THE SEVENTH FACE OF STRUGGLE: ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

This post is the first of a three part series that addresses these complex issues surrounding anxiety and depression.

Many individuals live in a constant state of low anxiety or depression that can grow into full-blown panic attacks, anxiety disorders or clinical depression when the “right” set of circumstances are met. Given the multifaceted dimension to such issues, a holistic approach that addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual component is required in order to change the pattern and experience real peace and happiness.

THE PHYSICAL COMPONENT

When looking to balance the physical aspect of anxiety we must properly support a variety of hormones and bio-chemicals in the body; including vitality hormones, stress hormones and brain chemicals. This is done by identifying and supporting the needs of the endocrine system, the limbic system, the digestive system and the brain itself. It’s also important to appreciate the fact that anxiety can arise even when a person is not in immediate danger. She or he can perceive danger, or bring to mind danger, and the same physiological pattern ensues as if she or he was actually in physical danger.

In a similar way the experience of depression applies, a person does not necessarily need to be in the middle of a significant loss to experience the physiology of depression. Have you ever watched a sad movie or learned of a heart wrenching real life story and experienced the welling up of tears? If so, your body responded as if you were actually experiencing the event firsthand. My advice is to protect your senses from such possibilities as much as possible by making a conscious decision to introduce happiness, humor and levity into your life. Laughter indeed is good medicine here.

BODY AND BRAIN CHEMICALS

When looking to balance the physical aspect of anxiety and depression, you must properly support a variety of hormones and biochemicals in your body, including vitality hormones, stress hormones, and brain chemicals. This is done by identifying and supporting the needs of your endocrine system, your limbic system, and your digestive system. Your endocrine system consists of glands like your thyroid and adrenals that produce your vitality hormones including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, thyroid hormones, cortisol, and insulin. Keeping them properly balanced is essential for optimal peace of mind. Your limbic system includes those structures of the brain that regulate your emotional responses to stress, including your hypothalamus and amygdala. Lastly, your digestive system has a significant role in creating serotonin, a specific neurotransmitter needed for peace of mind. While going into detail on the physical component of transformation is beyond the scope of this book, it is important to understand that a whole body approach, including supporting your physical body, is essential if you want to live fully alive. In the Appendix, you will find a listing of recommended books in this area.

BRAIN CHEMICALS

Also, your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) play a huge role in your emotional health. Keeping your neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA in balance is important if you are to experience peace and happiness. Here is a quick rundown on key neurotransmitters as they relate to different mental states.

Key Neurotransmitters

  • Dopamine: critical to central nervous system functions such as movement, pleasure, attention, mood, and motivation. Strongly resembles noradrenaline.
  • Serotonin: serotonin can affect mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Eighty to ninety percent can be found in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Oxytocin: the bonding/attachment hormone that creates feelings of calm and closeness. It is released during breastfeeding and childbirth as well as during intimacy in both sexes.
  • Noradrenaline: a stress hormone released during the fight or flight response that increases heart rate and blood pressure, widens air passages in the lungs, and narrows blood vessels in non-essential organs.
  • Adrenaline: an adrenal hormone released during acute stress, similar to noradrenaline in its effects.

Mental States

  • Happiness: high serotonin
  • Love: high and balanced levels of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin
  • Anxiety: low dopamine
  • Depression: low dopamine and low serotonin
  • Stress (fight or flight): very high noradrenaline and high adrenaline
  • Schizophrenia: very high dopamine

While an in-depth discussion of the endocrine system and neurotransmitters is certainly outside the scope of this blog post, there are practitioners who specialize in this type of care, and fortunately, the field is expanding!

YOUR NEXT STEP

We invite you to read the rest of the series here:

Anxiety and Depression – Part 2

Anxiety and Depression – Part 3

If you or a loved one are suffering from anxiety, depression, or any other neurological health issue, I highly recommend that you seek the care of a qualified health care practitioner skilled in neurotransmitter and endocrine support. What I am providing you here is not intended as medical care or as a substitution for medical care.