Combining the Best of Conventional Psychiatric Treatments with Naturopathic Medicine for Mental Health
During these challenging times, people’s resiliency and coping skills have been stretched and tested to the max. Though there is hope emerging that things are beginning to turn around, many more people are struggling with mental health and emotional balance than prior to the current events. (source, source)
What has become evident in the past few years is that society’s emotional undertone has been seriously impacted and that there is an inadequacy and lack of access to effective treatment. In fact, not only were those with previous psychological diagnoses more vulnerable to physical and mental health issues relating to the dreaded disease, but those who contracted it were also more likely to experience psychiatric effects post-recovery. (source, source, source)
In one study that anonymously assessed 69.8 million US medical records, which included over 62,000 survivors of the disease, there was an associated increased incidence of a first psychiatric diagnosis in the following 14 to 90 days compared with six other health events. Specifically, sufferers experienced more anxiety, insomnia, and dementia. (source, source) This has substantially increased the amount of the world population that is in need of psychological support and is straining the limited amount of resources available. (source, source)
In this post, I will continue on the topic of my previous article on using a combination of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and conventional therapy with integrative, naturopathic, and natural mental health modalities. This merger can provide a holistic solution that addresses the root issues of many brain health imbalances.
Finally, in a future post, I hope to follow up on how a new hope (see the pun) is on the horizon. I will connect how this, sprinkled in with faith and a dash of heart coherence, can also create more comfort with uncertainty.
Stress, Anxiety, and Uncertainty: How CBT May Help
The brains of someone with a mental health diagnosis differ from those who do not have one. One with a psychiatric diagnosis has various brain health factors effected and cognitive processing variations that are altered. (source, source, source, source, source, source)
Stress and anxiety are two distinct and different categories, but many confuse the two. Anxiety is a mental health diagnosis; stress is not. Chronic, unrelenting stress can, however, lead to anxiety and/or other psychiatric disorders through its consistent rewiring of brain pathways and the resulting biochemical effects. This is perhaps another reason why we are experiencing such a profound mental health emergency, especially in our youth. (source, source)
In my previous post, I explored how the uncertainty of our ongoing world trauma can impact both long-term physical and mental health. In the young and across all age spans, many may misinterpret the physical symptoms of anxiety or depression as a physiological cause vs. a psychological one. This could perpetuate both psychological and biological imbalances if the root issue is not addressed.
The theory of “intolerance to uncertainty” explores how havoc results on the mental health of youth during tumultuous times and how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be supportive in addressing it. The authors of this concept graphically illustrate this idea in Fig. 1 of their article. It explains how a trigger, such as the pandemic, feeds IU (intolerance to uncertainty) and can lead to various anxiety disorders. IU and worry, the authors argue, is linked to multiple anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
The authors also suggest the use of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which includes psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring procedures, and exposure/behavioral experiments, as an appropriate treatment to help “young patients attain a greater sense of control and master.
This concept can be applicable to all ages for remediating the root cause of the anxiety.
Rewiring Your Brain with CBT, NAC, and Essential Oils
CBT is the gold standard treatment for those with OCD and has been shown efficacious for various anxiety disorders. (source, source, source, source) Interestingly, when we change how we “see and interpret” things, our brain changes. Several studies have indicated that CBT literally rewires the brain. (source, source, source) In a 2009 article abstract from the Journal of Neuropsychiatry Clinical Neuroscience, the authors explain:
This systematic review aims to investigate neurobiological changes related to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in anxiety disorders detected through neuroimaging techniques and to identify predictors of response to treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy modified the neural circuits involved in the regulation of negative emotions and fear extinction in judged treatment responders. The only study on predictors of response to treatment was regarding obsessive-compulsive disorder and showed higher pretreatment regional metabolic activity in the left orbitofrontal cortex associated with a better response to behavioral therapy. Despite methodological limitations, neuroimaging studies revealed that CBT was able to change dysfunctions of the nervous system. (source)
Previously, I discussed how the popular antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) has also been clinically validated to assist with OCD symptomology. The two in combination could be very helpful for sufferers, especially if part of one’s vulnerability to OCD is linked to changes in glutamate levels and oxidative stress. Both could literally alter brain neuropathways and work synergistically together.
I also feel that using essential oils for emotional health is important. Along with the psychological effects, our biochemistry, neurological signaling, brain patterning, and physiology are also impacted by essential oils. They combine perfectly with the holistic mental health support that naturopathic and integrative doctors can provide.
Integrative Psychiatry: The Benefits of Conventional Treatments with Natural Support
As with any method or tool, nothing is foolproof.
With my clients, whenever I implement a natural tool for brain support, I aim to combine the concept of “neural reprogramming” via mindset and introduce them to the concept of CBT.
Even if someone is not diagnosed with a specific mental health disorder, the fact that CBT changes brain patterning, and the fact that natural remedies can as well, makes the two a win-win duo in my book. If someone is diagnosed with a mental illness, I will ensure they are also speaking with a conventional therapist. One that specializes in CBT and/or other methodologies such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) (source, source) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) are my preferences.
I recently spoke to a well-known expert in CBT and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). He explained to me that it was okay to use tools such as essential oils and supplements to ease stress and anxiety, but for someone with OCD, for example, it is important to address the underlying level of IU. In other words, one also has to learn how to tolerate that uncertainty exists and be okay with their feelings without using compulsions or ruminations to try to “fix them.”
As a naturopathic doctor, I was reminded by this expert that addressing the root cause of the IU, at the level of the cognitive processing, is imperative. I then mused that there may be more than one “root?”
The downside of “choosing one” treatment approach over the other (conventional and psychiatric therapy, CBT, or natural therapies) are as follows:
- If one simply uses natural therapies to “feel better,” they may not be addressing the underlying cognitive distortions or mindsets that trigger the compulsion or rumination to begin with. They may become dependent on the supplement, nutrient, or oil and eventually have to keep switching remedies because the underlying thinking is not being addressed.
- If one doesn’t correct the brain health factors (e.g., hormones, nutrients, lifestyle factors, oxidative stress, genetic variations, etc.) that modulate neurochemistry and biology could make addressing the cognitive distortions extremely challenging. This is because their biology is overriding their psychology.
I have seen where nutritional support, essential oils, and brain nourishing foods can make transitions and discomfort with change much easier to manage. They can allow one to move through the uncertainty and uncomfortable feelings with more ease.
Using both CBT with additional natural tools can complement each other to reinforce new neural pathways.
I don’t think we have to choose, but we sure need to start supporting our mental health now…
How are you doing with your mental and emotional health?
I hope you are oiling and practicing self-care?
Do you need additional support? Please reach out if you do!
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.