Mental Made Easy: Anxiety is Not Always a Disorder
Anxiety is quite common (not to undermine it obviously)-but a lot of people suffer from it. And so often, they’re told, when seeking help for it-that it’s a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ or a ‘brain disorder’-or they’ve been given no answer, just a pill.
The pill will help to an extent, but people tend to find that the actual anxiety persists. It breaks through. And the pill makes them feel woozy-and, it’s addictive.
Sound familiar? Read on!
The first question to ask is WHERE the anxiety comes from, before just accepting a pill, which will alleviate the symptoms-but not identify the SOURCE. There are so many different sources, that to label anxiety as a disorder and just take a pill for it, is completely pre-emptive, without further investigation into what could be causing it.
The theory tends to lean on mental health issues (and anxiety is classified as one) originating from the brain. Anxiety, generally speaking, has been described as malfunctioning of brain circuitry in response to stress, traumatic events; or a disorder inherited through family lines.
I want to share a case study or two with you, just to show you alternative perspectives, and chat about the fact that that tracking the source of something like anxiety, for example, is SO valuable. Symptoms may manifest in the brain, but the ORIGIN may come from elsewhere!
Take client X for example: he felt he needed some months’ worth of sessions to investigate his generalised anxiety (a good move on his part!)
In the first session, he talked about his high blood pressure for which he was on medication from his GP-and a car hijacking which happened at at night (quite common in SA), which left him feeling anxious when driving at night-and feeling especially wobbly as he drove past the actual site. Made a lot of sense-a traumatic event, with lasting impact. He hadn’t had help for it-so it needed working through.
Then, we talked further and I checked his diet (standard practice for me, for anxiety); he mentioned, by the by, his craving for salt. And I immediately thought he may be dehydrated. Why? Well, if you have gastro, for example, you may take a rehydration solution which contains salt, or go for the salt and vinegar chips afterwards- because you’re dehydrated!
Turned out his busyness at work was leading to him literally drinking a cup or two of fluid A DAY! OK. So, dehydration, salt craving, high blood pressure (too much salt)-spiking general anxiety. HIS unique source.
So we upped his fluid intake significantly- and the general anxiety (and blood pressure) came down-even though he had a very stressful job. DIET was involved here-as it so often can be. Interesting, hey?
Not a brain disorder…
Similarly, another client of mine had terrible ongoing anxiety which started quite suddenly-and she was finding it very distressing. Looking at her daily schedule, we tracked the source from food and drink-or lack thereof! The anxiety started as she inadvertently started depriving herself of food and fluid.
She was up at 5-30am every day, drinking coffee, no water and not eating breakfast (how many people do this?!) By 9am, she was feeling ‘hazy’, teary and anxious, with blurred vision. She’d also started intermittent fasting, so we realised that her anxiety was pretty much due to fluctuating blood sugar levels in the body. SHE needed to eat, regularly.
Getting her back on regular, proper meals, with sufficient fluid intake, sorted the anxiety out in a week or so.
These are just examples of anxiety being something other than a brain disorder: ALWAYS necessary to investigate, because the sources can so often be related to other issues.
On the food and drink note, not everyone’s body is happy not eating, or not eating at regular intervals. Unstable blood sugar levels, caused by fasting or irregular eating in some people, eating the wrong foods, not drinking enough water or drinking too much caffeine, CAN cause anxiety.
I always work with my clients to find the source of their anxiety-IT’S KEY! Because it can stop them thinking they have something ‘huge’ and scary-or think they’re going nuts; help them find the right treatment; and not just go for a pill!