Title: The Anatomy of Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming the Body’s Fear Response | Author: Dr. Ellen Vora, MD | 2022
Conventional psychiatry classifies anxiety into types such as PTSD* or OCD*, to name a few. In The Anatomy of Anxiety, Dr. Ellen Vora, a holistic psychiatrist, proposes a different way of interpreting anxiety.
She explains the distinction between true and false anxiety, with the source of anxiety being the main differentiating factor between the two. This new lens of diagnosing anxiety also means a reassessment of how we treat anxiety.
What Is False Anxiety?
False anxiety is the body communicating that there is a psychological imbalance, usually through a stress response, where true anxiety is the body communicating an essential message about our lives.The Anatomy of Anxiety | Dr. Ellen Vora MD
Our Modern Life and False Anxiety
The author provides a false anxiety inventory, with tips on how to overcome them. False anxiety can come from hunger, sugar crashing, how we use our tech gadgets, or psychiatric medications. In essence, certain daily routines signal to our body that we are under threat, whether it’s blood sugar or our gut microbiome. When our body feels threatened, it responds accordingly by making us feel anxious.
She explains the relationships between our gut, mood, and mental health. And the unintended consequences of taking psychiatric medications.
The good news, the author believes that we can avoid false anxiety. The panacea centers on lifestyle changes.
It’s important to note that false anxiety doesn’t mean it’s less painful or “less real.” However, fixing it clears the mind so we can better listen to true anxiety.
How Do You Fix False Anxiety?
Nutritional changes, better sleep, nature, meditation, yoga—the author provides case studies of how she worked with her patients to address false anxiety. She also shares her own mental health journey.
Whether its dietary changes, tapping into one’s circadian rhythm, getting off birth control pills, or addressing thyroid issues, these changes address anxiety from physical issues. Essentially, when our bodies are healthier, our brain receives the signal that all is fine. False anxiety, then, subsides.
The author shows that we can’t fix anxiety in general without looking at false anxiety. Anxiety from our unhealthy lifestyle acts as noise, if you will. Some people find that their source of anxiety solely stems from lifestyle. On the other hand, others find that when they fix false anxiety, they can better understand the life issues that give them cause for true anxiety—be it their jobs, relationships, for example. This is true anxiety.
What Is True Anxiety?
True anxiety, though, is not a nuisance or a debilitating symptom to be suppressed with meds or ignored in exchange for shiny promises. In order to hear it, we need to slow down, get still, and listen more closely. And the only person who can hear its stirring truth is you.The Anatomy of Anxiety | Dr. Ellen Vora MD
The author makes the case that true anxiety is not random. Rather, these are signs that something is wrong and we need to figure it out in order to make a change.
True anxiety is our body’s way of communicating with us. In order to listen and understand, we need to let it speak. This is hard to achieve if we have false anxiety or if we shut down our anxious feeling, be it through alcohol or medication.
I’m grateful that a part of the medical profession takes a holistic approach to anxiety and mental issues. Similar to Dr. Vora, I’m not against medication. However, before deferring to drugs, we need to understand why we feel anxious in the first place.
Dr. Vora provides a professional framework to guide us through the process. This journey takes time, patience, and work. It’s more involved than prescribing pills. The process incorporates self-reflection and freedom to listen to our bodies.
*PTSD: post traumatic stress disorder
*OCD: obsessive compulsive disorder