Forty million Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder, making it the most commonly diagnosed psychological problem in the U.S. Yet that number pales in comparison to the number of people in this country who feel overly stressed out way too often. According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, with 44 percent reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. Worry about money, work and the economy top the list of most frequent sources of stress. Stress is also taking a huge toll on our kids, with nearly a third reporting a stress related physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches or trouble falling or staying asleep.
If we include the millions more in this country who don’t fit all diagnostic criteria, but experience enough worry to interfere with their overall health and happiness, anxiety is truly an American epidemic. At Center for Transformation we use a highly effective combination of short-term psychotherapy combined with other strategies such as supplementation, exercise and stress reducing activities to beat the anxiety that has been getting the best of you. Our commitment to you is that you will begin feeling less within 1-3 sessions.
As is the case for all major mental disorders, there is a strong genetic component to anxiety. The amygdala and hippocampus have both been found to play important roles in generating anxiety in the brain. The heritability rates for anxiety disorders among close blood relatives is considered significant. At the Center for Transformation, therefore, we consider it essential to address your anxiety directly on a brain level. Given our holistic approach, however, we don’t simply rush you to a physician for medication. In contrast, we advocate using supplements and herbs such as 5-H-T-P (a precursor to serotonin), a natural substance called SAM-e (S- Adenosyl methionine)-which also has potent anxiety reducing effects, and GABA, a calming substance found naturally in the brain.
My team and I also refer a large number of our patients for brain training technology called Neurofeedback, which can have some amazing and rapid results for anxiety. Regular exercise is another critical component to anxiety treatment (as for any mood challenge) and overall stress management. Meditation is a powerful anxiety reducing practice, in and of itself. Cindy and I also strongly advocate a diet lower in refined carbs and sugar and higher in protein to keep blood sugar stable.
True to our holistic approach, my team and I only refer clients for meds when other strategies prove insufficient. And even then, the goal is to keep the dosage low and duration as short as possible. The benzodiazepenes (such as Xanax and Ativan) and antidepressants used to treat anxiety often have very negative side effects including weight gain, loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction, grogginess and fatigue. It can also be very difficult to get off these meds due to withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps most importantly, compelling evidence has come to light in the last several years about harmful effects of long-term antidepressant and benzodiazepine use. At the Center for Transformation we believe that anxiety meds can have a place in the healing spectrum as long as alternatives are explored first and they are part of a comprehensive wellness plan.
For every mental health challenge, there is a real solution. At the Center for Transformation we work with you as a team to help you develop a more positive and resilient approach to what stresses you out. Not only do we use “cognitive-behavioral” strategies, such as practicing more rational ways of looking at situations, and homework to develop various skills (such as facing situations you are afraid of in limited doses, limiting your worry to 15 minutes a day, and keeping a journal) but we will help you develop a more empowered identity. Instead of feeling fearful that negative circumstances outside your control will get in your way, you will feel a growing sense of personal power to create the life you truly want. Your thoughts will be more positive, and the resulting feelings (and results) will mirror those thoughts. Even people prone to anxiety who feel more in control of their destinies experience less worry, more self esteem and life satisfaction.