Joan, 49 years old patient who came for a consultation wanting help understanding her body, what to expect during her menopausal years, as well as a personalized exercise, nutrition, and stress management program.
Her symptoms include increasing difficulty sleeping, increased appetite, occasional heartburn, fatigue, and generalized aches. She felt uptight, apprehensive, and easily stressed out. Before and during her periods she would cry for no apparent reasons.
She had a history of migraine headaches. All these symptoms have been getting worse for the past six months. Her periods were somewhat regular but they were getting heavier as time went by.
She had been previously been told that her symptoms were caused by a hormonal imbalance, had many tests, and tried many different modalities to no avail. Joan was also concerned about the fact that she went to see her dentist and felt panicky when she sat on the dental chair and eventually had to leave without having the work done.
Joan was a single parent, very successful business owner. She had been working for the past six months with a venture capital firm that was willing to put a substantial amount of money five million dollars in equipment for to take her business to the next level. Many hours have been put into formalizing the business plans, putting the contract in order. Joan liked the idea of making even more money but she had an unsettling feeling about the whole thing. Lately, she had been waking up in the middle of the night relieving what had been happening through the day.
Joan otherwise have a healthy history, she was planning to set time aside for exercise. She recently had a normal complete physical exam and all her lab work were within normal limits.
I realized that Joan’s physical symptoms were related to her presently life situations. She was suffering from a case of moderate anxiety. A study at Harvard Medical School showed that patients who cope poorly with stress become ill four times more often than those with good coping styles.
What is Anxiety?
Over 65 million Americans are living with anxiety. More than 30 million have been diagnosed with clinical anxiety disorders including panic disorders, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Another 35 million with anxiety suffer mild to moderate symptoms.
Many women set goals that in many instances are not in line with their priorities or true value. They go through life living someone else’s dream, whether a parent, a spouse, relative, their own children, or their community.
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety can be caused by an actual danger, emotional stress such as grief and depression, a medical illness, medication side effects, cold remedies, decongestants, caffeine, antidepressants, thyroid supplements, withdrawal from alcohol, drugs (including caffeine and nicotine) an hyperactive thyroid, low blood sugar, cardiac problems, a poor diet, and in rare cases a condition called pheochromocytoma, a tumor of the adrenal gland. Anxiety can also be caused by genetic predispositions or exposure to certain stresses particularly early childhood. In many cases, it is simply a question of how stressful the current environment is.
A survey from the University of Arkansas revealed that in more than 500 women with heart attacks, only 30% had any chest pain or discomfort. One of the many symptoms that occurred weeks before the attack was unusual anxiety.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety include dry mouth, dizziness, a rapid or irregular heart rate, increased rate of respiration, diarrhea, or frequent need to urinate, fatigue, irritable mood, sleeping difficulties, decreased concentration, sexual problems, trembling, lump in throat, frozen smile, neck aches, indigestion, overeating, preoccupation with illness, fear of embarrassment or rejection, rumination over details, fear of being ugly or fat, and nightmares.
Successful treatment of anxiety depends greatly on finding the cause and addressing it. Unfortunately, this is not always possible to find the cause of anxiety. Joan did not know that her dream of taking her business to the next level was the culprit.
If you feel anxious, you should:
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Take an inventory of what might be causing it. Could it be that you have unresolved childhood issues?
Ã¢Â?Â¢ You can be having difficult situation at home and at work, try to find what do you worry about most. What in particular make you feel sad or depressed? Is there something constantly on your mind?
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Find someone you trust who will listen to you. Self-help groups, hotlines, chat rooms on the Internet, your minister, health care provider, and family and can all play a therapeutic role.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Take a look at your lifestyle. Do you drink too much caffeine? Do you have an exercise routine? Do you sleep enough? Do you eat well?
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Learn stress management techniques, including yoga, meditation, qigong, and biofeedback.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Avoid using “mood-altering” drugs.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Use alternative healing modalities such as herbs, aromatherapy, etc.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Have a check up with your health-care provider to rule out a medical condition or unresolved childhood issues.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Consider seeing a mental health care professional.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ If all fails, consider using an anti-anxiety medication while trying to get to the bottom of your anxiety.
What if your self-defeating habits are the cause anxiety and are subsequently impacting your physical health? It took a lot of interacting for Joan to realize her present situation, and why her health has been affected while trying to make the right decisions for herself. The following are practical steps to follow:
Step 1. Identify your current goals and ask yourself: Are these goals really mine or have I internalized someone else’s?
Joan was very happy with her present business. But when someone told her that she could make even more money by collaborating with them, she decided to go for it.
Step 2. If you find yourself doing something that you really did not want to do but choose to do so because you bought into someone’s idea, ask yourself why did you do so?
Joan realized that during her childhood her mother was very difficult to please. Since then, she always put herself into situations looking for approval, love, and acceptance. She eventually healed her relationship with her mother and forgave her. She also learned to heal her angry inner child as well!
Step 3. Find out what your priorities, values and principles are.
What Joan really wanted was a company that gave quality services to her existing clients. Financially, she did not need to make more money. Going into this new partnership would have earned her more money, but could have compromised the qualities of her services. In her own words ” I felt that the bottom line was what was important to my new partners.” Joan was in tears when she realized that she could finally verbalize her feelings.
Step 4. Choose what is right for you.
To be true to yourself, you have to choose what is right for you, whether your relationship with others and your work. Otherwise, your health will suffer.
Joan decided not to sign the contract and continue with her business the way it was. At her 6-month follow up most of her symptoms had disappeared. She was still working with her therapist and felt that she was having the best time of her life!
Carolle Jean-Murat, MD is a board-certified gynecologist, menopause specialist and intuitive healer with over three decades of experience as a holistic health practitioner. She is one of the ten worldwide doctors featured in Fabulous Female Physicians in The Women’s Hall of Fame Series by Sharon & Florence Kirsh and a valued contributor to TalkWithADocLIVE.com on such topics as adrenal fatigue, insomnia, acid reflux disease and menopause.