What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling of nervousness, fear, or worry that is severe enough to impact a person’s ability to function in ordinary situations. There are several distinct conditions that fit under the general term of “anxiety” and each can be caused or influenced by different factors. Many people who suffer from one or more anxiety conditions become stuck in a state of physical alert commonly called “fight or flight”, leaving them unable to rest physically and mentally.
What causes Anxiety?
Like most complex conditions, anxiety disorders can be caused by multiple factors that, occurring together, can disrupt regulation and function in the brain neurotransmitters. Researchers note that the number of people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder has tripled since 1980-more than can be reasonably explained by population growth, genetic mutations, or societal changes alone. A few of the factors involved in some types of anxiety disorders include excessive electrical activity in certain brain regions, hormone deficiencies (particularly for women), deficiency of calming chemicals in the brain, infections that impact the brain, nutritional deficiencies, and build-up of toxins in brain tissue.
Types of anxiety disorders
There are many types of anxiety-related conditions and behaviors. Here are a few of the most common anxiety disorders and the contributing factors that may be present in each.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a form of anxiety that doesn’t have an obvious trigger, such as a traumatic event or phobia (irrational fear). GAD is often a result of an imbalance of messenger chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Examples of neurotransmitters include serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA. A variety of factors can cause imbalances in different neurotransmitters including genetics, nutrient deficiency, gluten sensitivity, intestinal permeability (leaky gut), environmental toxins, and infections impacting the brain (such as Lyme Disease).
Panic Disorder is a form of anxiety disorder known for causing debilitating fear and extreme physical reactions like racing heart rate, excessive sweating, accelerated breathing, chest pain, and digestive upset. People who suffer from Panic Disorder often have excessive electrical activity in the brain, which can cause excessive signaling to the body resulting in the physical reactions described. Excessive electrical activity in the brain can have a number of influencing factors, such as a build-up of neurotoxins in the brain, excess amounts of histamine (a neurotransmitter), intestinal permeability (leaky gut), genetics, and infections that disrupt brain function like Bartonella and Lyme Disease.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex condition for which researchers continue to uncover potential contributing factors and effective therapies. PTSD may be caused by a single traumatic event, multiple traumatic events over time, or a sustained state of trauma. People with PTSD commonly have an excessive level of electrical activity in multiple areas of the brain, causing them to remain in a hyper-alert state of “flight or fight”. They may experience nightmares, flashbacks, outbursts, and physical sensations they can’t explain. While PTSD is a complex condition resulting from an external trauma, there can be additional factors that contribute to the severity of symptoms such as having another concurrent anxiety condition, nutrient deficiencies, neurochemical imbalances, and trauma to the brain itself.
How is Anxiety treated?
Anxiety is treated in a variety of ways, based on the type of anxiety disorder and the root causes of that disorder for the individual patient. Dr. Thomas always begins with a complete medical history and accounting of all symptoms the patient is experiencing. From there, she determines appropriate testing and evaluation to uncover as many contributing factors as possible. Dr. Thomas works with the patient to create a custom treatment plan to address the physiological factors involved, such as nutrient and hormone deficiencies, infections, leaky gut, environmental toxins, and lifestyle. For some patients, correcting the physical factors contributing to anxiety resolves their symptoms. For other patients, Dr. Thomas may recommend a treatment plan that not only addresses physical factors and outlines lifestyle changes, but also may include services of other trusted providers for mental health therapy to address traumatic experiences. Dr. Thomas works to provide the best possible care for each individual based on their unique needs.