The Holistic Approach
What does Holistic mean?
Merriam-Webster defines Holistic Medicine as treatment of the mind and body as a “complete system”, rather than the dissection of parts. This non-traditional philosophy of well-being considers the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of one’s life as being interconnected, closely working within, and influencing each other on a physiological level.
According to the American Psychological Association, Americans spend more than $34 billion dollars on psychoactive medications in any given year. If we look at the actual breakdown of these expenses, antipsychotics are at the top, with a whopping cost of $16 billion, antidepressants are a close second, at $11 billion, and last, but not least, ADHD medications cost Americans an average of $7 billion dollars a year. These numbers are alarming, and raise many questions about prescribing habits in the United States. Could it be that there is a legitimate need for the prescribers to utilize these drugs so freely? Or is it that prescribers are not taking the time to truly assess, and identify underlying issues that may be contributing to the unwanted behaviors, actions, or emotional states, that Americans experience on an everyday basis?
When evaluating new patients, I encourage them to welcome the exploration of all of life’s aspects. The in-depth assessment of personal, social, spiritual, and medical history, allows me to gain a better understanding of who they are as individuals. The gathering of this information often provides cues and insight on the physical or emotional manifestation of symptoms that may not be related to psychiatric illness at all.
Some of the most commonly reported symptoms amongst patients include:
- Sadness or excessive worry
- Diminished interest or pleasure in life
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Restlessness and irritability
- Fatigue and/or energy loss
- Lack of motivation
- Intrusive or racing thoughts
Symptoms such as these often indicate an imbalance within our system, prompting further assessment/investigation of the root cause. Finding a clinician that is willing to listen, dissect, and make alternative recommendations, rather than just offering another pill, is of utmost importance. The belief that medication can achieve the kind of balance we seek as individuals is a strong misconception. There is a legitimate need for medication in many circumstances, but there is no such thing as a “magic pill” or an easy fix. Behavioral medications should be regarded as an aid in symptom management and recovery, not the cure.
Unwanted behaviors and alternating emotional states often have multiple and overlapping causes, which is why the evaluation of ones “complete system” is elemental. Things as simple as vitamin deficiency, sleep deprivation, inadequate dietary choices, and sedentary lifestyles, are just a few common causes in the development of unwanted behaviors, actions, and fluctuating moods, and this is just brushing the surface.
What if we dug a little deeper?
Explored those repressed emotions related to early childhood experiences, traumatic events, and losses? Repression is a common theme amongst patients often leading to the silent and chronic build-up of cortisol within our systems. Cortisol, referred to as the “stress hormone” can cause havoc on our bodily functions. It is associated with blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, immune system suppression, poor cardiovascular health, chronic fatigue, and depression. This is just another example of how emotions alone can cause physical ailments. The mind, body, spirit connection is undeniable, and I am a strong believer of exploring these imbalances through therapy. I strongly encourage patients to engage in therapies that will help them process past experiences, restructure thinking and behavior patterns, and encourage them to be present in the here and now. Some of my favorites include, EMDR, Gestalt Therapy, and other Mindfulness based approaches. Using therapy in conjunction with medication can help potentiate the effect of medication, often helping patients achieve an overall improved state of well-being in a much shorter period of time.
So what’s holding you back?
I encourage you to take the next step towards improving your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Explore, identify, treat, and conquer any obstacles that are affecting your psychiatric health and emotional well-being.
I am a Doctor of Nursing Practice/ Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and a strong advocate of “whole-person/holistic” health, encouraging patients to explore, physical, mental, and social factors that may be contributing to the physical symptoms of their illness. I am fluent in English/Spanish, which allows me to connect with patients from various cultural backgrounds.
Dr. Herendira Valdez, PMHNP-BC
Valle del Sol