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Anxiety And Depression: How Can I Advocate For Myself? - Dr. Emmons

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Dr. Emmons discusses ways to advocate for our health if you are suffering from anxiety or depression. He also explains holistic treatments and whether medication can be helpful when treating depression or anxiety holistically.

Dr. Emmons:
One thing is to not allow the physician to immediately jump to medication as a solution. This is a common problem.

In one study primary care physicians gave a patient the prescription within five minutes of first mentioning something about depression or anxiety.

That’s not enough time to make a good assessment or give other suggestion. So one thing is not do it too fast, not be overly eager to jump to a medication.

Ask about other options. Ask about referrals to therapy, for example, and hopefully referrals to a more holistic program that really helps people develop the skills that they need to deal with this.

I think also it’s important to not allow symptoms of anxiety or depression to become minimized or to suggest that it is all in one’s head and that if you had physical problems, that it’s just related to anxiety or something like that.

It’s something that should be taken just as seriously. It is a physical, physiologic problem, the brain remember is part of the body and if the brain is not working well we need to find really comprehensive ways of addressing that.

So not relying upon a single intervention like medication and not allowing it to be kind of pigeonholed as, oh this person has mental health problem.

It’s a much, if something affects a person’s mood it is affecting every aspect of who they are as a human being.

It affects their body, their brain chemistry, their ability to connect with themselves and with others.

It affects their sleep. I mean you name a part of the person and it is affected by depression and anxiety and we need to start addressing all of that.

If you find yourself struggling with anxiety or depression please talk to your healthcare provider and ask for a comprehensive, you could say holistic, but a way of approaching this that really gives you several resources and several opportunities to get healthier.

If you find yourself with a physician who only treats with medication, I would ask for a referral first to a therapist, and if you cannot get that physician onboard with looking at more comprehensive approaches, I would ask for a second opinion or a consultation, perhaps seeing someone who has a broader perspective.

Medications – a lot of people come to me because I am a holistic practitioner and they are wanting to get off of medications.

Very often that could be helpful to them but I don’t always recommend that. I think there’s a proper use for medication.

I think the problem we run into is that many people go on medications, antidepressant medications for a relatively mild condition. I don’t have a problem with that, necessarily, but the problem is they stay on it for too long.

If you are on a medication for let’s say a year or more, your brain is adjusted to that. It’s become used to that and then for some people it becomes hard to take that away.

I think it’s actually a good thing to support someone’s mood if they are really in a crisis, if they are not able to function real well, if they are not able to sleep.

I think it’s good to support them temporarily with maybe a low dose of some antidepressant medication. I think that could be very helpful.

But it’s crucial that at the same time they start instituting these other measures so that the brain can really get healthy.

Medication itself doesn’t do anything really to make the brain healthier. It just makes it a little more efficient in the short term.

But it’s also important to try to keep that down to about six, I would say six to nine months if possible and then hopefully work your way off of it with other measures that like we have talked about that can be continued instead.

About Dr. Henry Emmons, M.D.:
Dr. Henry Emmons, M.D., is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, mindfulness and allied Buddhist therapeutics, and psychotherapeutic caring and insight in his clinical work. Dr. Emmons obtained his medical degree from the University of Iowa College of Medicine and did his residency in psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he was Chief Resident. He practices general and holistic psychiatry and consults with several colleges and organizations nationally. Dr. Emmons is the author of “The Chemistry of Joy: A Three Step Program for Overcoming Depression Through Western Science and Eastern Wisdom.”

Visit Dr. Emmons at his website

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Psycho mumbo jumbo .... there is absolutely no proof ...... no proof that anxiety or depression is caused by brain chemicals. Why would anyone take a medication that has been proven in trials to be no more effective than a placebo with huge huge horrible side affects!!!!!!!!

May 20, 2011 - 6:20am

I completely agree with the perspective presented here. I think that medication is heavily over-prescribed in our society, and from what I've read and seen in my friends' personal experience, I think it is rarely beneficial (and often harmful) in cases of anxiety.

I also like the holistic perspective that is communicated here...especially the idea that we should not rely on a single method of treating anxiety. I have been compiling a collection of natural treatments for anxiety on my personal website, and I come to the same conclusion there. There are so many approaches.

I would also point readers to another article here on EmpowHer, the one by Dr. Emmons about mindfulness to treat anxiety. Thanks for offering this valuable perspective!

December 4, 2010 - 9:28am
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