Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety

For many years, Dr. Gardner has researched the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders in an effort to help his patients successfully and quickly overcome anxiety with the minimum of stress and loss. When you’re in the middle of an anxiety crisis, you’re not necessarily in the right frame of mind to consider and weigh all the options thoughtfully. You’re more in a survival mode and are likely grasping for straws. In this situation, you are vulnerable to anyone or any ideology that wants to sell you on their narrow road to well-being. Often, people give up the keys to their life and ask someone else to drive for awhile. Dr. Gardner does not embrace any particular realm of treatment, but offers multiple considerations that may be employed together or individually. He encourages those with anxiety conditions to stay in the driver’s seat and pro-actively take responsibility for decisions related to treatment strategy. Below is a reprint of the Introduction found in Dr. Gardner’s third book on this subject, The Anxiety Toolbox Program. You can download the entire book, self-diagnosis test, and workbooks at www.anxietytoolbox.com. Dr. understands that, for many people having anxiety attacks, reading a book and making any decision seems like an insurmountable task. He welcomes you to let his years of experience help you make some quick, effective interventions that will get the situation back under control. Make an appointment at 415-925-8888, and don’t be shy about letting the appointment receptionist know the level of suffering and dysfunction you are experiencing. If we cannot work you in right away, it may be appropriate to seek treatment from the nearest emergency room, especially if you are having a painful “nervous breakdown”, are overusing alcohol, or if you are suicidal.

Getting Started

So you’ve got anxiety, and you’re not going to put up with it anymore! Congratulations for taking a step toward wellness by reading these pages and applying the tools to your life in a way that fits your personality and sensibilities. As soon as possible, you should also make an appointment with a medical professional. I recommend a primary care physician (general practitioner, family medicine specialist, or internist) or a psychiatrist.

These are medical doctors who can evaluate your condition, make a diagnosis, and start a medical regimen if needed. Sometimes a course of medication to help you sleep or to calm down your anxiety attacks is very helpful while you are learning ways to manage and control stress and anxiety. Once you have learned the lessons in this workbook and have incorporated a variety of tools into your daily life, you will be much less vulnerable to anxious emotions, and may find that you no longer need medical treatment.

I suggest that you first skip ahead to read the section: “How to Use The Anxiety Toolbox Program.” It will orient you to how to organize your time and prioritize your efforts in a way that will be most useful for your particular situation.

Medical Choices

In Chapter Four, we will discuss the medical treatment of anxiety while emphasizing the need for a thorough medical history, physical, and laboratory evaluation to rule out the many medical causes of anxiety. Intervention with modern medications is helpful to correct brain chemistry imbalances quickly. This is especially true if you are treating one or more of the anxiety disorders discussed in Chapter Two. For those with severe anxiety caused by one of these conditions, trying to prevail without medical help is like fighting a modern war on horseback with a shield and spear. Thanks to the work of psychoneurologists, the brain is well understood and can be analyzed with non-invasive tests to determine the areas of dysfunction. These scans are usually unnecessary, as a careful history of your symptoms and a thoughtful medical evaluation will usually lead to a swift and successful medical intervention that will greatly speed you toward emotional stability. We will look at both the “somatic symptom model” and “brain dysfunction model” of determining the appropriate medical intervention. We will also discuss the latest medical advances in helping the brain unlearn programmed fear responses seen in specific and social phobias.

Considering Our Own Contribution to Anxiety

In my study of anxiety, one truth seemed to stand out: we create much of our own stress. This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that anxiety and stress are largely under our own control. The bad news is that we need to change, which takes thoughtful consideration and effort. We must change our attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, actions and reactions. In short, we must change our hearts and minds.

Our lives are made up of the choices that we make. Both the big choices—like which philosophy or set of values guides our life, who we chose as friends and mates, what we study to prepare for a career, where we choose to live—and the small choices, like what to eat, when to go to bed, how much to exercise, whether to greet our neighbor, or what newspaper to read or TV program to watch. All of these choices have an impact on the state of our emotional health.

Many anxiety problems can be traced back a failure to grow in an important aspect of our lives—like our work, passions, emotional maturity, or spiritual outlook. We all age and grow physically whether we like it or not. Most people put much effort and focus on their education and jobs, so they grow in their professional and career life in a positive direction. Most will also expend large amounts of time and effort pursuing activities they are passionate about. But some people forget to evaluate their values and the progress of their emotional and spiritual growth. This will often cause a pattern of unhealthy and unfulfilling relationship choices, chasing after self-gratification without weighing and considering the consequences to ourselves and others, and, ultimately, a diminished view of themselves. As human beings, we are programmed from day 1 to grow, be curious, and reach new milestones. So, if we ever reach a point of stagnation in any area of our lives—career, relationships, emotional maturity, or spiritual understanding, anxiety is bound to set in.

In fact, anxiety is the warning light that tells us to stop and evaluate all areas of our lives to see where we may be blocked or failing to move past areas of dysfunction.

The Cycle of Life

In the modern world, we are particularly vulnerable to anxiety and stress because our lack of a daily regimen. We have forgotten that we are part of nature, and nature has rhythm. There is a reason why the earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours, with day and night alternatively encouraging our activity and rest, and why the moon circles the earth every 28 days (the average length of a female cycle). We have evolved under the influence of natural cycles. They are deeply imbedded in our genetics, to the point that our brain chemistry and all our hormone secreting glands are dependent on information from our internal clock known as the pineal gland.

But few of us respect this fact. Without a daily rhythm or cycle, our system cannot connect and function efficiently. Who among us has a regular bedtime, gets up at the same time each morning, exercises regularly, eats three meals consistently, and has a healthy balance of work, play, family, social, and quiet “down” time? Such a person would probably not need this book. Starting with the light bulb, followed by TV and computers, we can finally work and entertain ourselves around the clock without heeding our internal natural rhythms. This workbook will stress the importance of balance, predictability, and consistency in your daily life.

Transformation: The Way Out

The Anxiety Workbook is not just about creating a rhythm and structure for daily life; it is also about changing our hearts and minds by considering our choices. It is about building a stable life foundation that we can always count on and fall back on in difficult times. The tools in the Toolbox are designed to help us examine our thoughts, perceptions, priorities, and values. There are also tools that will teach us how to breathe, sleep, eat and exercise in a regular healthy daily routine. Our minds have physical needs and, just like your car, if you don’t take care of it, it won’t take care of you. Probably the most fun and amazing tools in the Toolbox will teach us how to control body, mind and emotions in a way that few ever achieve. Through modern techniques, we can learn the relaxation response that used to take years of focused work and solitude. In the end, we will be changed from the inside out—literally becoming new individuals. Many people fight or reject this notion of transformation. They are afraid of change and growth. Embracing transformation, on the other hand, causes life to fall into place almost effortlessly. If you commit to change— really learning and practicing and living the simple tools in this book—you will have control over your emotions and develop a stable, calm, and positive character. This is not only a gift to yourself, but to your family and the world.

The Anxiety Toolbox Program. The comprehensive integrative approach to calming anxious emotions.

Visit anxietytoolbox.com to purchase and download