This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, so it’s a good time to look at how homeopathy can be used to treat some mental health issues. If we are honest, most of us have suffered from a mental health problem at some point in our lives. But how many of us have actually talked openly about it? Even now there tends to be a stigma attached to mental illness. It’s fine to tell your boss that you have a stomach upset, or influenza, but much more difficult to say that you are suffering from anxiety or depression. There is a feeling that we should be able to “pull ourselves together” or “man-up”. Yet, in reality, mental issues can be both emotionally and physically debilitating.
Of course, it is absolutely normal to feel anxious when faced with a difficult situation, such as losing your job, being unable to pay a debt, or waiting for a property purchase to complete. But when we find ourselves feeling anxious most of the time, or our hearts race at every little problem we encounter, it shows that there is an imbalance in the body which is making us more sensitive. Every person reacts differently to a situation or event, and every person who suffers from anxiety will experience it in a slightly different way. Fortunately, homeopathy offers a range of useful remedies and I have listed some here. If you, or somebody close to you is suffering from anxiety, which of the following remedies do you think fits them best?
People who need Aconitum can suffer from sudden panic attacks, with pains in the chest, palpitations and shortness of breath. In fact, the onset can be so sudden and overwhelming that they might fear they are having a heart attack. During a panic attack they are so full of fear and nervous anticipation that they can hyperventilate. Their faces are flushed with the effort of trying to draw enough air into their lungs. Aconitum patients are always restless, finding it difficult to focus on any one task, or constantly changing position. Their eyes might dart from one thing or one person to another, as they search for something or somebody who can reassure them.
In good health Argentum people are cheerful and sociable. But they are also very suggestible, and it is often this suggestibility that is at the root of their anxiety. They might hear or read something which makes them fearful for their health. They can be superstitious, with a tendency to obsessive compulsive thoughts and ideas. There are rituals they must perform or (they believe) something bad will happen. They cannot take an action without first performing the ritual. They fear that they will lose control and do something foolish or dangerous. They may be seized by an impulse to hit out at their loved ones, to hurl something at them, just do SOMETHING to relieve the tension they are feeling. They need to release the energy that is building up inside them. Afterwards they are filled with remorse and burst into tears, apologising for their behaviour. Argentum nitricum will ease the tension and help them to control their fears.
Often described as ‘pillars of the community’, Calcarea people are generally loyal, dedicated and supportive of others. Financial security and responsibility are very important to them; they work hard to provide for themselves and their families. But this weighs heavily on their shoulders and they can become overwhelmed by the number or extent of the tasks that they take on. They become anxious and fearful about their health and the health of their loved ones. They fear for their financial future, that something will happen that will make them unable to keep up with their responsibilities. Calcarea patients are often overweight. They might struggle to catch their breath when climbing the stairs or going up a hill. They interpret this as a sign of serious ill-health, which increases their anxiety. Their legs and ankles are often weak, and they seem to sprain or twist their ankles frequently. The leg muscles and ligaments are slow to heal and so the patients fear that they will never really recover. Calcarea will gradually calm their fears and help to bring things back into perspective.
Ignatia is a remedy for those who feel so anxious and desperate that they want to scream. They feel that life has treated them unfairly and cannot understand how they ended up in this position. They might clutch their hand to their chest as they describe their situation, sobbing deeply or sighing frequently. Sometimes they flap or wave their hands as they talk, as if they are frustrated that they can’t get the words out of their mouths fast enough, or can’t explain the depth of their feelings. They think that you are not listening to them, don’t understand the extent of their troubles, or simply don’t care enough. They are extremely sensitive and take offence easily. You try to calm them and they snap at you, misinterpreting what you have said, or assuming some hidden meaning. Ignatia is often given as a remedy for ailments after grief, particularly from the loss of a loved one or breakdown of a relationship. Their relationships are generally stormy. When the relationship ends, they feel angry and cheated. Ignatia will help them to release their grief and anger and to move on with their lives.
Gelsemium is useful when a person is suffering from nervous anticipation. Described as a remedy for ‘stage fright’, it will help those who feel almost paralyzed with fear about what they are about to do. The Gelsemium patients feel weak at all levels; physical, mental and emotional. They feel muddled and exhausted. It will help students who are so anxious about upcoming examinations that they find it impossible to study any more. It seems as if they have forgotten everything they have learnt, and the harder they try to remember, the more their minds seem to be full of fog. They slide down in their chairs and their eyelids droop as if they could fall asleep. It seems like it is too much effort to even lift their heads to look at you. They say that it’s all pointless; they can’t face the examination, can’t cope with any more studying, “might as well give up”. Gelsemium will clear the fog from their memory and give them the strength to carry on.
Like Gelsemium, Kali phos is useful for students who are feeling exhausted and unable to think. The Kali phos personality is nervous and highly sensitive. They are dedicated students who are concerned about the environment and the world around them. They may be involved in political activism to ‘save the planet’, or be part of a group that works to protect endangered species. It is vitally important to them to do well in their chosen field and they might become almost reclusive while preparing for examinations or working for an assessment. The intense studying brings on severe headaches, but they continue with their revision or research. Eventually they find themselves so tired, mentally and physically, that they struggle to focus on their work. They are full of anxiety, as they feel they have much more studying to do but they are too tired and nothing seems to sink into their brain any more. Kali phos will calm them, allow them to step away from their books or computer long enough to sleep, and they can then resume their studies.
At the root of the Lycopodium anxieties you will find a deep feeling of inferiority. They constantly compare themselves to people they know who are successful or attractive and fear they will never “measure up” against them. They are full of fears; anxiety about their health, fear of being alone at night, fear of marriage and commitment. Although they are frightened to be alone, they are also afraid of people. They hate crowded places. This can lead to agoraphobia. They can become reclusive and introverted, turning to books, computer games or crafts for company and stimulation. Particularly in teenage girls, the feelings of inferiority can lead to bulimia. In other cases, Lycopodium people can fight so hard to hide their fears that they appear domineering and arrogant. They bully their family members and those who work for them. (They might be described as “little Hitlers”.) But with their boss they are over polite and agree with everything that is said. In either case, Lycopodium will ease their fears and help them to interact more easily with others.
Like Ignatia, Natrum mur is a remedy for ailments from grief. But while the Ignatia patients will pour out tales of how badly life has treated them, Natrum mur patients are often reluctant or unable to tell you what they are worried about. They are slow to answer and you have to encourage them to explain how they feel. They have been deeply hurt in the past and find it hard to trust anybody. Natrum mur people are fastidious and can become anxious if they are unable to complete a job to perfection. They need to control the environment around them, so changes that are forced on them can cause anxiety. They may fear that somebody will break into their house during the night, leading to difficulty in sleeping and palpitations. Natrum mur patients often suffer from severe headaches, which are aggravated by bright light or noise. Once they take the remedy, the headaches ease and they begin to relax.
In good health, the Phosphorus personality is bright and bubbly. Phosphorus people are the star of the show, the life and soul of the party. They are very sympathetic people and will listen to everybody’s problems. But they are so sensitive that these stories can have a deep effect on them. They are like a sponge, and they absorb all the worries of the world. They become anxious that similar problems will happen to them. Every time they hear about a disease, they worry that they might catch it. Gradually their fears become more widespread and they develop a general feeling that “something bad will happen”. They are easily reassured but because they are so sensitive, they soon read or hear something that renews their concerns. Anxiety and stress can show itself through chest infections, with a tickly cough that seems to last a long time. Phosphorus people often crave chocolate, ice cream, spicy foods and wine. Food becomes a source of comfort; they feel so hungry they even get up at night to eat. After they are given Phosphorus as a remedy, their fears become less pronounced and their appetites settle.
Pulsatilla is a remedy for people who are gentle and tearful. When stress and anxiety become too much to bear, they break down into tears. When they try to tell you what they are worrying about, tears start to trickle down their faces. They look so sad and overwhelmed by their worries. They need consolation, need somebody to be strong and to tell them that everything will be OK. They feel battered by the challenges that everyday life brings and need a person who they can lean on. They reach out for a hug, but can then become embarrassed and suddenly change, appearing irritable and sullen. Pulsatilla people are changeable. Their moods are changeable. You meet them in the morning and they seem happy and content. You meet them later in the day and they are full of worries and woes. Their physical symptoms are also changeable, with pains moving from one part of the body to the other. Much of their response to stress is due to hormonal disturbance, and the remedy Pulsatilla will bring the hormones back into balance.
People who need this remedy are generally refined and might be described as gentlemen and gentlewomen. They are very conscientious and will work hard as it is important for them to do things well. But they lack self-confidence and worry that they are not capable. They worry that they will make the wrong decision, or that they won’t be able to live up to expectations. This anxiety can lead to a state of indecision. They are afraid to take the next step in case they do something wrong. In their minds they imagine all the things that could happen and how they could fail. They hesitate to give their opinions in case they turn out to be wrong, so they keep their thoughts to themselves. They become so anxious that they feel like giving up, handing in their notice. They think “It’s better if I leave now rather than being pushed out later.” In reality they are totally capable of doing the job, or making the right decision. But their fears hold them back. Silicea will help them to stop worrying about their work and have more confidence in themselves.