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Why Social Anxiety is a Brain AND Body Problem

Western culture likes to place things into categories in order to facilitate understanding. At times, these categories can create additional problems, such as when we try to separate the brain and the body. When we speak about “mental healthcare” and “physical healthcare” (usually just termed “healthcare” for the latter) we talk as if our heads are not even connected to our bodies. The truth is we cannot have one without the other. The specialization of our professionals (e.g medical doctor treats the body versus a psychologist who treats the mind) is what separates them, not a truly divisible force.

I named my practice is “BrainBody Wellness” in an effort to address the aforementioned. I do not believe I am merely treating someone’s head, but their entire being, which certainly includes their body. When you talk about an element of a person’s life which causes distress, such as social anxiety, it cannot be considered in the context of a psychological problem.

In treating anxiety, there are three imperative factors in which need to be considered, yet are often not addressed in unison depending on which type of provider you see. For example, if meeting with your primary care doctor or psychiatrist (medical doctor specializing in psychology), your biology may be the only factor emphasized and you may subsequently get a medication for treatment. If meeting with your psychologist, your psychological factors (e.g. unhelpful patterns of thinking) may be the only factor addressed and you may be told to practice seeing things differently.

"A comprehensive approach to anxiety treatment includes addressing the body AND the brain"

What are the three imperative factors? They include your biology, lifestyle, AND psychological factors. Understanding and using your biology to learn to more effectively manage life’s stressors can set you up for success. Your lifestyle (diet, exercise routine, sleep quality, support system, engagement in activities) also plays a role in the severity of your anxiety. Finally, psychological factors (such as the perception of being judged negatively by others, hypersensitivity to emotions, or rumination) often contributes. An integrated approach addressing all of these factors indicates what it truly means to treat you as BrainBody, or a whole person.

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