Could it be possible that the anxiety you may be feeling already had grown roots in your brain, body, or spirit? Insert a global pandemic, economic crisis, job-related stress, working from home or at the frontlines, virtual schooling children, and the weeds are growing in our minds.
Feeling anxious due to temporary life circumstances such as public speaking, meeting with your boss, a first date, or the in-laws arriving in your home is expected. The feelings of anxiousness typically shift to calm when the precipitating factor is no longer present in front of your eyes, on your schedule, or your calendar.
In our current times, our brain is continuously consciously and subconsciously reminded, “your whole life routine has changed.”
CAN YOU NAME THE TRIGGER?
Close your eyes, when was the last time you felt anxious? Why were you worried at that particular moment? Was there a specific event or person that triggered your anxiety?
Sometimes, to feel back in control, we have to stop all the doing, being, and thinking; and replace it with focus. When we can focus in on what caused the anxiety, we start the process of moving forward.
What about when the feeling of anxiety persists beyond the event that triggered your shift in mood? Or perhaps you have had episodes of anxiety or panic attacks that were unprovoked. Anxiety or panic that is persistent after removing the offending stimulus or attacks that are unprovoked is a sign of imbalances rooted in our minds and bodies.
On average, about 25-30% of adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. It is five times more likely to occur in women, according to a study published by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2017.
THE BANDAID VERSUS FINDING THE ROOT CAUSE OF ANXIETY
As a neurologist with additional board certification in integrative medicine, I became acutely aware early in my medical training that the typical medications prescribed for feelings of anxiousness or anxiety were either a temporary band-aid or harmful, addictive substances. Benzodiazepines are medications that are overprescribed for anxiety and panic attacks. Examples are Valium, Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin.
In a report released by the Center for Disease Control, death from drug overdoses continues to increase. After opioids, benzodiazepines drugs are the second most common cause of overdose-related deaths.
As I speak virtually about mental health to companies and organizations, high-functioning, intellectual success-driven professionals continue to report increased anxiety despite implementing time management and improved productivity skills.
What if we could identify the root cause of your anxiety to treat and abolish the symptoms? Getting to the root cause of anxiety and panic disorders means identifying what process in the body or brain is out of balance and then restoring the imbalances to heal the anxiety. These imbalances lead to inflammation in the brain and body. Here are commonly overlooked root causes of anxiety and panic attacks.
Hormone Imbalances in Women and Men
A complete evaluation of any mood disorder in an adult includes a comprehensive analysis of hormones, not just the traditional screening labs done in most primary care offices. In women, the most common missed diagnosis leading to anxiety, panic attacks, and other mood disorders is that your thyroid is not functioning normally.
Commonly overlooked or underdiagnosed thyroid problems are subclinical hypothyroidism or hypothyroidism due to autoimmune disease. In these thyroid disorders, checking a routine TSH will not show abnormalities, a full thyroid panel must be ordered and analyzed. In addition to the thyroid gland, other hormone imbalances that commonly lead to anxiety are testosterone levels in men or adrenal gland dysfunction in both sexes.
Lifestyle Choices – Caffeine & Alcohol
It is not atypical in our busy society to start the day with excessive caffeine in either strong crafted coffee or energy drinks. The temporary boost of energy comes at the cost of stimulating the stress response in the brain leading to worsening feelings of anxiousness or an anxiety attack. It may feel temporarily calming to “take the edge off” with a glass of wine or one beer at the end of the long day.
Unfortunately, alcohol alters GABA receptors in the brain. When we drink, the alcohol is then metabolized in our bodies, leading to GABA changes, which will increase anxiety. Both excessive amounts of caffeine and any alcoholic beverage cause inflammation in both the cells of the body and the brain.
Lack of Sleep Leading to Anxiety
With a long to-do list, sacrificing sleep may be the standard behavior for success in your life. Sacrificing restorative sleep comes at the cost of lowered production of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin and serotonin are your “sleep good” and “feel good” hormones essential to promote not only sleep, but also a positive mental attitude. Also, inflammation in the brain is healed with restful sleep. Restful sleep means we sleep through the night and cycle through all the stages of sleep. Drinking alcohol may cause you to fall asleep quickly, but alcohol and benzodiazepines rob you of deep sleep. Skipping deep sleep stages is why you can wake up multiple times throughout the night or wake up feeling exhausted.
Inflammation in Your Gut is the Root Cause of Your Anxiety
The autonomic nervous system connects the gut and the brain. When infection, a food sensitivity, or a diet high in inflammatory foods (standard American diet rich in saturated fats and sugar) are present in our gastrointestinal tract, the gut bacteria are disrupted. The imbalance in our gut bacteria leads to chemical changes that cross into our brain and provoke anxiety, panic, memory impairment, and other mood disorders.
TREATING THE WHOLE PERSON NOT JUST YOUR ANXIETY SYMPTOMS
Getting to the root cause of anxiety and panic is beyond taking a pill for your ill or a supplement for your symptoms. Careful analysis of your entire medical history and current symptoms starts to trace the root cause of inflammation that could lead to your anxiety. These four root causes listed above are just the beginning of an evaluation typically done by an integrative or functional medicine practitioner.
A thorough integrative/functional medicine evaluation includes an in-depth history of “the whole person,” a physical examination, and extensive lab evaluation. Be wary of the advice that promotes a particular natural supplement, prescription medication, or tech tool. Like a couture dress or business suit, one size does not fit all. Accurate integrative medicine treatments are designed to be tailored to you as a whole person. Once the offending reason for inflammation in your body and brain are identified, a customized treatment plan can be created to help you heal in mind, body, and spirit.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON ANXIETY:
- Mastering Self-Control in an Uncontrollable World: https://drromie.com/mastering-self-control-in-an-uncontrollable-world/
- How to Control Work-From-Home Anxiety During the Pandemic: https://drromie.com/control-work-from-home-anxiety-pandemic/