Welcome to Part 3 of my “Anxiety 101” series. I recommend first reading Parts 1 and 2 if you need to catch up with what’s been written so far:
The Story So Far…
In Anxiety 101, Parts 1 and 2, you explored some of the commonly held misconceptions about anxiety, examined a few of the myths and stigmas attached to it and we aired some important truths.
You were probably surprised at the variety of ways that anxiety can creep into your life, the number of forms it can take and the direct and knock-on impacts it can create or trigger.
Perhaps you were even shocked to understand the extent of its reach, the breadth and depth of its impacts and to recognise its fingerprints on your own life.
e also started to develop an understanding of how clinical hypnotherapy can provide a powerful, natural and effective way to address and dramatically improve your anxiety and minimise its unwanted effects on your life. Expect much more on that in Part 4.
Anxiety is by far the most common problem that walks into my clinic. It’s amazing how often it’s the “problem beneath the problem” that clients come to have treated. It more often than not underlies problems such as:
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),
– Skin disorders such as psoriasis and even warts (no kidding)
– Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour, (OCD)
– Smoking, alcoholism and other addictions,
– Weight problems and eating disorders,
– Sexual disfunction,
– Poor concentration, motivation, procrastination and low self-esteem,
– Low resiliency and chronic fatigue, and
– Anger, impatience and moodiness…
You can imagine the relief my clients experience as they recognise this; as they experience major improvements not only in their initially reported problem but also in their overall anxiety following my treatments.
That of course has a compounded positive effect that ripples through their lives. They so often see improvements in their general health and sense of well-being, their sleep, energy and motivation levels, their work and relationships.
If you’re an anxiety sufferer (and statistically at least there’s a pretty good chance you are), fixing your anxiety is therefore one of the most profoundly beneficial actions you can take towards better physical, mental and emotional health.
Great, Let’s Fix It Then
I Want It Fixed NOW and It’s Gotta Be Quick And Easy!
Well it’s often not that simple, but there is a dramatic difference in the relative speed, effectiveness and ease of various popular forms of treatment.
Allow me to explain, on all counts.
In my previous articles, we discussed that anxiety shouldn’t be ignored nor it’s symptoms tolerated and that Clinical Hypnotherapy is a good treatment option (much more on that coming in Part 4). But what about the other ways? I mean…surely these days there’s a quick fix; a pill I can take or something?
Well, yes and no
We live in a world of “fast” expectations and instant gratification. We expect “instantaneous everything”; information, updates, results…everything on social media, via fast internet to our fast devices. Everything “on demand”,tailored and personalised for me; right here, right now. The easier the better. We self-impose an ever-increasing set of social, financial and lifestyle expectations and a cracking pace against which to achieve it.
Interestingly then, it would seem that the most commonly accepted strategies to tackle anxiety aren’t necessarily fast, or indeed effective. Although they might initially seem that way.
You see, traditionally, we tackle anxiety with anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications (or both) and talk-based therapies such as psychoanalysis and behavioral therapies.
That works, right? Well, read on, and YOU decide.
Are Talk-Based Therapies Effective, (or Quick, or Easy)?
In my article entitled “Time To Change” I showcased a segment from American Health Magazine providing startling comparisons of the time/cost and effectiveness of various therapy styles, based on upon statistics gathered by Dr. Alfred Barrios, PhD. http://stresscards.com/hypnotherapy_reappraisal.php
It compares the “talk-based” therapies to Clinical Hypnotherapy in terms of time and effectiveness. In summary, the findings were as follows:
– Psychoanalysis therapy achieves on average 38% recovery after 600 sessions. (Yes, you read that correctly).
– Behavioural therapy achieves on average 72% recovery after 22 sessions.
– Hypnotherapy achieves on average 93% recovery after 6 sessions.
Clinical Hypnotherapy wins hands down against those measures. You do the math on the comparative cost, ease and speed equations.
What About Medications? Surely THEY Offer The Quick, Easy Fix?
This question hinges on the principle of what anxiety “is”. On that score, there are various schools of thought. Some suggest that anxiety is the result of a chemical imbalance or some form of illness.
General Practitioners, Psychiatrists and therapists such Psychologists that subscribe to that viewpoint will thus, when working with anxiety sufferers, recommend anti-anxiety and/or anti-depressant medications.
Is that a good idea? I’m not going to tell you it’s a good idea or a bad idea to medicate for anxiety. That’s a matter between you and your GP or psychiatrist.
The question one is tempted to ask, however, is “will medications actually make me better, or will it just seem that way”, while the underlying issues remain?
I’m tempted to draw a car repair analogy. If you discovered extensive rust in a panel on your prized classic car, would you simply spray paint over the problem, on the basis that it makes the rust seem better? What would be the long term consequences?
As you ponder that, allow me to add some grist to the mill by walking you through some facts on those medications.
Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications come in a range of forms. I’ve mentioned both as they are often prescribed almost interchangeably for anxiety. I’ve summarised the five main categories here. As you read, pay particular attention to their stated side effects as listed here.
Now firstly, I challenge the term “side effect”. That’s marketing spin. If you consider just how severe they are (for example, risk of stroke, heart failure or sexual dysfunction), there’s nothing “side” about many of these effects. It’s like saying a side effect of parachute failure is death. Sorry, no. Let’s face it, they’re effects. Serious effects.
These “side effects” are incidentally the ones the drug companies are actually obliged to declare for their own products. Thus we might bravely assume the information is reliable.
1) Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s)
SSRI’s are anti-depressants and are currently the most popular anti-depression / anti-anxiety drugs as they have fewer side effects than MAOI’s. SSRI’s include drugs such as Prozac, Luvox and Aropax. SSRI’s must be taken on a daily basis for at least a few weeks before they are effective. SSRI drugs can interact with other drugs so before taking any medication in addition to your SSRI you should check with your doctor that is safe to do so.
Side effects may include poor sleep, fatigue and increased sweating. There may also be an adverse impact on one’s sexual functioning.
2) Seratonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI’s)
SNRI anti-depressants influence the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Venlafaxine (Effexor) is an example of an SNRI. Side effects may include nausea, sexual dysfunction, sweating, sleep disturbance and tremors, as well as an increase in blood pressure.
3) Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI’s)
MAOI’s are antidepressants that work by inhibiting the breakdown of seratonin and norepinephrine in the brain, thus causing a reduction in the symptoms of anxiety. People taking MAO’s have to follow a strict diet. They must not eat certain foods which contain tyramine (e.g. most aged cheeses, most alcoholic beverages, sausage products and Marmite) as these foods can interact with the medication to suddenly increase blood pressure and cause symptoms such as headaches and vomiting. Users of MAOI’s also have to be careful about drugs they take in addition to their MAOI. A severe high blood pressure reaction, in response to inappropriate food, beverages or medication, left untreated can lead to stroke or death.
Common side effects of MAOIS include insomnia, fatigue or drowsiness, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.
Benzodiazepines include drugs such as Valium, Ducene, Serepax, Xanax and Kalma. Benzodiazepines work very quickly to calm you but their effects do not last long. These are the anxiety band-aids.
Single doses can cause fatigue and drowsiness and therefore reduce your ability to think on your feet (e.g. in a job interview or oral exam). Benzodiazepines have some significant drawbacks. Firstly, people who take benzodiazepines on a daily basis for more than a few weeks may become physically dependent upon them. Therefore, these drugs should not be ceased abruptly as there is the risk of rebound anxiety and withdrawal effects. Anyone planning to reduce and or cease their intake of benzodiazepines should do so in consultation with their doctor. Secondly, these drugs may be abused; therefore people who have a history of substance abuse may be advised to avoid benzodiazepines. Thirdly, alcohol should not be consumed when you are taking benzodiazepines as it increases the sedative effect of the medication. Furthermore, people taking benzodiazepines need to exercise caution when driving or operating potentially dangerous machinery until they work out how they respond to the medication.
Side effects may include poor memory, fatigue, sleeping longer, impaired coordination, and loss of interest in sex. Benzodiazepines may also worsen a sufferer’s depression.
5) Beta Blockers
Beta blockers, such as Inderal, are used to treat anxiety. Beta blockers can alleviate heart palpitations and stop one’s hands from trembling as they block adrenaline receptors in the heart and muscles. They may also be helpful for blushing and sweating. These drugs are taken about an hour before a feared event and their effects last a couple of hours. Beta blockers appear to be best used for performance anxiety. i.e. public speaking, exams, music recitals etc.
For fans of “Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, they are the chemical equivalent of “peril sensitive sunglasses”.
Beta blockers may be less effective at reducing negative anxiety provoking thoughts than they are at reducing physical anxiety symptoms such as heart palpitations and tremor. One of the limitations of using beta blockers is that if a feared social event is sprung on you without warning you don’t have an hour for the drugs to take effect.
Beta blockers generally cannot be used by asthmatics, diabetics or people with some forms of heart disease.
So…are medications a quick and easy fix? Well…easy, yes, you just start taking pills. As explained above their effectiveness varies considerably according to which ones, your mental and emotional state, your metabolism and what else you’re taking concurrently. Beta Blockers and Benzodiazepines can feel as though they are helping which is actually important.
I’m going to suggest however, that anxiety is not something you automatically medicate for. It isn’t something you catch, and arguably its got nothing to do with genetics or chemical imbalances. In fact the medical community is split on that debate also. I mean, could 48 million Americans all be chemically imbalanced simultaneously? Well…perhaps, but anyway, you see my point.
So, are medications a “fix” or a band-aid?
Here’s an alternative and common sense perspective. I’ve said it before, but honestly, its important enough for you to truly retain it. Anxiety is something you “do” rather than “have”. Think of it as a verb, rather than a noun. It’s a pattern of thinking and leaned habitual responses and reactions. That it’s predominantly a set of mental constructs you create and evolve over time; and thus can change. That being the case, there’s an argument that medications will just numb down or chemically modify your reactions and feelings. Maybe helpful “in the moment”, but is it sustainable.
Why Would Anyone Want People To Take Medications If They Weren’t Necessary?
Now THAT’s a big question; in fact a great question! Well, as is often the case when trying to get to the bottom of things, we “follow the money trail”. Scientific American reports that now 1 in 6, or around 15% of Americans regularly take ant-depressant/anti-anxiety medications. That equates to an annual spend in the US alone on treatments including medications of between $44Billion and $55Billion p.a. That’s more than $1000 per sufferer per annum. It’s serious business and business booms for the drug companies if they can convince you that your anxiety (or even your self-diagnosed depression) isn’t just a condition requiring a temporary fix…but one you’ll need to medicate for a prolonged period. In fact, from the profit perspective “the longer the better”, right? Have you ever watched an evening of prime time US TV and not seen an ad for an anti depressant? You won’t. They spent a fortune conditioning the public to believe its OK and normal to medicate their little hearts out…literally. A drug company wouldn’t want you to be long term dependent on their product right, well no more than a tobacco company would, right?
Now, two things. You’ll notice I’ve not been tempted to lump depression and anxiety in together.
THIS IS IMPORTANT. Clinically diagnosed major depression is a complex condition and one where specialised medical and psychiatric treatment AND appropriate medications certainly have their place.
However, I can’t begin to accurately estimate how many cases of apparent depression are determined by “Google self-diagnosis”.
Moreover, we seem to live in a world where everyone not only self-diagnoses but also needs to categorise and label their condition. Then, and I’m sure we’ve all seen this, many people want to catastrophise it.
Nobody has a cold anymore; it’s the Flu. It’s often not a headache anymore, it’s a migraine. When describing pain, people often tell me theirs is 8/10 or higher…yet they walk into my clinic. It naturally follows that when people walk into doctor’s feeling a “bit blue” and catastrophising their symptoms, they are often prescribed medications faster than you can say “Quickdraw McGraw”.
That in turn can lead to an ongoing dependency. Ironically, it often also leverages the placebo effect. That is, the patient’s mind wants to believe the drugs are helping and therefore they do.
As you’ll read in my article on Placebo, that’s an effect that can just as easily be leveraged by a non chemical treatment such as Hypnotherapy. Powerfully so.
Now please, don’t see this as my trivialising your anxiety or trying to diminish the potential severity of your anxiety symptoms and effects. I see these in my clinic daily. I as much as anyone appreciate that if you’re a sufferer, it’s real. But in the interests of getting it sorted out, there’s really nothing helpful about your jumping to conclusions about what it is, what its medically called, it’s severity and what it all means as far as resolution.
Just know there are real strategies to tackle it that won’t have you lingering for years in this condition or so heavily medicated that you glow in the dark.
I would not be surprised, having now read the facts about the efficacy of treatments such as psychoanalysis, behavioral therapy and counselling, that you might now be questioning whether you’ve the patience, budget and sense of humour to rely on those treatment paths alone.
If you’re being prescribed medications, either in parallel with such therapies or standalone, I wonder what you’re now asking yourself? You’ve now read about the medications and their side effects. Perhaps you might now be concerned about prolonged use and how those listed side effects might be affecting you. Just maybe you’ve now connected the dots regarding certain unhelpful sensations or symptoms you’ve been experiencing but have not been able to properly understand?
If your medical professional has determined that you need anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication and you’re satisfied that that conclusion has been reached by expert analysis and diagnosis, then you should follow their advice. If, as you reflect, you realise that diagnosis was based on a quick five to ten minute chat about you “feeling blue or moody” (as sadly is often the case), then perhaps it’s time to get a second opinion, and/or explore safe, non-chemical options that eliminate the potentially nasty side effects of medications?
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of anxiety, including the sorts of conditions I’ve described in this series so far, it makes more sense to explore the natural, medication free and highly effective treatment path available to you through clinical hypnotherapy. There are no chemical side-effects, and as shown it represents a significantly faster and more effective treatment path than psychology and counselling.
Importantly, if you or you doctor feel it best that you commence or remain on medications in parallel with hypnotherapy, that’s OK too. Please do so. Do not be surprised however if following a correctly designed and delivered treatment program that you put down those med’s forever.
One way or another, I encourage anyone suffering from the effects of anxiety to do something proactive about it. Only through proper help can lasting health be attained. It’s unlikely to just “go away” by itself. It’s not necessarily the case however that the longer the condition remains the more entrenched it becomes. An anxiety disorder that is months old is treated the same way, and often with equal effectiveness, to a condition you’ve been experiencing for decades.
Given how debilitating anxiety can be however, why not be kind to yourself …
…and do something about it NOW.
After all, we are ALL ABOUT NOW these days, right?
In Part 4 of this series, we will next explore in detail how a correctly structured and delivered Clinical Hypnotherapy treatment regime can resolve your anxiety. We’ll look at the wealth of empirical evidence overwhelmingly supporting the effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as an anxiety treatment. We’ll also explore why not all hypnotherapy treatments are created equal and share the secrets on which elements of treatment are crucial to overall success.
Watch my short introductory video.
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