anxiety problems

  1. Antidepressants for everyone

    Hankering for a powerful mood-altering drug? Ask, and ye shall receive!

    Primary care docs are prescribing antidepressants so easily that they're practically giving them away--and a new study shows that millions of Americans are now taking these meds despite never actually being diagnosed with depression.

    Researchers looked at data on more than 20,000 adults who participated in the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiologic Surveys between 2001 and 2003, and found 10 percent were given a prescription for an antidepressant over the previous year.

    That's consistent with other recent studies and surveys, which have found close to 30 million Americans taking these meds.

    But the researchers also found that more than a quarter of the people on antidepressants were never diagnosed with depression, anxiety problems, or any of the other common excuses used to put patients onto these drugs.

    That's more than 7 million people taking antidepressants with no actual diagnosis.

    But that's only the beginning--because half of all antidepressant users have never even seen a mental health professional despite the fact that they're taking a drug for a supposed mental health issue.

    And that means primary care docs such as family physicians are to blame here.

    You have to be a little sympathetic towards them--after all, most are met daily by patients with drug demands based on the latest commercial, and many patients won't see a specialist if you drive them there yourself.

    Still, whatever happened to "just say no?"

    No one's forcing docs to write all these prescriptions--they just seem to be taking the easy way out. The researchers behind the new study say they believe many doctors now offer antidepressants for relatively minor and temporary personal issues that often heal with nothing more than a little time.

    But time won't heal all wounds, and that's just as true of the psychological ones-- but that's still no reason to turn to meds.

    Some people suffer from depression and other mood disorders due to poor diet and nutritional deficiencies or a hormonal imbalance, and a skilled natural physician can help get to the bottom of it.

    Other people can benefit from ordinary talk therapy, which has proven to be at least as effective as some of the most powerful psychiatric meds on the planet-- with none of the side effects.

    Antidepressants, on the other hand, come with a risk of everything from sexual problems and personality changes right up to suicide.

  2. Beating anxiety without meds

    If you're suffering from anxiety problems, just relax.

    I know... that's a lot easier said than done. But while you might be anxious to get your hands on the next dose of mind-easing meds, the latest research finds several safe, natural alternatives that work just as well as drugs and even visits to the local shrink.

    And it starts with a simple massage--a great stress-buster even for those of us who aren't trying beat anxiety.

    Researchers initially set out to see whether massage therapy would be better than simple relaxation exercises for controlling anxiety.

    One the one hand, those massages proved to be no better than two other alternative treatments, including relaxation. On the other hand, all three natural treatments proved to pack a powerful punch when it came to knocking out anxiety, according to the study published in Depression and Anxiety.

    Researchers randomly assigned 68 patients with generalized anxiety disorder to one of three treatments. One group got to enjoy 10 hour-long massages from a licensed therapist in a pleasant environment. The second group did some deep breathing relaxation exercises while lying down. And the third set of patients was given thermotherapy--that's when the arms and legs are warmed up with heating pads and hot towels.

    All three groups saw their anxiety levels slashed by about 40 percent at the end of treatment, and by 50 percent three months later--improvements that matched previous studies on meds and psychotherapy.

    I wish the researchers had included a true control group-- a set of patients who got no treatment at all, so we could see how these therapies compare to that age-old healer, time. But even with that omission, it's not hard to see the safest options for anxiety.

    And all three of these techniques are cheaper, too.

    In fact, the researchers say the most cost-effective option is relaxation... since all you need is a pleasant place to lie down for some breathing exercises. You can teach yourself some great relaxation techniques by simply checking out some books on the subject from your local library.

    But really, any of those three treatments--relaxation, massage or thermotherapy--are better than drugs or pricey appointments with a psychotherapist.

    And any excuse for a good massage at the end of the day is usually a pretty good one.

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