As in my last post, I am going to continue on the theme of what treatments actually work, and if any of the magical, instantaneous, easy cures actually work.
As I have talked about before, the only common remedies for anxiety, panic and phobias that have any scientific backing are the drug therapies (Citalopram / Celexa, fluoxetine / Prozac, Xanax and Valium etc) and CBT. There is also a decent body of evidence supporting the use of MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). The reason given for the lack of data on other forms of treatment is that proper experimentation is very expensive. This is indeed true.
To try and get round this, I am devising my own experiment. Which I cannot say is really scientific, but I think it is interesting any way. I am going to use a popular search engine to look for personal recommendations. I want to see what has worked for who, how they went about it and what they said about it.
Why am I doing this? Good question…
It struck me the other day that there is a lot of hot air and hubris surrounding alternative healthcare. I was watching a BBC documentary about addictions and they featured two therapies that interested me: EMDR and TFT.
I have seen both of them on documentaries before, usually on either diet or anxiety programmes. Interestingly they almost always fails. There are notable exceptions, but for the most part the people they show on the programme do not get over their problems. And the therapist is left telling the camera how much he believes in the therapy, and how such failures are unusual. In fact for all the hype surrounding these therapies, and all the claims of the therapists, there never seems to be anyone around who will put their hand up and say “yes, it cured me!”.
Is it in fact possible that these therapies are absolutely worthless – especially when you bare in mind how many people are successfully treated by the placebo effect! These treatments can be a good way, or at least are perceived to be a good way, to make money. And the therapists, blinded by charismatic gurus, can be lead to believe that something works when it doesn’t. For example, when TFT or EFT doesn’t work the therapists and experts are quick to blame toxicity. Toxicity occurs when a chemical such as soap powder causes the treatment to be blocked in some way. As most people can’t or won’t go through the rigours of removing all potential toxins it is an easy get out from the situation for the therapist.
I once read an interview with a woman who had been at the forefront of an energy therapy that involved tapping. She said that she suddenly noticed that what they had recorded as an 85% plus success rate was in fact much closer to 30%, it was just that they repeatedly removed results from their statistics that didn’t make the therapy look successful. There was nothing malicious in this, she argues, they were just so caught up in the whole thing that they were certain it worked, and wanted to prove it.
So. I am going to google three phrases:
“EMDR worked for me”
“EFT worked for me”
“Hypnosis worked for me”
The quotation marks are important, they will ensure that only pages which contain exactly those phrases will be returned. There is no mention of anxiety, panic or phobias here. That is deliberate. I am trying to see if they work. I don’t care if I find they work for quitting smoking or anything else. I am going on the assumption that if they work, then they work across the board. It’s a dangerous assumption, but I warned you this wouldn’t be perfect.
“EMDR worked for me” got 6 returns.
“EFT worked for me” got 70 returns.
“Hypnosis worked for me” got 514 returns.
Interesting results. It is also worth looking at the quality of the results. Quite a few came from sites which are obviously trying to sell a certain cure – “it worked for me – send me $100 and it can work for you too!”. But there are some people out there who were helped by these three therapies. More than just the placebo effect?? Who can say without proper science!
I am trying to compile a small list of common treatments for anxiety and phobias which actually work. Easy, you might say, just look on Google or in a book shop. Problem is, there is a lot of rubbish out there and it’s really hard to tell what’s good and what’s bad, and more importantly where an anxiety or phobia sufferer might best look for help.
There are two provisos that I want to make clear at the start of this post:
Firstly, I accept that no one treatment in any field however scientifically backed or esoteric works for everyone. If such a treatment did work for everyone then there would be no need for this list and everyone would be cured!
Secondly when I judge what works I want to see real evidence. I don’t want to know about conventional wisdom, I don’t care if it has been used for centuries, and I don’t care hoe many people therapists or treatment inventors claim to have healed!
I won’t say too much about CBT here because I have talked about it in general terms in the article CBT and criticized it a bit in this article: CBT – The Great Con. I will just summarize my thoughts here. CBT is good for things you can practice a lot and can make yourself do even though it is uncomfortable at first. It is bad for things you can’t get into the habit of doing regularly or bring yourself to do in the first place. If you are really stuck then this won’t necessarily get you going!
Hypnosis is a common treatment usually offered privately. It is very hard to measure because there are many different types and many different practitioners. I have been trying to find some studies that prove hypnosis is a valid treatment for anxiety or phobias, but I can’t really find any. If anyone can find some, I will edit this!
It seems psychoanalysis might be good for general anxiety levels, but like CBT it is maybe not so good for getting you passed blocks that actually stop you doing something. Freud himself is said to have said that psychoanalysis does not remove a phobia so much as put the patient in a position from which they can face it (i.e overcoming it through behaviourism). Psychoanalysis is hard to measure because something which takes so long can’t be isolated from other potentially important factors. It is not unusual for anxiety to come and go over time anyway.
By Energy Therapies I mean EFT, TFT and other meridian or tapping therapies such as TAT. They have been popular for almost two decades now but there is still very little research to support them. Advocates of these therapies claim that they work but the research that would prove this is too expensive to conduct. This is indeed true, drug companies can conduct extensive research into drugs because their end product will be protected by patent laws etc. The only hope is for university studies…which I have not been able to find! The exception is the oft-sited ENERGY PSYCHOLOGY
Theory, Indications, Evidence by Joaquín Andrade, M.D. and David Feinstein, Ph.D.
This study is very positive and makes EFT look like a really good approach. It has been criticized for not being double-blind but the statistics are interesting. For more info check out http://www.emotional-freedom.com/tapping-works.htm and http://www.innersource.net/energy_psych/epi_research.htm
I will add to this list as time goes on! Please also let me know your thoughts and ideas!
Can there be a link between anxiety and anger? Recently, the UK’s Mental Health Foundation released a report entitled "Boiling Point" which describes how anger, if left untreated, can lead to other health problems, including mental health problems such as depression. I will argue that anxiety should be on that list as well.
The charity’s chief executive described anger as "the elephant in the room". It is massively under diagnosed and under treated. Interestingly, in the UK, anger only tends to get treated because of a court order when someone has become so angry they commit a crime, or because the individual has sought private and/or alternative therapy. Very few people are being treated for anger having presented at their GP’s surgery with it.
So what about anxiety and anger? Is there a relationship? The statistical answer is that we don’t yet know. There has been some research into the effects of anger, mostly by looking at the lives of people with anger versus people without. Some very interesting conclusions have been drawn, including that those people who have anger have a higher risk of heart disease, strokes, self-harming and also depression.
Depression is the item there that I find the most interesting. It is my theory that people are like an over-filled bottle, and when the pressure gets to high the cracks begin to show – in the weakest place. Different reasons probably effect why different people have different weaknesses. It could be that people have minor genetic bents towards anxiety, or anorexia, either way. What I am saying is that repressed anger, or anger which goes unmanaged, could possibly manifest as anxiety. It seems to me that what can manifest as anxiety can also manifest as depression. I have experienced both myself.
It’s just a theory and hopefully there will be more research done into the connection between anxiety and anger.
What can be done about it? There are of course anger management classes to be had in every major town or city across the western world, and of course the plethora of alternative and complimentary therapies. I will do what I often do at this point, and say that whether you are suffering from anxiety, anger or indeed depression, why not try Mindfulness Meditation.