Don’t Know Why You’re Anxious? Consider These Hidden Causes of Anxiety.

Ask anyone you know what they think causes an anxiety disorder and the answer you will probably get will be something along the lines of “stressful situations”. While not wrong, the better answer is that there are many causes of anxiety, many of which run deeper than our external circumstances. 

Anxiety disorders can have undiscovered medical causes, including; infections and hormone imbalances, many of which aren’t tested for or considered when someone seeks help for anxiety. 

Here’s a list of anxiety causing conditions from Georgetown University psychiatrist Robert Hedeya, MD.

  • Tumors- brain and/or adrenal
  • Hormone imbalance (thyroid/adrenal)
  • Infectious Disease 
  • Nutrition- specifically B12 deficiency
  • Nervous System (head trauma)
  • Miscellaneous (any chronic disease or pain)
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Drugs- over the counter and prescription

At The Center for Whole Psychiatry & Brain Recovery in N. Bethesda, Maryland, Dr. Hedeya and his team specialize in identifying the root causes of mental illness (before prescribing treatment) and have created the mnemonic device; “THINC MED” (based on the above list) to help other doctors do the same. 

His clinic states:

“Our mission is to restore you to maximal health by identifying the root causes of your illness. Using the latest technologies in a highly personalized and thorough approach to your treatment. Dr. Hedaya devotes himself fully to every patient in his care.”

The clinic offers the following services for those suffering from mental illness:

  • A robust medical workup using the latest scientific research & practices.
  • A four-hour initial intake process with Dr. Hedaya.
  • Clear data-driven answers to your questions.
  • Timely responses to your communications.
  • A Functional Medicine coach.
  • A caring support staff.
  • The convenience of an in-office or in-home phlebotomist.

No, this is not a sponsored post or endorsement for Dr. Hedaya. His work and approach to treating mental illness is just an excellent example of what people should ideally be demanding from their doctors when it comes to getting help for anxiety and other mental disorders. It’s the epitome of treatment.

Granted, this level of care is probably not going to be an option for most people, especially if you live in the US and have limited financial resources. 

What we can learn from this example however, is that there are a multitude of physical conditions that could be causing our mental issues and we need to dig to the best of our (and our doctor’s) ability to get to the root cause.

Yes, people will argue that over-burdened doctors don’t have time to delve into the intricacies of each patient. But is putting someone on a brain-altering drug after a five minute chat really a solution to the looming mental health crisis

“You don’t put people on medications without making sure they don’t have an infection, somewhere in their body that is affecting their mind.”

  • Dr. Robert Hedaya

They can put the time and resources in at the start of the diagnosis process or they can put the time and resources in once there are nations chock-full mentally ill people, draining and destroying the system and themselves.

Should doctors not be obligated at the very least to disclose the possible physical causes of mental illness to their patients and run whatever tests are available?

When I sought help for my anxiety in the early 1990’s, my doctor’s approach could not have been more opposite to that of Dr. Hedaya’s. When my teen-aged daughter sought help for her anxiety in 2018, her doctor’s approach was also negligent.  

At the time, I didn’t know anything about anxiety, other than the fact that I had it. Apparently my doctor’s knowledge was as limited as mine. 

The first time I went to my family doctor for my anxiety issues, all I got was; “Your brain is defective. No reason for it. Just the way it is. Take these pills for life.” Despite the fact that my anxiety became very extreme in a very short time, with no apparent external cause, this was all I got.

I remember sitting there silently as she scratched out a doodle of my serotonin levels on the back of her prescription pad. She had asked me a few general questions and that was it. 

She doodled and made her diagnosis and poof! Five minutes after entering that office, I had a chemical imbalance, just like that. 

Aside from telling me I was damaged goods and needed to take a side-effect laden mystery drug for the rest of my life, she gave me nothing but a prescription to hell.

It took me many long years to not only discover why I had an anxiety disorder and how to fix it but also to recover from the “treatment” that was so flippantly prescribed to me.

I wish I could say that my case was unique and uncommon. Over the past few decades I’ve talked to so many people on the SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) recovery circuit that had the exact same experience when seeking help for their anxiety. I know this type of shot-gun diagnosis is nothing new. 

My own daughter, twenty-three years after I sought help, received identical treatment from our current family doctor when she reached out for help with her own budding anxiety issues. 

Based on my own experience, I was very reluctant to take her when she requested the appointment. I wanted her to start elsewhere.

However, my daughter was unbiased and insisted the doctor was the right place to start. I agreed to take her, mostly out of curiosity as to what this particular doctor would say.

She went in looking for a referral to a behavioural and nutritional counsellor but after a quick Q&A (which I wasn’t allowed to be in the room for!) the only thing she came out with was a prescription for an SSRI. No referrals. No test requisitions. 

I wasn’t surprised. Angry and sad, yes. But not surprised. I had hoped times had changed. 

The prescription was not filled and we moved on to our own detective work with the help of other healthcare practitioners. After some private testing and about a year of diet and lifestyle change, my daughter is doing fine now.

I strongly recommend checking out this amazing article by Jordan Fallis of Optimal Living Dynamics. “13 Important Blood Tests to Get Done if You Have Depression” is applicable to the anxiety situation and Jordan does an excellent job explaining things 

If you are just starting out on your quest to find answers to your issues with anxiety, please prepare yourself and avoid assuming that your care provider will share all the possible causes with you.

I am not saying all doctors are lazy and incompetent. I am also not saying that pharmaceutical drugs are inappropriate or dangerous for everyone.

I’m saying that you have the right to know if a hidden illness is causing your anxiety disorder and should rule out all the possibilities before committing to a particular treatment plan.

If you have a doctor that won’t investigate, find one who will. 

You deserve better. You deserve a Dr. Hedaya.

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