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A Naturopathic Perspective on Anxiety Disorders

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By Jennifer Jay Marcenelle

Only a short while ago, a U.S. health panel released urgent recommendations that all children aged eight years and up be screened for anxiety. Roughly one month prior, another health panel recommendation urged that all adults under 65 receive routine anxiety screenings. As the waves of COVID-19 infections begin to subside, it appears that we’ve traded one major pandemic for another[JM1] .

My name is Jennifer Marcenelle. As a Board Certified Holistic[JM2]  Nurse and Professional Energy Healer, I toe the line between modern medicine and more traditional practices that aim to treat illnesses of our intertwined physical and spiritual selves. This article looks at one of our most pressing public health concerns, the anxiety epidemic, through holistic healing, combining both Western and Eastern medical perspectives.

What is anxiety?

While it’s true that anxiety disorders have gained tremendous visibility over recent years, we still have a long way to go in fully appreciating how they impact our overall wellbeing and quality of life. So, let’s start by getting on the same page.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” It differs from fear in that anxiety is an apprehensive feeling towards some possible future event, making it a much longer-lasting emotion than fear, another emotion defined as “an appropriate, present-oriented, and short-lived response to a clearly identifiable and specific threat.”

How do you know if you have anxiety?

You may have an anxiety disorder without realizing it, as was the case with me several years ago. Identifying anxious symptoms begins with a basic awareness of what they are. 

The symptoms of anxiety disorders vary and can include:

  • Restlessness, or feeling “on-edge”
  • Tiring quickly in the face of stress
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia and related sleep issues
  • Physical symptoms, including headaches, muscle aches, and chest pain
  • Racing heart and racing mind
  • Feelings that others are judging you

Physicians classify anxiety into a series of related but distinct disorders: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and a number of phobia-related disorders, including separation anxiety disorder.

Where Holistic Healing Fit into the Treatment of Anxiety?

Over recent months, psychologists around the U.S. have reported dramatic increases in the number of patients seeking treatment for anxiety and depression. And I commend people for shedding the stigma and finally seeking the treatment they need.

But if psychologists can handle the treatment of anxiety, why would anyone need the help of a licensed holistic healer like me? Answering that question begins with a slightly different approach to the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Currently, treatments and therapies for anxiety disorders fall into four broad categories:

  1. Psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy)
  2. Medication (such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications)
  3. Support groups
  4. Stress management techniques

Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,”, focuses on targeting and eliminating negative thoughts. If you struggle with an anxiety disorder, then psychotherapy is critical. As the NIH explains, medications don’t cure anxiety—they simply help provide some temporary relief from the symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is recognized as the “gold standard” for psychotherapy, but it often requires months of emotional work in confronting painful thoughts and memories, and for that reason, patients often report feeling worse before feeling better.

Still, that’s no reason to forego seeking treatment. If you have managed to live with an anxiety disorder, then you are strong enough to go through psychotherapy. But it doesn’t mean you must make the journey alone. By joining a support group, people with anxiety disorders can create a judgment-free network, strengthening their sense of self via their connections to others. And then, we have a vague little term “stress management techniques.” While psychotherapy is the best way to permanently change the underlying thoughts and mental distortions, stress management techniques, including mindfulness and meditation, can .” Under this treatment category, you’ll find holistic healers like myself.

A Holistic Healer’s Approach to Anxiety

Western medicine is hyper-focused on things like modernity and efficiency. For that reason, it’s often labeled by patients as clinical and cold because through this perspective; physicians all-too-often begin to view their patients as collections of physical systems and organs that must be “optimized” to be “cured[JM1] .”

I spent years as an ER and cardio-vascular critical care nurse and realized that while Western medicine provides incredible insight into our biology, it fails to fully acknowledge how closely intertwined our physical bodies are with our spiritual selves[JM2] .

I define anxiety in the context of the self, particularly as it relates to depression (a condition that often, but not always, accompanies anxiety). Suppose depression is the feeling of stagnation and hopelessness once a person begins to give up. In that case, anxiety represents the obnoxious, never-ending string of worries that deprive the individual of their sense of value, peace, and positivity. Anxiety is spinning endlessly on a hamster wheel and getting nowhere. Depression is deciding not to even bother[JM3] .

And as a Holistic Nurse, I approach this type of situation with an appreciation for each of us in our nature as human beings. Each of us needs to feel valued and important. We need to offer ourselves nutritious food, get enough sleep, and take time to relax and do the things that we enjoy. These fundamental needs are things we deserve to celebrate and respect as sacred, but in a world where challenges, stressors, and mounting responsibilities are all around us, sometimes we devalue our sense of self.

When anxiety is permitted to run rampant, it can quickly overpower us and take control of our thoughts and behaviors, clouding our minds to the core needs we all have as human beings—needs that must be addressed in order for us to live productive and fulfilling lives. While you can get some temporary relief from anxiety by numbing yourself with medication, it doesn’t address what’s hurting you at your core—you’ve neglected the needs of your own spirit and body for so long that you are struggling to go forward. These aren’t burdens, and as a professional energy healer, my job is to guide you as you get back in touch with these starving elements of yourself.

 How can Holistic Healing and Naturopathy Help?

Naturopathic doctors and holistic healers are drawing attention from major leaders and organizations across the U.S. Washington state just became the 23rd U.S. state to permit alternative providers, following in line with the direction of major health organizations, such as the American Psychological Association, which now offers courses to psychologists on alternative techniques, recognizing that there is value in integrating complementary and alternative medical methods into their work with clients. With my practice, Burn Bright Today, LLC, I support patient healing through a number of holistic healing techniques, including Quantum Healing. I am currently preparing to begin a year-long in-person series promoting these services for those with anxiety disorders. To take my burnout assessment and learn more about scheduling a healing session, please visit my website or book a consultation today! I look forward to accompanying you on your healing journey.

References:

Barnett, J. (2012, April). Alternative Techniques. American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/ce-corner

Bethune, S. (November 17, 2020). Psychologists Report Large Increases in Demand for Anxiety, Depression Treatment. American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/11/anxiety-depression-treatment

Krumme, M. (2022, August 6). Wisconsin’s naturopathic doctors prepare for expanded duties. Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://www.wpr.org/wisconsins-naturopathic-doctors-prepare-expanded-duties

Shrikant, A. (2022, October 13). Kids ages 8 and up should be screened for anxiety, U.S. Health Panel recommends. CNBC. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/10/13/new-health-guidance-kids-ages-8-and-up-should-be-screened-for-anxiety.html

Tanner, L. (2022, September 12). U.S. health panel says adults should get routine anxiety screening. PBS. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/u-s-health-panel-says-adults-should-get-routine-anxiety-screening

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders 

How Long Will It Take for Treatment to Work? American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/length-treatment.pdf Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology and APA Dictionary of Psychology. (n.d.). Anxiety. American Psychological Association. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety

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A Naturopathic Perspective on Anxiety Disorders

By Jennifer Jay Marcenelle Only a short while ago, a U.S. health panel released urgent recommendations that all children aged eight years and up be