransmitter imbalance causing these symptoms.  I have also seen patients that are more likely going to feel anxiety and panic attacks from having too much coffee, soda pop, chocolate, and sugar.

    Symptoms

    One of the most difficult and frightening aspects of panic attacks is that they can strike without warning. There are both symptoms of a panic attack itself, and symptoms of a panic disorder that may give rise to an attack. First, let's look at the symptoms of a panic attack itself.

    Symptoms of a panic attack are numerous. They include feelings of detachment from reality or from your surroundings; pain in the chest; heart palpitations; rapid pulse; dizziness; sweating; gasping for breath (or hyperventilating); and nausea or stomach pain. Sometimes you may feel like you're dying. The symptoms feed on themselves, so to speak, so that the longer you experience the attack the more the fear grips you. Panic attacks do pass, however - usually after about 10 minutes or under 1/2 hour.

    Symptoms of a panic disorder actually include panic attacks themselves. In addition, signs of panic disorders may also include fear of panic attacks; an inability to socialize; desperate attempts to avoid another panic attack (such as avoiding all possible triggers and obsessing over what those triggers are/were); and, in the case of panic disorder with agoraphobia, you are so afraid of having a panic attack in public that you avoid crowded places or even any public place.

    If you suffer from any of these problems or symptoms, there are effective treatments available. Discuss the problem with your doctor, and he or she can refer you to a therapist who can help.

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  • What is Anxiety?

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND 

    Anxiety is basically worry that never stops. Its symptoms can be severe or mild, and include emotional, physical, and/or psychological manifestations. Here are some of the symptoms and possible causes of anxiety. 

    SYMPTOMS AND MANIFESTATIONS

    -Abdominal Problems

    Anxiety can cause pain in your abdomen. Anxiety can also cause nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Have you ever had "butterflies in your stomach"? This refers to the fluttery feeling you get in your middle when you're nervous. This is caused by the "flight or fight" response, during which the body decreases circulation to non-vital body processes such as digestion. This allows your body to go into full alert, able to run or fight as the case may be. When this is prolonged, however, the digestive organs become worn out and, without the return of normal circulation, begin to malfunction.

    -Muscle Tension

    This can cause pain throughout the body, the most frightening being the chest tightness in a "panic attack." (Panic attacks are also symptoms of anxiety.) The muscle spasms can feel like you're choking or like a heart attack, increasing feelings of fear and anxiety.

    -Phobias

    Phobias are irrational fears of harmless or specific things. Fear of heights, spiders, or flying in airplanes are some of the more common phobias.

    -Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

    People with OCD feel the need to enact some sort of ritual to alleviate anxious feelings. Probably the most well-known example is obsessive hand-washing, but OCD can also involve other ritualistic behaviour, such as checking all the doors and windows multiple times to see that they are locked, even when you just locked them.

    -Headaches

    Probably a result of muscle tension or chemical imbalance in the brain, headaches often are part of anxiety.

    -Heart Palpitations

    This is when the heart seems to flutter or beat rapidly and irregularly. Like the butterflies in the stomach, heart palpitations are part of the fight or flight response, only in the case of anxiety it's chronic.

    -Restlessness/Insomnia

    People with anxiety often have trouble relaxing in general and sleeping in particular.

    CAUSES OF ANXIETY

    -Genetics

    There is evidence to suggest that the tendency to develop anxiety can be inherited. This genetic tendency may need an environmental trigger of some sort to develop actual anxiety symptoms.

    -Traumatic Event(s)

    Veterans of wars, survivors of rape and/or sexual abuse, and other victims of traumatic experience can suffer from anxiety. It's as though the brain can not "move on" from the event, creating patterns of anxious thoughts and physical symptoms.

    -Brain Chemicals or hormonal imbalances

    Those who suffer from anxiety tend to have abnormal levels of neurotransmitters or hormones, which means their brains have trouble transmitting information on a cellular level.  This is why it is not unusual to see women more affected by anxiety before their periods, or during peri-menopause or menopause.

    Read more »
  • Types of Stress

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

    Stress is stress, right? Well, not always. There are actually categories of stress. They vary according to frequency, severity, and symptoms. Let's take a look at some of them.

    -Eustress

    This may be a new term to some. Eustress refers to "good" stress, or the kind of stress that actually enhances health and performance. This is the kind of stress you feel when you see your child about to topple down a flight of stairs, and it kicks your body systems into gear so that you can act quickly and efficiently to catch your child. Other ways that eustress manifests are in creative and athletic efforts. An artist who is driven by eustress becomes inspired and full of energy. An athlete gains excited energy and his or her body performs to its highest potential.  Eustress is brief, intense, and does not wear the body out. 

    -Hyperstress

    The prefix "hyper" denotes too much of something, or an excess of some sort - hyperactivity, hyperthyroidism, etc. Hyperstress is no exception. It refers to relentless stress that forces you to perform optimally and continually. It's like being asked to give your all every minute of every day, and sometimes through the night as well. Hyperstress is not healthy, and can cause burn-out.

    Hyperstressed people often feel tense and edgy. You may find that your emotions are always just below the surface and are easily provoked. 

    -Hypostress

    The opposite of the "hyper" prefix, "hypo" denotes a lack, as in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you are hypostressed, you don't have enough stimuli. You're bored and do not have much motivation. This does not mean you're not doing anything; you just are not doing anything that interests or motivates you. For example, if you have a job that involves repetitive, mechanical action, such as on an assembly line, you may experience hypostress. Hypostress can make you feel restless, discontent, or apathetic.

    -Distress

    Distress is caused by a traumatic event or events, or some sort of negative environmental factor. It is sometimes used synonymously with anxiety. Distress itself is divided into two types: acute and chronic distress.

    *Acute distress results from a perceived threat. It may be real, such as being physically attacked, or it may be purely psychological. Either way, the result is distress. It's your response to being threatened. Acute distress can also be a reaction to a change or upheaval in your life. It is always temporary. 

    *Chronic distress is more on-going. It can result in illness and depression. It may still be caused by perceived threats or difficulties in the environment, but they are continual or frequent. Chronic distress can result if you are yelled at by your boss every day, for example, or if you are in a problematic marriage. Where acute distress is like a hammer blow, chronic distress is like a slow wearing down with sandpaper.

    Read more »
  • How to Ward Off Stress & Anxiety Before They Happen

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

    If you suffer from stress and anxiety, you probably want to avoid future run-ins with these problems. Of course, stress is inevitable, but you can learn to cope with it in a functional, healthy way. Here are some tips for warding off stress and anxiety before they catch up with you.

    1. Good Nutrition

    This is listed as number 1 for a reason. It is one of the most important and effective means by which you can cope with stress and anxiety and prevent them from taking over your life. Some nutrients and foods that are good for proper brain and body function are:

    -Essential Fatty Acids, such as those found in olive oil, salmon, flax seeds, fish oils and other coconut oil should be sought out and deliberately included in the diet.

    -Vitamin D - This vitamin plays a significant role in mood regulation. In fact, has been used to treat people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Ask your medical or naturopathic doctor to test your vitamin D levels – they should be over 120 ideally!

    2. Regular Exercise

    This is also very important for avoiding the negative effects of stress and anxiety. Don't wait until you feel stressed or anxious; like good nutrition, make exercise a part of your regular routine. Exercise increases circulation, and also induces the body to produce endorphins. These brain chemicals profoundly affect your mood and response to stress.

    Exercising with realistic goals is also important. You don't want to bring on anxious feelings by "failing" at an enormous exercise goal like running a marathon right away when you've never run before. Keeping your goals realistic - say running a around a quarter-mile track once and walking another 3 laps - can boost your confidence and give you a sense of accomplishment. These are great weapons against stress and anxiety.

    3. Positive Self-Talk

    You may need help in learning how to break negative self-talk patterns. Many of us have developed patterns of thought that automatically involve self-abasement. For example, if you make a mistake on a piece of paperwork, your mind may automatically begin "beating you up," and you'll have thoughts that you can't do anything right, you are terrible at paperwork, and so forth. Learning to recognize this pattern and redirect your thoughts to more positive ones can help prevent further stress and anxiety.

    4. Deep Breathing

    It may seem silly to focus on breathing as part of preventing stress and anxiety. Everyone knows how to breathe, right? Yes, everyone knows how to breathe, but few people know how to breathe properly. Deep breathing is the deliberate taking in of breath that helps focus your thoughts and energy. It also promotes the circulation of oxygen throughout the body. Exhaling deeply and fully is also important, as this more thoroughly eliminates toxins from the body.

    5. Rest

    Getting adequate sleep is essential for helping your body cope with stress. Everything seems bigger, scarier, and more worrisome when you are exhausted. 

    6. Know the Symptoms

    Learn to recognize your body's cues that it's experiencing too much stress and its resulting anxiety. Pay attention to things like feelings of restlessness, fatigue, anxious thoughts, and muscle tension. Once you learn to recognize the stressful trend, you can stop it before it takes hold.

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  • Homeopathic Treatments for Anxiety and Panic AttacksĀ 

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

    While there are several prescription medications available for the treatment of anxiety and panic attacks, there is much to be said and offered in the way of homeopathic treatments for these conditions.

    Symptoms of panic attacks are frightening in and of themselves:

    * Chest pains

    * Heart palpitations

    * Shortness of breath

    * Dizziness

    * Faintness

    * Sweating

    * Fear

    * Nausea

    * Numbness

    * Tingling

    Of course, treating yourself well before the onset of a panic attack makes sense. Deep breathing, taking time to relax, getting proper sleep, hydration, and nutrition are all essential elements to a healthy mind. Learning how to meditate is also another excellent way to recharge your battery and calm your nerves at the same time.

    Homeopathic cures that you may be interested in trying include:

    Aconitum napellus

    A panic attack that comes on suddenly with very strong fear (even fear of death) may indicate this remedy. A state of immense anxiety may be accompanied by strong palpitations, shortness of breath, and flushing of the face.

    Argentum nitricum

    This relieves apprehension or stage fright accompanied by agitation and a feeling of hurriedness. A physical sign corresponding to this medicine is stomach aches with belching.

    Arsenicum album aka Metallicum album

    People who are deeply anxious about their health, and extremely concerned with order and security, often benefit from this remedy. Obsessive about small details and very neat, they may feel a desperate need to be in control of everything. Panic attacks often occur around midnight or the very early hours of the morning when they feel very restless and start pacing around from place to place.

    Kali phosphoricum

    When a person has been exhausted by overwork or illness and feels a deep anxiety and inability to cope, this remedy may help. The person is jumpy and oversensitive, and may be startled by ordinary sounds. Hearing unpleasant news or thinking of world events can aggravate the problems. Lycopodium

    Individuals likely to respond to this remedy feel anxiety from mental stress and suffer from a lack of confidence. They can be self-conscious and feel intimidated by people they perceive as powerful (yet may also swagger or be domineering toward those with whom they feel more comfortable). Taking on responsibility can cause a deep anxiety and fear of failure.

    Phosphorus

    People who need this remedy are openhearted, imaginative, excitable, easily startled, and full of intense and vivid fears. They are usually very thirsty for cold drinks.  Strong anxiety can be triggered by thinking of almost anything. Nervous and sensitive to others, they can overextend themselves with sympathy to the point of feeling exhausted and "spaced out" or even getting ill. They want a lot of company and reassurance, often feeling better from conversation or a back-rub.

    Pulsatilla

    People who need this remedy often express anxiety as insecurity and clinginess, with a need for constant support and comforting. The person may be moody, tearful, whiny, even emotionally childish. (Pulsatilla is a very useful remedy for children.) Getting too warm or being in a stuffy room often increases anxiety. Fresh air and gentle exercise often bring relief. Anxiety around the time of hormonal changes (puberty, menstrual periods, or menopause) often is helped with Pulsatilla.

    If you are not sure which homeopathic remedy will the best one for you, please visit your local Naturopathic Doctor for proper advice.  Homeopathic remedies can be a great tool to help avoid conventional medication or to help you decrease the need any medication that you may have been prescribed.  Homeopathic remedies do not interfere with conventional medications.

    Read more »

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