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Friday, March 24, 2017

Alternatives to Chemical Psychiatry

One of the characteristics of the times we live in is a kind of simplistic, mechanical approach to dealing with problems. Your car's engine not idling well? Just replace everything from the carburetor to the sparkplugs; don't worry about what's causing it. Weeds in your garden? Time for a gallon or so of Roundup, and fiddlesticks to what the neighbors are breathing in. Feeling anxious, persistently sad or otherwise under the weather? Just take any of a whole rainbow of multi-colored happy pills; that should sort it out.

Never mind that prescription errors, which can mean anything from the wrong drug being prescribed to the pharmacist misreading a word, hurt more than a million people in the U.S.A. annually. Never mind that even drugs declared to be “safe” still have side effects that can range from the irritating to the severe. Just think about the fact that a problem always has one or more causes, and trying to treat the surface problem without addressing the cause is like plugging a leaking dam with silly putty.

Talk Therapy
Forget about whatever you've seen on TV, and don't confuse a conversation with a trained therapist with gossiping with your grandma. The fact is that we're often too close to our own problems to see the wood for the trees, and talking it out with someone who has an objective viewpoint, as well as experience in helping others through their problems, can help you to view life's little speed bumps in their proper context. Getting access to a counselor is now easier than ever, doesn't involve stuffing your body with psycho-active drugs, and still remains one of the most effective non-chemical treatments for anything from panic attacks to long term sadness.

While nobody really knows why this works, it certainly seems to, with many people reporting that having someone (trained) stick needles into them solved medical problems that drugs could only partly counteract. Whatever the mechanism involved, acupuncture apparently works on the entire biological system rather than just messing with your blood chemistry.

The first time this author tried it, for a severe allergic reaction that seemed to come from nowhere, I was coming directly from a rough day at work and you would not describe my mental state as “serene”. Five minutes after the needles went in, the therapist had to shake me awake, as my snoring was bothering his other patients. Take that, anxiety.

While there are no guarantees (as if your GP will offer any) and many supposed acupuncturists are probably frauds, this is cheap enough to give a try, and won't lead to any side effects as long as the needles are sterilized.

Diet and Exercise
If your physical condition sucks, you are going to be feeling bad whatever your circumstances are. A little exercise, even just a brisk walk daily, can help to balance out your brain chemistry, relieve stress and get your blood flowing. This alone will improve your mood more than you think possible, while some sun exposure will make your body produce vitamin D, which the brain needs.

What you fuel your body with is also hugely important. Just keeping your blood sugar steady can resolve a lot of “psychological” problems, so choose whole grains and vegetables instead of brand-name cereal and doughnuts. Including some green leafy vegetables, oily fish high in omega fats and legumes in your diet will probably start showing results within a week or so.

Emotional Freedom Techniques
EFT, as it's often called, is the result of a psychologist playing around with acupuncture theories and eventually building on these to create his own system of therapy. The core seems to revolve around ways to remove “emotional blocks” which prevent happiness and can even cause bodily illnesses.

While mainstream medical science dismisses the whole thing as pure quackery, a number of patients have reported remarkable, and remarkably rapid improvements in both their mental and physical states. Your mileage may vary, but at least it's not poisonous.

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If you think you might be experiencing mental or emotional problems – most people do at some point in their lives – reaching for a Xanax should be the last thing you try, not the first. Hardcore drug therapies are effective for some people, but they all come with a cost to your well-being. Natural alternatives and changes in your lifestyle are often a much safer, cheaper and more effective option.

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