Anxiety Depression

  • 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.


    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.


    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. 


    -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 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.


    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.


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



    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.

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  • Recognizing When Children Are Stressed and Helping Them Deal With It

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

    It's tempting for grown-ups to remember childhood as an idyllic time. Sometimes, we adults think that since children don't have to worry about paying the bills, keeping a job, cleaning the house, and so forth, they can't possibly have any problems. This is a really counterproductive way of thinking, though, because children do get stressed. And they need your help to deal with it.

    Children do not have the coping mechanisms, born of experience and maturity, that adults do. This is why seemingly small things can be very upsetting to children. So be patient and learn to recognize your kids' stress and help them cope. Here are some things to look for and some tips on helping them deal with their stress.

    -Physical Symptoms

    Stressed children may exhibit physical symptoms, such as diarrhea, hives or rashes, restless sleep, changes in appetite, and /or nausea.

    -Emotional Psychological Symptoms

    A stressed child may exhibit depression, excessive sensitivity, or social withdrawal. Stressed kids may be aggressive or have angry outbursts.

    So if you see these symptoms in your child, what can you do? It's tempting to do nothing. Parents may think it will go away on its own, or that their child will outgrow it. But stress needs to be confronted and coped with so that it does not become entrenched in your child's thought and behaviour patterns. Here are some things you can do.


    Really listen. You may ask your stressed child what's wrong, or why he is acting a certain way, and you may not get an answer. Or you get an answer like "Nothing." But really listening means paying attention to your child's words and body language even when they don't know you're watching. Certainly asking your child what is wrong is a good thing to do; it shows you care. But don't interrogate her, or expect your child to be able to verbalize exactly what's occurring in her life and how it's affecting her. Even some adults have trouble with this. So try to "read" into the passing comments, complaints, and body language of your child.

    -Express Empathy

    If you express empathy, it shows your child that you do notice and understand. Verbally expressing empathy can also help your child build a vocabulary to explain his stressful feelings. You might say, "I bet it hurts your feelings when people call you names. It hurts mine, too," and share an experience from your past.

    -Help Your Child Be Proactive

    Work with your child in finding solutions to his or her stress. Sit down and make lists of things he or she could do, such as writing a letter to the stress-causing person or cutting back on some of his extra-curricular activities. Let your child know that she does not have to be doing something 24 hours a day to have personal worth. She has worth because of who she is!

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  • Journaling: A Great Way to Record Memories and Relive Them

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND 

    If you know anyone who is elderly, chances are you find yourself regretting that you did not ask them about their past sooner. Perhaps it is too late and that elder simply cannot remember. Maybe you were just too busy with family or career to ask those questions or record them.

    However, awareness is half the battle. If you are aware that you would like to do something in regard to journaling an elder’s life story, now is the perfect time. With the internet being what it is, it is easier than ever to record it all.

    Journaling is a great way to record memories and to relive them. Journaling while you are young enough offers many benefits.

    For example, journaling while you are in your middle age offers you the benefit of looking back while you are still able to recall some of those memories. Your childhood memories can bring lots of laughter, tears, and memories to cherish.

    Journaling also gives you the opportunity to bond with your children and other younger family members. They will more than likely get a kick out of seeing the clothes you wore, the styles that were popular, and most of all laugh at your hairstyle back in the day.

    If you have children that are old enough to assist you in creating a scrap book or using programs on the internet to create memory books, then look at journaling as an opportunity to match times, places, and dates all in one place while you still remember them.

    Journaling is a great way to take some quiet time to yourself as well. Going back to visit your past with fondness is a great way to reminisce.

    If you are journaling with an elder, what a wonderful time to bond once again. Journaling provides that elder with a sense of accomplishment looking over a life well lived, those who have gone, and how grateful they are for you and their family and loved ones.

    Journaling is not only a great way to record memories and relive past memories, it is also a great way to stay young. Believe it or not, fond memories contribute to a happier and healthier life.

    Journaling is something that you can do in your middle ages or as an older adult, by yourself, or with the help of someone else. Recording special memories and events helps to pass the time and leaves something for future generations. Journaling keeps you young in mind, body, and spirit as well.


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  • Healthy Stress vs. Unhealthy Stress

    Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

    The phrase "healthy stress" may seem like an oxymoron, but it's actually a reality. Stress is inescapable; everyone feels some stress at some points throughout their lives. Our bodies are therefore equipped to handle certain types and amounts of stress. We can even benefit from it.

    So what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress? What makes stress healthy? Here are some things to think about regarding stress and its role in your health.


    -The Great Motivator

    Without stress, not very much would get done. Stress is what drives you to teach your kids proper behavior, to earn money, and to pay your bills on time. It is what keeps you on your toes in a football game or when catching your tumbling toddler. A certain amount of stress about traffic accidents motivates you to drive safely.


    -Reaction Time

    Did you feel stress when that person cut you off in traffic? The stress response was partially responsible for your quick pressure on the brakes! Stress can motivate us into quick, sometimes life-saving action. In the case of an emergency, one of your stress hormones - adrenaline - kicks in, and prompts you to act quickly and sometimes with remarkable strength.


    Endorphins are the "feel good" neurotransmitters. When the body is stressed or in pain, its natural pain relievers are released in the form of endorphins. Exercise is a healthy way to bring this kind of endorphin-releasing stress onto your body. While you should not exercise to the point of unbearable pain, it's okay to "feel the burn" and push yourself a little. Massage therapy and acupuncture can also stimulate the release of endorphins.

    -Other Health Benefits

    Experts are finding anti-tumor activity in people who undergo healthy stress, indicating that healthy stress stimulates the immune system.



    The unhealthy type of stress is constant. You do not return to a normal energy level after it has passed. Unhealthy stress can take the form of constant worry, depression, and exhaustion. It can cause weight gain as well due to the release of cortisol, the "stress hormone."


    Continual stress weakens the immune system. That can leave you more susceptible to everyday illnesses and more serious problems such as cancer.

    -Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

    People who are chronically stressed usually worry about common, everyday things over which they have no control. These are the kinds of things that are not going to go away, such as paying bills, keeping the house clean, and so forth. Once one set of worries is tackled, another set comes along. Accepting these annoyances as part of life can go a long way in helping you cope with unhealthy stress.

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