Anxiety Alternate Treatments

By Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych. Certified Bach Flower Practitioner



What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common psychological complaint. People experience anxiety emotionally, mentally (cognitively) and physically. Emotionally, anxiety is characterised by feelings that range from vague discomfort, nervousness and unease to feelings of panic, dread, hysteria and anguish. Cognitively, anxiety consists of a collection of worrisome thoughts about oneself or others. These anxious thoughts centre on threats to safety and wellbeing of self or loved ones and can include worries about health, finances, social acceptance, physical security, spiritual issues, academic or professional success and any other aspect of life. The physical symptoms of anxiety can include muscle tightness, heart palpitations, dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath, tics & twitches, odd bodily sensations, disorders of the digestive system or nervous system, pain and almost any other physical sensation or process. Sleeping difficulties are also common.

Some people experience anxiety so intensely that it interferes with their ability to work or carry out their responsibilities at home or school. Sudden overwhelming episodes of anxiety that seriously disrupt functioning are sometimes referred to as “nervous breakdowns.” Some people have chronic intense anxiety conditions such as agoraphobia (fear of being in certain places from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing). An agoraphobic may be able to work at home and have a functional but restricted life since the anxiety prevents a more normal range of activities. Other people with anxiety do carry on normally in life, but experience a daily struggle with their anxious thoughts and feelings. Some people only experience occasional anxiety, such as when they encounter a particular task or situation; common anxiety-producing situations for this group include giving a public talk, flying on an airplane (or dealing with any other phobia), taking an examination, being interviewed and so forth. Everybody experiences anxiety on some occasions, including children. Whenever it occurs, anxiety is a very uncomfortable sensation that significantly interferes with happiness and feelings of well-being.

Treatment for Anxiety

Treatment for anxiety depends on the severity of symptoms experienced. Serious anxiety disorders that disrupt functioning or cause significant distress, can be treated by pharmaceuticals such as Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Librium, Buspar and others. Some people will need to take medication daily, while others can use it for the occasional anxiety-inducing situations that they encounter. Some antidepressant medications also reduce symptoms of anxiety and are commonly used for people who suffer from both depression and anxiety. Some types of anxiety disorders are best treated with a combination of medical treatment and psychotherapy. Some types of anxiety respond well to psychological treatment alone. To help relieve and treat anxiety symptoms during psychotherapy, alternative treatment approaches can be used concurrently. For example, anxiety symptoms are addressed by various health disciplines including acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine and Bach Flower Therapy. As an adjunct to any treatment for anxiety or used alone for self treatment in occasional bouts of anxiety, relaxation training, breathwork and meditation can be very helpful. Thought Field Therapy and other forms of Energy Psychology are extremely useful for self-management and therapeutic treatment of anxiety. These psychological approaches are easy enough for children to use on themselves or for parents to treat their children with or for adults to treat themselves with and are particularly useful in occasional and moderate cases of anxiety.

In this article we will take a closer look at Bach Flower Treatment for anxiety, another treatment modality that can be used for the family at home and for self-treatment. It can be experimented with safely (since it has no side-effects or contra-indications even for pregnant and nursing women). If it does not completely resolve anxiety symptoms, counselling and/or medication can be used along with or instead of Bach Flower Therapy.

Bach Flower Therapy for Anxiety

Bach Flower Therapy is an alternative treatment for emotional issues. It can be used alone as a self-help strategy for daily mood issues such as feelings of nervousness, insecurity and worry. A person can read a book or pamphlet on Bach Flower Therapy and select the appropriate remedy to treat temporary emotional stress and discomfort. A certified Bach Flower Practitioner can prepare Bach Flower Remedies to treat longer standing and more significant anxiety issues. The remedies can be taken alone, or with psychological therapy or with psychotropic medications. Unlike psychotropic medications, Bach Flower essences do not have side-effects and can be taken along with any other medicine, herb, homeopathic preparation, food, drink or substance. Also unlike medication, Bach Flowers address specific anxiety issues rather than general physical symptoms. Moreover, the remedies not only relieve symptoms, but also “undo” the energetic knot that causes anxiety. When the symptoms are resolved, Bach Flower treatment is no longer necessary. Some people prefer to take Bach Flower Remedies even when they have chosen to use psychotropic medication, so that they can eventually stop using the medication. (Medication itself does not treat anxiety – it merely blocks the anxiety process temporarily much as pain relievers block a headache sensation.)

There are many different Bach Flower essences that treat different “flavours” of anxiety. For example, Red Chestnut is helpful for those who worry excessively about the wellbeing of their children or other close family members. Mimulus is for those who have specific fears about things, people or events. This includes anticipatory anxiety such as fear of failing an exam or fear of how things will turn out, or fear of poverty as well as phobias such as fear of public speaking, fear of dogs, fear of robbers and so on. Aspen treats vague anxieties such as feelings of dread, troubled sleep, fear of the unknown and other fears that have no concrete source. Rock Rose treats panic conditions. Crab Apple treats anxiety relating to appearance – feeling ugly or having a defect. It also treats fear of contamination, dirt or germs. Cherry Plum is used where there is fear of losing one’s mind, or of losing control. Larch is used for feelings of intimidation resulting from a sense of inadequacy or low self-esteem. Centaury is used for fear of standing up for oneself. Cerato is helpful for fear of being judged or ridiculed as well as for fear of making the wrong decisions. Star of Bethlehem is used for anxiety brought on by a trauma or shock.

As for any Bach Flower treatment, remedies can be taken singly or mixed together. Some people feel that they could benefit from all 38 Flower Essences – however, in practice one to four remedies are usually selected. A Bach Flower Practitioner has been trained to identify the best flowers for treatment and should be consulted in cases of longstanding or troubling anxiety. In cases of anxiety that disrupts functioning, psychological or medical consultation is indicated as well.