Is It Really Anxiety Disorder?
by Kenneth W. Thomas, RN
April 4, 2006
"Doctor, I don't sleep well. I feel nervous for no reason. My hands
tremble and my palms sweat at times. Sometimes I feel like my heart
beats too hard or is skipping a beat. It scares me. I get moody;
sometimes I'm depressed. I can't seem to concentrate at work.
What's wrong with me?"
Depending on which kind of doctor he's talking to, he might get
medical testing for hypoglycemia, food sensitivities, allergies, metal
poisoning or other illness. On the other hand, if the "doctor"
he's gone to see is a psychiatrist, or a physician indoctrinated into
psychiatric diagnosing, he is likely to be labeled with "anxiety
disorder", a so-called permanent brain disease. There are no physical
tests for "anxiety disorder" so the diagnosis can be given just
based on the symptoms alone. He can even be treated with anti-anxiety
psychiatric drugs without medical testing.
But is it really anxiety disorder?
The symptoms described by this person appear on lists of symptoms given
for numerous physical conditions as well as the "mental disorder"
known as "anxiety disorder". Symptoms of physical illness and
"mental illness" are similar, yet the diagnosis and treatment is
Per ADAA (Anxiety Disorders Association of America), anxiety disorders
are the most common form of mental illness in the U.S., with 19.1
million (13.3%) of the adult U.S. population (ages 18-54) affected.
According to "The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders," a study
commissioned by the ADAA and based on data gathered by the association
and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, anxiety disorders
cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one third of the
$148 billion total mental health bill for the U.S.
The top two drugs prescribed for anxiety disorders are Ativan and
Xanax. For just those two drugs and their generic equivalents, over 53
million generic prescriptions were filled in 2005, up from 51 million
in 2004, which was up 7.9% from 2003 figures as revealed in the
magazine Drug Topics, March 2006.
Valium is also prescribed for anxiety disorders. Anxiety is big
business, bolstered by drug companies' multi-million dollar
advertising campaigns, working hard to convince the public that they
have a "mental disorder".
No actual scientific or medical tests are given for the diagnosis of
anxiety disorders, only symptoms matter. If you have the symptoms, you
have the disorder. However, it's not as simple as that. There are
several types of anxiety including "generalized anxiety disorder",
the more dramatic Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and
Social Anxiety Disorder. Even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and
various phobias are lumped under the more general term of "anxiety
Debates as to the nature of anxiety are rampant and controversial. The
"mental health" establishment forwards a "chemical imbalance"
theory though this has never been scientifically proven. For the victim
of these symptoms, the condition is serious. If one is told that his
symptoms are caused by a permanent brain disorder, it's easy to
believe. He can feel the symptoms but there is no obvious cause.
It occurs to me, as a Registered Nurse for some 29 years, that we
should be more diligent in looking at medical causes for anxiety rather
than theoretical, phantom causes. Anxiety has specific symptoms voiced
and observed by anyone. A prescription for mood-altering drugs like
Xanax and Ativan can certainly negate the symptoms. However, the drugs
themselves create their own new set of problems and, if the original
cause were a physical condition, the neglected condition may continue
Hypoglycemia, metal poisonings and food allergy/sensitivities mimic the
conditions of anxiety.
These medical conditions can be researched and corrected or controlled
with standard medical treatment.
Reporting on the website Onlinelawyersource.com, "Lead poisoning
statistics show there are still a high number of people adversely
affected by the metal's harmful effects, but these lead poisoning
statistics may not even be a real indicator of how serious the problem
During the 1960s, 60 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood was
considered the level for concern. In the 1980s, this level was lowered
even more to 25 micrograms, then to 10 micrograms in the 1990s. An
April 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine included an
article concluding lead levels even below the 10 micrograms can be
harmful, especially in children. The researchers wrote, "Our findings
suggest that considerably more U.S. children are adversely affected by
environmental lead than previously estimated."
The state of Arizona has an active program of screening young people
for lead poisoning. This is a medical screening involving a blood test.
On the other hand, "mental illness" screening programs such as the
extremely controversial TeenScreen, ask the young people questions in
search of symptoms in order to locate those who "need" mental
There are two significant problems with "mental health" screening.
Number one is that the screening is completely subjective - it's
always based on symptoms only, no objective medical testing. The
accuracy is further skewed by the uncertainty that the children are
answering the questions truthfully. The second problem is that the
symptoms they screen for and call "mental illness" are the same
symptoms that can indicate genuine physical illness or other
TeenScreen's screening instruments are based around the psychiatric
definitions of "mental disorders", and a positive on the TeenScreen
test leads to a referral to "mental health" treatment.
According to an article by Thomas Smith on the website
Consumerhealthreviews.com, "Diabetes, Hypoglycemia, Hyperinsulinemia
are so widespread in the United States that it is estimated that over
half the population exhibits one or more symptoms of these life
Symptoms of Adult-Onset Diabetes are now being routinely noted in six
year old children. Obesity and its related Endocrine dysfunction are
commonly observed in teenagers. Heart Failure, a symptom of advanced
Type II Diabetes, remains in the top three killer diseases in the
Westernized countries." If a diabetic child were misdiagnosed with a
mental disorder and treated only with mood-altering drugs, the diabetes
itself would remain untreated, leading to a worsening condition,
possibly even the risk of death.
Another startling statistic is related to food allergies. Experts
estimate food allergy occurs in 6 to 8 percent of children 4 years of
age or under, and in 4 percent of adults according to the American Academy of
Family Physicians website. It reports that food allergies can present
psychological as well as neurological symptoms. "There may also be a feeling
of "impending doom"--a feeling that something bad is going to happen,
pale skin because of low blood pressure, or loss of consciousness
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include sweating, nervousness, feeling
faint, heart palpitations, hunger, and headache with worsening symptoms
being fatigue, dizziness, weakness, confusion and inappropriate
behavior and unconsciousness.
Symptoms of lead, mercury or other poisoning include confusion,
drowsiness, cold clammy hands, sweating, irregular heart beat, tremors,
pain or pressure in the chest, anxiety, moodiness, lack of attention,
restlessness, and depression.
The above symptoms of genuine physical illness can be easily mistaken
for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is defined by muscle tension,
sweating, nausea, cold, clammy hands, difficulty swallowing, jumpiness,
gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea. Psychiatrists focus solely on
"mental disorders" which could result in you becoming addicted to a
mind-altering drug, without any testing to locate genuine physical
illness. Left untreated, these medical conditions can worsen and even
Moreover, even the treatment for anxiety can be deadly. Xanax packaging
contains the following warning: "Certain adverse clinical events,
some life-threatening, are a direct consequence of physical dependence
to Xanax. These include a spectrum of discontinuation symptoms;
the most important being the possibility of seizures."
Anyone who experiences the symptoms of anxiety should look at proven
medically tested sources of that feeling and not be so quick to take a
drug that may cover up important symptoms to the discovery of real
physical illnesses. Anxiety is a sensation of warning the body
manifests when there is something wrong and it needs attention. Don't
fall into the idea that it is an illness unto itself that needs to be
treated because it's uncomfortable. It was intended to be
uncomfortable to prompt you, the owner, to do something about it. Seek
a medical diagnosis, not a mental label.
Kenneth W. Thomas is a Registered Nurse with 29 years of experience
working in critical care units, emergency rooms, medical-to-surgical
units, and psychiatric units. He has written several popular articles
which have been published worldwide, including "TeenScreen Calls
Physical Illness a Mental Disorder" and a series of informative
articles in the "Is It Really" series, which is now being compiled
into a book. Look for the upcoming article, "Is It Really