If you asked me the number one mental health issue impacting Lyme recovery in the clients I see, hands down, without a question, reducing anxiety would be the top priority. In this blog I am going to talk a bit about why your recovery plan needs to include anxiety and stress reduction as well as some tools for making this a bit easier.
Anxiety is the Most Common Mental Illness in the United States
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. Anxiety can manifest as a number of different experiences including:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Social anxiety disorder
Major Depressive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Separation anxiety disorder
Anxiety alone is quite a challenge to overcome. Couple this with the impact of severe physical pain, cognitive impairment and personality changes associated with Lyme and it’s evident why so many people struggle to make progress in their recovery. The good news is there are proven strategies for relieving anxiety. In fact, it’s one of the quickest types of mental suffering I have seen to find relief from once a person find the right treatment for their needs.
There are many treatment options for anxiety. The two treatments I consider my go-to starting place for clients are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Hypnotherapy. If seeking treatment I encourage clients to explore both types because they are vastly different in the way they support clients, yet both highly impactful for finding relief.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that emphasizes an understanding of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions as well as education around specific tools meant to be practiced and used in times of increased anxiety and stress. It suits clients interested in “thinking through” things rather than understanding feelings (although that’s part of it too).
On the other hand, hypnotherapy is a strategy that focuses on deep relaxation combined with creative visualization to help clients induce a feeling of calm. This way of working together allows someone who “overthinks” to relax fully rather than being required to “think through” or “do something”.
Both strategies are effective whether the root of anxiety is related to faulty patterns in thinking or caused by a medical condition such as a co infection like Bartonella or Babesia.
Anxiety Causes Sleep Disruption
Anyone actively in treatment for Lyme has most likely discussed the impact of adequate sleep on the ability to heal. Anxiety can really throw a wrench in this part of the treatment plan and really cannot be ignored. Whatever you are doing to recover from Lyme, You must sleep. Anxiety can interrupt sleep by causing rumination or racing thoughts making it difficult to fall asleep. Anxiety can also wake us in a panic. If anxiety is the primary reason you are not sleeping at night, reaching out to a professional who specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Sleep is an excellent place to start.
Anxiety Is A Symptom of Coinfections
Bartonella and Babesia are no joke. I remember clearly the nighttime shortness of breath, waking in sweats and a panic, the restlessness and waking up at 3am every night. I remember being so paranoid I couldn’t leave the house or make decisions about food. I am also aware that these symptoms are mild compared to some experiences of anxiety. They can include obsessive compulsive tendencies, manifestations of eating disorders, paranoia and dissociation (a feeling of being out of body) to name a few. If you are experiencing symptoms such as this it may be necessary to revisit your medical plan to incorporate testing and possible treatment for co infections. Your physician may encourage you to support your adrenal glands and thyroid in an effort to reduce stress associated with fighting multiple infections.
If you are interested in learning more about CBT and Hypnotherapy for addressing anxiety, please join me for a live webinar on February 10, 2018.
Ruschelle Khanna, LCSW