Stress and anxiety are at the root of all addictions, which was eloquently communicated by Dr. Kevin McCauley in his film Pleasure Unwoven.
According the NIMH, roughly 90 percent of all primary care physician visits are due to stress related illnesses. I think it’s time we take a closer look at how the West meets the East, or not.
Medication is the great cure-all of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In fact, it has become so common for us in the Western world to assume that there is a medication for every condition that we routinely take pills for things that may not even be health hazards. Pharmacology is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it is important for this industry to keep Americans "hooked" on prescription drugs. This results in a lot of advertising to both patients and doctors to convince them that they need drugs to cure all ills.
Don’t get me wrong, even as an alternative mental health practitioner, I am not opposed to the use of medications when the condition has advanced to a stage where alternative or holistic approaches alone would have a difficult time reversing the condition. In fact, I believe that we have made so much advancement in psychotropic medications that mental suffering in today’s times is really an option. However, I also firmly believe that medication should never, and let me emphasize, never be used to the exclusion of what we call alternative medicine or new healthy thought and behavioral habit patterns (which, by the way, many times could have prevented the illness from manifesting in the first place). These new thought and behavioral habit patterns I am referring to are at the core: exercise, meditation and diet. I like to call them body, mind and engine fuel! Establishing a healthy balance in these three key areas will always aid in the recovery of an illness created out of these imbalances even when western medication is used.
I point out in my book, if you have an illness of mind and body and feel you may need pharmacological treatment, I recommend finding a prescribing physician who is willing to listen to you and pay attention to your responses to the medication and spend the time trying several medications if needed to find the right one. It’s always a good idea to be aware of the "drug rep" mentality in which a physician is pressured to prescribe a certain medication to the point that he or she may lose sight of the possible negative effects of one drug over another. Finally, if your prescribing physician isn’t really pressuring you to change your old thought and behavioral habits that got you there in the first place, you need to say, next!
For some unfortunate reason we have seen a great divide between these two approaches to healing, like they somehow need to work apart from one another. I believe this to be not only a tragic error in the practice of medicine, it is also reactive medicine rather than preventative medicine.
Imagine a doctor’s visit where your diet was looked at with a fine tooth comb and you were invited to attend a label reading lecture hosted by your doctor’s office. Imagine that your doctor asked you about what you do to manage stress in order to maintain a healthy mind and gave you a meditation sample when you left the office with order information. Imagine that your doctor prescribed you a pedometer and a certain number of steps you must take each day to maintain your drug prescription. Wow, what a concept! The sad truth is, American doctor’s are paid to react rather than to respond. Some European Countries actually pay bonuses to doctor’s that effectively implement prevention treatments for their patients, like getting them to quit smoking. That’s right, they get paid to do that!
In all fairness, it’s also true that most practitioners of alternative or holistic approaches like Neurogenesis Meditative Therapy (MNT) stand firm on alternative approaches, advocating non-medicinal psychological treatments for anxiety and firmly opposing psychopharmacology. This may be due to the fact that so many pharmacological "cures" have been shown to have uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effects. Yet this rigid line of oppositional thinking can have equally harmful effects. Anxiety disorders that have progressed to the point of disabling a person from normal life functioning, may need at least a temporary psychopharmacological intervention despite some unfortunate side effects and possibly even hospitalization. This may divert possible self harm or even suicide in the suffering individual. It is very important for anyone who is considering using drugs to treat mental or emotional issues to be aware of the possible side effects of medication, the degree of efficacy that medication may have on their given condition and most importantly, the physical dependence the medication may inherently cause. An informed decision is always the best decision.
Ultimately, I make the case for western medicine and eastern medicine to tear down that wall!
Alternative and holistic medicinal approaches are most effective in the prevention and early management stages of mental and physical health maintenance. That doesn’t negate the necessity of use of these approaches when used in tandem with a medicinal intervention. The objective should always be to create a whole mind, body healing remedy that is sustainable with the implementation of new mind, body engine fuel.
Creating a new mind, body, engine fuel regime sounds easy enough. Well, the bad news is, it’s very challenging to change old habits. It’s true that “old habits die hard” and old habits start with old thoughts. It’s our thoughts that drive unhealthy behavioral patterns that ultimately lead to most physical and mental illness, including addictions. Does this sound familiar? “I need a drink to take the edge off,” “I deserve that cake, I’ve worked my buns off this week,” “I’m too tired to workout,” “I don’t have time to go to the gym.” All of these excuses are derived from an entitlement to self destruct as opposed to a commitment to self preserve. How about these “I don’t drink or use drugs so I can get up in morning without a hangover,” “If I didn’t work out, I’d be hot mess,” “The gym is my stress relief. I love it.” These are shifts in thinking that result in shifts in health. Problem is, thinking is darn hard to change! Those thought patterns and belief systems are as stubborn as the day is long.
That’s why NMT is the best intervention to thought change. NMT employs elements from the 5 most effective, evidenced based treatments for stress and anxiety management. They include elements of progressive relaxation, mindfulness, guided imagery, hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy. Each of these are seamlessly woven together in a pleasurable, powerful, unique way for sustainable thought shifts. To effect thought change, it is imperative to create a safe environment and a methodical process as used in NMT to help release and disarm long established protective thought filters that were developed usually from early trauma’s in the mind so that new thoughts can be introduced, accepted and ultimately embedded. Imagine if the world used meditation for mental and emotional health like we use teeth brushing for fresh breath and gum health. There’s a shift for you!