The Naturopathic Approach to Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are fairly commonplace words in today’s society, which can be both good and bad.
The good part is that people are more aware that anxiety and depression are real and debilitating conditions. Many people now believe that these feelings are normal to have and that it’s ok to ask for help in coping. The bad part is that our instinct to label and generalize often means we miss the individual nature of what people are feeling or thinking and therefore, what they really need.
Anxiety can be used to describe everything from a teenager’s pre-test emotional state to a parent’s worry about that same teen. Anxiety can range from mild stress to debilitating; to where you can’t get out of bed to face the day due to overwhelming emotions. It is also a word that is used to label or to explain away other symptoms and is often used as a reason to prescribe medication.
Setting aside the diagnosis of anxiety, it is important to know what an individual is feeling and thinking and what they are experiencing when they have anxiety. The word anxious means different things to different people. It is caused by unique stresses, events and places and manifests in different ways.
It is important as well to look at other symptoms like skin issues, aches and pains and other health changes that may be connected, but haven’t been considered. Once there is an understanding of what someone is really feeling, only then can healing begin.
Everyone today feels they are busy, that change can be hard and that there are some things in their lives they have no control over. We must also understand though that changing, even just a few things and in simple ways, can often help people start to heal. If we do not make time for our minds and bodies to heal, how can we possibly expect to feel whole?
In treating anxiety, naturopathic medicine may encourage lifestyle changes and look at ways to make stressful environments safer. It may prescribe botanical medicines and homeopathic remedies that, because they work at the root of physical symptoms and causes, provide deep and lasting results.
Sometimes people say they believe homeopathic medicine cannot help them because they’ve already tried an off the shelf remedy and it didn’t work. Although there are some good products you can pick up yourself, the problem is that most are very generic and designed just to meet the top symptoms in a given category. Individual treatment looks for symptoms, or sometimes a lack of symptoms that are unique. Through an individualized approach, people are able to achieve a deeper response that is more effective.
Depression is another label that can have a wide range of symptoms and can impact people to varying degrees. Depression can be as simple as someone not feeling up to doing things or not being motivated the way they used to, to full-out apathy towards life and suicidal thoughts.
As with anxiety, it is important to first understand the person. What does depression mean to them, how it has affected their life, what are they feeling or what do they feel they are lacking? Often times, looking at the duration of the feelings and the family history can be helpful as well.
Sometimes people have a sense something is wrong but don’t know what. They may be embarrassed or don’t want to bother someone with their troubles. Giving people the time they need in a non-judgmental, unhurried environment is key to ensuring that they feel supported enough to share, examine and really begin to heal.
As with anxiety, depression requires an individualized approach that may include symptomatic treatment, lifestyle changes, botanical remedies and homeopathy. Lab testing for metabolic, hormonal and food issues may also be recommended as part of due diligence to ensure physical triggers or conditions are not being overlooked.
Many people who experience depression have already met with a medical doctor or therapist. If they feel that things aren’t changing the way they had hoped, or they’re tired of being medicated, or tired of not feeling like themselves, they sometimes look to naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine aims to fill in the gaps that modern medicine sometimes cannot fill.
Many of the treatments naturopathic medicine uses compliment prescription medicines, sometimes alleviating side effects of the prescription. Treatment protocols can also help patients reduce or get off other medications if that is their goal. Working with their own medical doctors or therapists, a good Naturopathic Doctor will become part of a team to provide patients with a whole health, integrative approach to healing.
Whether people feel they suffer from anxiety or depression or they’re just really sad….it is important to know that whatever they’re struggling with, whatever they’re feeling, it isn’t their fault or anything to be ashamed of and certainly not something to judge.
As is often the case, people generally have the answers within themselves. They know what their stressors are and know when they are pushing themselves too hard. They just need support in making the changes.
There should not be a stigma to admitting to feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression; it is not a weakness or a failing and it isn’t wrong to need help. Just as you would look for help if you found a lump or had a limb that was sore, when our brains, our emotions and our spirits are in need of help, it’s ok to ask for help and to want to feel well again.