Anxiety and depression affect more than forty million adults age 18 and over, making them two of the most common mental health concerns in the United States. Since these illnesses involve a complex set of emotional and functional challenges, they require a holistic treatment for anxiety that addresses more than symptoms.
Holistic medicine is an approach to healing that considers the whole person: body, mind, spirit and emotions. The practice of holistic treatment for anxiety integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease and to promote optimal health. According to the holistic treatment approach, true well-being can only be achieved by gaining proper balance among the various aspects of life.
Holistic Treatment for Anxiety Contrasted with Conventional Medicine
Many conventional treatment strategies assume that the mind and body function separately. Furthermore, these same strategies often ignore broader life factors when evaluating potential causes or contributing issues in the treatment of a disorder or condition.
Current research and science, however, show that the multiple systems of mind and body communicate and interact with each other in a complex holistic web. The health of an individual is also affected by emotional, social and spiritual relationships. Any adverse effect on any part of the total system may present an obstacle to healing or well-being. Thus any improvement in any part will contribute to overall health and happiness.
Underlying Principles of Holistic Medicine
As noted above, holistic medicine emphasizes the person as a complete being, and treatment may involve all the aspects of life that contribute to overall health. At the core of the holistic treatment approach is the belief that unconditional love and support is the most powerful healer and that each person is ultimately responsible for their own health and well-being.
Holistic medical practice involves additional principles that are foundational for treating any condition, including anxiety and depression. Some of these principles are:
- The patient is a person, not a disease.
- All people have innate healing powers.
- Treatment involves fixing the cause of the condition, not just alleviating the symptoms.
- Searching for the underlying causes of disease is preferable to treating symptoms alone.
- Prevention is preferable to treatment and is usually more cost-effective. The most cost-effective approach evokes the patient’s own innate healing capabilities.
- Optimal health is much more than the absence of sickness. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of the human experience.
The Holistic Treatment Approach to Anxiety is Well-Rounded
According to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, the holistic approach to medicine “encompasses all safe and appropriate modalities of diagnosis and treatment. It includes analysis of physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, spiritual and lifestyle elements. Holistic medicine focuses upon patient education and participation in the healing process.”
By utilizing all safe and appropriate modalities, the holistic treatment approach to treating anxiety and depression disorders may involve a variety of possibilities, as determined by the severity of the symptoms and the particular needs of the client. The following are common options that may be employed in any combination, as necessary:
- Complementary therapies. Sometimes known as “alternative therapies,” this involves the use of treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, massage therapy, naturopathy and others.
- Pharmacology. Judicious use of drugs, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers, may be necessary to treat severe symptoms so that progress can be made in other areas of treatment.
Nutritional wellness. Dietary changes or supplements can have a profound effect in alleviating symptoms or treating conditions such as insomnia.
- Lifestyle changes. Staying active through an exercise regimen or learning relaxation techniques or meditating are proven effective for overcoming many types of anxiety and depression.
- Psychotherapy. Three of the more common methods used for treating depression include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy. A blended approach may be used to teach practical techniques to reframe negative thinking and change behaviors.