“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
Anxiety affects us all. But when anxiety becomes constant, more intense, and starts interfering with normal day-to-day activities you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is treatable and with proven natural therapies and counselling you can overcome anxiety and regain control of your life and wellbeing.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and panic. It can also be used to describe a challenging or stressful “but non-dangerous event” such as an exam, public speaking, a new career, or even a date. It is a natural response to a fear that can be either perceived or real. It becomes a problem when the fear becomes persistent and negatively impacts on your life, such as your ability to eat, sleep, concentrate, travel, enjoy life, or even leave the house to go to work or school. This is a sign that it has surpassed normal worrying and become an anxiety disorder. It is important to seek treatment and not to suffer in silence.
IMI offers a holistic approach to anxiety. We integrate counselling psychology, naturopathic remedies, and lifestyle recommendations to support you emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. We focus on your whole self - body and mind - to help you rationalise your fear, manage anxiety, and promote wellness.
Anxiety incorporates both the emotional and physical sensations we experience when worried or nervous. Anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response and while unpleasant this is a normal reaction when our body perceives a threat. When faced with what “feels” like a threat, our nervous system goes into automatic hyper-alert and generates a boost of adrenaline that increases the heart rate and the amount of oxygen going to our limbs, so we are better able to respond to the perceived “danger”. The “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that many associate with anxiety is this mechanism kicking in when we are nervous.
There are common symptoms of anxiety that people experience in terms of physiological, behavioural, and psychological. Physiological signs can cause a significant amount of distress especially when they increase in intensity, duration, and frequency. On a behavioural level, anxiety can sabotage your ability to act, express yourself, and deal with everyday situations. While psychologically you may feel apprehension, nervousness, and a deep sense of unease.
The most common physical symptoms of anxiety:
- Increased heart rate, palpitations, hot flushes, excessive perspiration, dry mouth
- “Jelly legs”, tingling in the hands and feet, Increased muscle tension, shaking, feeling sick
- Breathing issues – hyperventilation (over breathing), dizziness or difficulty breathing
- Wanting to use the toilet frequently
- Tight band across the chest area, tension headaches
The most common psychological symptoms (the thoughts or altered perceptions we have) of anxiety are thinking or feeling:
- That you may lose control and/or go “mad”
- That you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
- Increased worry before sleep or during the night
- That people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
- Detached from your environment and the people in it, wanting to escape from the situation
- On edge and alert to everything around you
The most common behavioural symptoms (the things we do when we are anxious):
Avoidance—although avoiding an anxiety provoking situation produces immediate relief from the anxiety, it is only a short-term solution. In addition if you always respond with avoidance you never get to find out whether your fear about the situation and what would happen is accurate.
Isolation—as overwhelm increases, and anxiety become more intense, withdrawal tends to happen as it can be hard to put on a front or engage in ordinary social situations, particularly those where we cannot be authentic.
Adapt lifestyle—to mask, numb or adapt to anxiety some people will increase alcohol consumption, drugs, comfort eating and when anxiety becomes more severe, the use of prescribed medical drugs which can become highly addictive themselves.
There are different types of anxiety disorders, but the most common are:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—leaves people feeling anxious about a multitude of things rather than any one specific thing, such as health, money, work, school and relationships. While most of us worry or feel anxious at some point in our lives, those who experience generalised anxiety find it particularly difficult to control their worries and the feelings of anxiety are persistent and begin to affect their daily lives. In fact, as soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another appears. If you often feel a few of the following symptoms: a lack of control, anxious, restless, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension or sleep disturbances - you are likely to be may be diagnosed with GAD. Typically, these feelings are related to everyday tasks, such as stress at home or work, but other times you may not know why you are feeling anxious. GAD is a common condition, estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population. Slightly more women are affected than men, and the condition is more common in people from the ages of 35 to 59.
Phobias—A phobia is an overwhelming fear of something, place, situation, feeling, or animal (e.g. fear of animals, spiders, heights, flying, airplane, injection, going to the dentist) Coming into close contact with the feared situation causes anxiety and, in some cases, even the thought of the phobia can trigger anxiety.
Panic disorder—If you experience seemingly unpredictable panic attacks, and are unable to identify a trigger, you may be diagnosed with panic disorder. Symptoms include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, feeling faint and trembling. More info
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)—OCD comprises of obsessional thoughts followed by compulsive urges. The obsessions are recurring urges, thoughts or images that can cause you to feel anxious. Compulsions are the actions or thoughts that you feel the need to do or repeat. Compulsions are typically a response to ease the anxiety of an obsession. More info
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, and are experiencing flashbacks or nightmares, you may be diagnosed with PTSD. These reactions can make you feel like you’re reliving the fear and anxiety repeatedly. More info
Anxiety is a problem that can get worse if the stresses continue to build up. People may feel ashamed to ask for help or believe that it’s not that big a problem and try to deal with it alone. If you are experiencing symptoms it is important to consult a health professional.
Anxiety disorders can be attributed to a number of factors:
- Personality traits (e.g. perfectionists, low self-esteem, wanting to control everything, rejection, isolation)
- Chemical imbalance in the brain (e.g. low serotonin levels can be genetic and lead to anxiety symptoms and noradrenaline, which control and regulates mood)
- Environmental (e.g. stress from being overworked, personal relationship, getting divorced, finances, having surgery, death or loss of a loved one, pregnancy, motherhood)
- Substance abuse (e.g. drug or alcohol use – substance abuse can aggravate anxiety conditions)
- Medical factors (e.g. side effects of medicine; long term health condition, such as arthritis, diabetes, overactive thyroid, PMS, hypoglycaemia/low blood glucose,)
- Traumatic experiences (e.g. domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, neglect, being bullied, or early attachment issues)
- Substances that aggravate anxiety include caffeine, nicotine, stimulant drugs, salt, preservatives, hormones in meat, and simple sugars.
- Diet and poor eating habits (e.g. food allergies; food intolerances, which causes brain inflammation and nutritional deficiencies; missing meals so blood sugar drops; diet high in sugar, fried food, low veg)
- Gut dysbiosis – leading to painful digestive symptoms and a direct link between the gut and the brain, causing mood disorders)
The two most common forms of treatment offered for anxiety are counselling and medication.
Antidepressants can help to ease common anxiety symptoms and can help sufferers to function better however, they do not tackle the root cause and are not effective for everybody. They are often used in combination, particularly in more severe cases but generally if you have been diagnosed with GAD, it is common to be advised to try psychological treatment before being prescribed medication.
Medication. If you are considering taking medication for GAD, we suggest you discuss your symptoms and any other conditions, severity of the anxiety, history of symptoms, history of treatment, psychosocial stresses, and social support systems, as well as the different treatment options in detail before you start a course of treatment. This should include the different types of medication, length of treatment, side effects, and possible interactions with other medicines.
The main medications you may be offered are often selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which work by increasing the level of a chemical “serotonin” in your brain. There are many common side effects of SSRIs particularly in the first two weeks: feeling agitated or sick, indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss, dizziness, dry mouth, excessive sweating, headaches, problems sleeping, drowsiness and a low sex drive. These side effects usually settle as your body adjusts to the medication, although some can persist. If you do start medication we recommend you have regular appointments to assess your progress, any side effects and later on a plan for slowly reducing the dose over the course of a few weeks to reduce the risk of withdrawal effects.
At IMI we take an integrated approach to anxiety, which allows us to treat the whole person rather than focusing on specific symptoms. Our practitioners may suggest certain lifestyle changes and ways to make stressful environments safe. Exercise is important, breathing techniques, relaxation, meditation, and good nutritional habits is effective when treating anxiety. We want to identify any nutritional deficiencies and replenish nutrients (i.e. omega 3, B complex and magnesium, vitamin D), remove food intolerances, and support proper bacterial balance as research shows there is a strong link between gut bacteria and anxiety. We may also prescribe homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements, vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and calming amino acids.
Counselling/Psychotherapy is an effective treatment. You work with a trained therapist to figure out ways to reduce the impact of your anxiety. An experienced counsellor can identify the nature, form, and complexity of your anxiety and if it is sufficiently serious and pervasive enough to require referral to a specialist. Therapy is a key factor in understanding the source of your anxiety. Your counsellor will explore your symptoms with you and help you uncover the underlying issues that have contributed. The therapy will support you to gain new strengths, deeper insights, new knowledge about relationships, help you to move on or come to terms with loss, create meaning out of life experiences, and gain a fresh trust.
There are many counselling and psychotherapy approaches available and research suggests that no therapeutic approach seems to be superior to others for the treatment of anxiety. A core aspect of all counselling approaches is for the counsellor to create a safe, trusting, empathic and attuned relationship and environment to support you.
Homeopathic remedies are a natural, safer alternative to SSRIs. There are many homeopathic remedies to treat particular anxieties, such as Argentum Nitricum (anxious about a big event; i.e. an exam, public speaking, a social engagement etc.); Gelsemium (fear of crowds, fear of falling, even a fear your heart might stop); Kali Arsenicosum (a deep anxiety and inability to cope i.e. hearing unpleasant news, increasing sense of dread). Before prescribing any remedy, a homeopathic practitioner will begin with a thorough review of your medical history and a comprehensive patient evaluation. This enables a personalised holistic treatment plan that aims to treat your anxiety and put you on the path to better health.
Skilled hands on treatment such as osteopathy, craniosacral therapy and acupuncture are excellent ways to support the nervous system and promote relaxation.
Self-help. We would also seek to support you by helping identify and develop self-help activities and habits to better understand and reduce the impact of your anxiety and increase your self-esteem.
Articles and Further Information
Mindfulness Helps Hong Kong Children Overcome Anxiety and School Pressures through Yoga and Hiking – an article featured in South China Morning Post
By Mina Weight, Homeopath, R.A. RS Hom (UK) We all experience anxiety or nervousness from time to time. When we deliver a presentation or speech, before taking an exam, or...
By Dr. Christine Mok-Lammé (Ph.D.) Have you or your loved one experienced difficulties with depression and anxiety? Are you aware of some of the signs: unable to remember things or...
By Catriona Rogers, with contributions by Dr Benita Perch (ND) Depression hurts. It’s the ‘black dog’ of the night that robs you of joy, the unquiet mind that keeps you...