The treatments for anxiety can be much, much, worse than the "disease"
Epidemiologists suggest that some eighteen percent of the American population struggles with anxiety each year. Does that make you nervous?
What makes me nervous is that that BigPharma is handing out little white pills to deal with this problem ... and instead of helping anxiety, these pills are funding the vacation homes of corporate executives.
What makes me downright frightened is that research nearly 30 years in the making shows that some of these anti-anxiety drugs cause brain damage similar to the long-term effects of alcohol abuse.
Yes, you heard me correctly. Anti-anxiety medication more likely to cause your brain to shrink than it is to cure your anxiety. And a lot of Americans are on them.
Twenty eight percent of us will struggle with anxiety in our lifetimes, and 83 million Americans take tranquilizers to deal with it. Commonly called “benzos” they are often known by the names: Valium, Xanax, Librium, Ativan, and Klonopin. “Benzos” are said to cause memory loss, damage to the cerebral cortex, addiction, cognitive impairment, memory loss—and a host of other domino effects.
Turns out those that struggle with anxiety, or its counterpart, panic attacks, are also at risk for a litany of diseases that include: hypertension, peptic ulcer, diabetes, thyroid disease, cardiac disease—basically—everything under the sun.
So we have a serious and wide-spread mental health issue that also can cause physical health issues – and the medications for it are ineffective and damage your brain. This is the bad news.
Here’s the good news. There is help. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom and the almighty techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy and BigPharma.
Research published in the BioMed Nutritional Journal, funded and executed by the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, advocates suggests a natural alternative to prescription anti-anxiety pills. The research suggests that nutritional supplements such as passionflower, kava, L-lysine and L-arginine may be the next natural, safe and effective way to treat the paralyzing effects of anxiety!
Through meta-analysis, researchers Shaheen Lakhan and Karen Vieira found across the board effectiveness in using phytochemicals derived from plants in treating anxiety. The well known herbs contain this plant derived remedy. This research comes in the wake of studies that suggest the ineffectiveness of St John's Wort and magnesium supplements; natural remedies that have proven ineffective at curtailing the effects and origin of anxiety.
This is a big improvement over expensive pharmaceuticals that have terrible potential side effects. But is it still enough?
What if some anxiety – even much anxiety – isn’t just a “condition,” but is in fact anxiety ABOUT something? Can you cure it without getting to the root issue?
Of course not: to truly treat anxiety we must understand it – and acknowledge that it can even be a symptom of good impulses, not just bad. Anxiety, with all its unpleasantness, can have a potentially positive function by facilitating growth in the lives of millions who suffer from its effects.
In his landmark publication Psychology and the Human Dilemma, Rollo May explores anxiety and its cultural and existential implications. May states:
“Anxiety occurs because of a threat to the values a person identifies with his existence as a self ... most anxiety comes from a threat to social, emotional and moral values the person identifies with himself. And here we find that a main source of anxiety, particularly in the younger generation, is that they do not have viable values available in the culture on the basis of which they can relate to their world. The anxiety which is inescapable in an age in which values are so radically in transition is a central cause of apathy ... such prolonged anxiety tends to develop into lack of feeling and the experience of depersonalization.”
Maybe we have something to be anxious about. That’s no reason not to treat anxiety ... if those treatments do no harm ... but we can’t reduce human complexity down to a pill.
We’re a long way from that today, but getting treatments that don’t damage your brain is a good start.
-- Liz Schreiber