Sometimes going outside mainstream medicine can be helpful. Let me warn that this column is no substitute for professional medical advice; it is simply offering suggestions for people who are not finding the relief they need. Sometimes alternative medicine can be just as effective, or even more effective, than mainstream medicine.
Massage can ease anxiety, depression
Weekly massage can have psychiatric benefits. According to Danielle Frey, Certified Massage Therapist, the human touch aspect of massage can release serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that elevates mood. In addition to releasing serotonin, massage can lower one’s stress level and anxiety. One of Frey’s regular clients was able to go off of her anti-anxiety medication.
Even the Mayo Clinic touts the psychiatric benefits of massage. “Brush aside any thoughts that massage is only a feel-good way to indulge or pamper yourself,” the page says. “To the contrary, massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever.”
However, massage is not a substitute for mainstream medication. Like all potential treatments, it has its risks. Discuss massage therapy with your psychiatrist first, and be sure to let the massage therapist know about any medical conditions you may have.
That said, the Mayo Clinic notes that “Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often involves caring, comfort, a sense of empowerment and creating deep connections with their massage therapist.” For a person with borderline personality disorder (BPD), this in and of itself can have positive therapeutic benefits.
Herbal remedies may offer relief
I’ve had a great deal of success with valerian root and kava kava, although these herbs are not without risks. I’ve found that valerian root was excellent at lowering my desire to self-injure (no idea why), while kava was excellent at lowering anxiety.
Traditional Osage healer, Lohawati anKa, calls valerian “Grandmother Earth’s Valium” in his book Osage Medicine: Ancestral Herbs and the Illnesses That They Treat. The Osage use this herb in tea form as a nerve tonic. “It has the same effect as valium on the human system,” he writes. “Therefore, when abused it will cause mental excitement, visual illusions, giddiness, restlessness, and even weird movement.”
It is also worth noting that these side effects can occur even when it isn’t abused. While I have used valerian without problems, my youngest brother can’t use it without hallucinating. The odds of that happening are astronomical, but worth noting. In addition to this, valerian can not be used safely with any other depressants, such as alcohol.
Kava is also useful, although it has been banned in some countries due to reports of liver damage. The FDA issued warnings about kava in 2002, but has not banned it. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, “In people without underlying liver problems, kava seems to be safe for up to six months, when taken at the recommended dosages.”
“If you’re considering taking any herbal supplement as a treatment for anxiety, talk to your doctor first,” advises the Mayo Clinic. “If you have liver problems or you take other medications, it’s especially important that you talk to your doctor before you try kava.”
Meditation may help
“Meditation also might be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress,” notes the Mayo Clinic. I’ve found guided imagery to be effective. Guided imagery meditation, as the name suggests, involves focusing on places and situations you find relaxing. A case in point is a recent camping trip I took with my church. The sense of serenity I felt surrounded by nature and people I love and who love me was powerful; the nightmares of my past seemed so far away. Find what works for you.
Mindfulness meditation, which is often used in BPD treatments such as Dialectic Behavioral Therapy(DBT), has been shown to change the shape of the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, “This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. You broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgment.”
There are many useful options to treat BPD, both in mainstream and alternative medicine. Discuss these with your doctor, and find what works for you.