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Peace of mind: holistic approaches to anxiety and ADD.

Peace of mind and personal happiness may elude sufferers who deal with significant anxiety or disturbances of concentration and focus. You may find that you are one of the many who find these issues replacing life plans, career, and social and personal needs with pain and fear. Then you watch a TV commercial, hear a radio advertisement, or read ads offering products, pills, and all types of remedies promising you freedom from this pain and suffering. Amidst all this, how do you sensibly choose the best way to get help or relief?

Unlike the brief and mild anxiety caused by a stressful event, anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately nineteen million American adults. These disorders cause overwhelming, even debilitating, anxiety and fear that can become worse if not treated. Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include muscle tension, trembling, fast heartbeat, fast or troubled breathing, dizziness or impaired concentration, palpitations, sweating, fatigue, irritability, and sleep disturbances.

in addition, panic disorder--a type of severe anxiety--affects about 2.4 million adult Americans, and is twice as common in women than in men. Symptoms of a panic attack include feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly without warning; a pounding heart: sweaty, Weak, faint or dizzy feeling; sense of unreality; chest pain; fear of impending doom, of going crazy, of losing control; and avoidance of going certain places. An attack usually peaks within ten minutes. This may be associated with other conditions like allergies, depression, or drug, alcohol, or caffeine abuse.

Medications, such as antidepressants and some tranquilizers, may be helpful and can sometimes bring more immediate relief for sufferers of anxiety. However, their long-term use is controversial and withdrawal from them can be difficult. Even though the consideration of medications is necessary when there are very severe or resistant symptoms, many people with severe anxiety or panic attacks will have excellent results with a holistic approach. Also these medications may not have the same lasting effect as the use of natural alternatives and the addressing of identifiable factors. In order for anxiety treatments to fully work, any related problems or issues such as substance abuse or depression would need to be addressed and treated.

An important first step in a holistic approach would be specific behavioral cognitive treatments: the retraining and reconditioning of an individual for relieving one's anxiety. Here is what is included in these treatments: 1) intensive education about the disorder and of the body's physiological reaction to stress and threat: 2) desensitization to the various physical sensations or triggers of panic through exposing a person to the actual object, situation, or thought; 3) learning relaxation, breathing, and stress management techniques; 4) restructuring dysfunctional thoughts and patterns. Other beneficial strategies may include the study and practice of yoga, qi gong, meditation, or other mind body approaches* Massage, acupuncture, and nutritional and herbal medicine are also important considerations.

Correcting deficiencies of amino acids (the smallest units of protein and the precursors of brain neurotransmitters) alone, or in combination with the correction of other identified contributing factors--or sometimes in conjunction with medication--can be of great value in relieving anxiety. If a person has increased anxiety, panic, sleep difficulties, or excessive stimulation, these are signs of catecholamine excess and GABA insufficiency. (Catecholamines and GABA are brain chemical regulators.) GABA enhancers like taurine, glutamine. and GABA itself, along with necessary vitamin and mineral cofactors, can be used to help these problems.

ADD, also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is the most common diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood, occurring in between three to five percent of school-aged children. Symptoms often appear before the age of seven* Adults may not realize their own symptoms of ADD until their forties; these individuals are only considered to have a disorder when the above symptoms cause significant impairment or disability over time.

Conventional treatments for ADD would be with psychostimulants such as Ritalin[R], Concerta[R], or Adderall[R], or the use of antidepressants such as Wellbutrin[R]. Other contributing medical, emotional, or behavioral conditions would also need to be identified and treated. A National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study indicated that a comprehensive treatment regimen--combining medication with intensive behavioral interventions with elementary school children and parents--was the most effective treatment for ADD. I contend, however, that future studies will show that more holistic approaches will have the greatest benefit.

Some promising complementary approaches are school remediation; social skills training; recognizing and treating allergies; improving nutrition by avoiding additives, chemicals and refined sugars; .ADD coaching; behavioral cognitive therapies; individual and family education; EEG Biofeedback; homeopathy; and other mind/body techniques. ADD symptoms can be a sign of deficient brain chemical regulators such as catecholamines or serotonin, especially if associated with depression. Amino acids that enhance Catecholamines are L-Tyrosine. DL or L-Phenylalanine: amino acids that enhance Serotonin are 5-HTP or L-Tryptophan. Other important nutritional co-factors to consider are vitamins as B6, minerals as zinc, iron, and magnesium, Omega-3 fish oil, and other specific herbs. Nutritional management and strategies with supplements remain promising, though relatively few studies so far support their effectiveness with ADD. Proper evaluation and monitored treatment by a qualified health care practitioner is recommended. Holistic approaches to anxiety, panic, and ADD may include a combination of conventional medications, lifestyle modifications, alternative treatments, targeted nutritional applications, life skills and psychotherapeutic interventions, and enhancement of spiritual practices. Through an integrative approach, individuals can gain direction, move past the immobilization of misinformation and erroneous beliefs, and find possible solutions for their adverse health conditions.

Recovery starts with the decision to seek help, treatment and a more life-affirming path. At the beginning, consider your needs and personal capacity to break out of any downward spiral, which may be driven by biological illness or developmental impairments, dysfunctional patterns of behavior, rigid beliefs, or lack of social support. Change requires willingness for self-examination without blaming or taking the victim's role, a commitment to positive action and to the beneficial treatments that are available. The real remedy comes in gaining awareness, opening up to new knowledge, becoming a more discerning consumer of health information and care, and developing the motivation to take effective action for necessary changes.


Anxiety disorders Assoc. of America: 301-232-9350 or


1. Michelle Craske and David Barlow, Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic, (Graywind Publications 1984, Distributed by PsychCorp)

2. Julia Ross, MA, Mood Cure (New York, Penguin Books, 2002)

3. Eric Braverman, MD, The Healing Nutrients Within (New Jersey, Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2003)

4. Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, Beyond Anxiety & Phobia, (Oakland, CA, New Harbinger Pub., Inc. 2001)

5. Daniel G. Amen, Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD (New York Penguin-Putnam Inc. 2002)

6. M. Hallowell & John J. Ratey, Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of life with Attention Deficit Disorder (New York, Random House 2005)

Ronald R. Parks, MD, MPH practices Integrative Medicine and Psychiatry in Asheville, North Carolina. He is specialty trained in Psychiatry, internal, Family, and Preventive Medicine, with a background in nutrition and other natural healing arts. For information on the web: or call 828-225-1812.
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Author:Parks, Ronald R.
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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