Drug-Free: Is it Possible for You? (Part 2)

One of the main things I do is help people avoid psychiatric medications, especially for anxiety.

In Part 1 of this article last month I wrote about:

• Why my clients who want to get off of medication for anxiety and/or depression have a hard time believing it is possible

• Drug companies’  investment in the “chemical imbalance theory”

• That this is just one “theory” about anxiety and/depression treatment, and it may not be true

This can be hard to believe when we have been inundated with billions of dollars of TV advertising supporting the theory.

But sometimes things are worth questioning.

There was a time we didn’t believe smoking caused cancer.

There was a time we didn’t believe that stress contributed to illness.

Does Research Prove the Theory True?

Significant research challenges the chemical imbalance theory.  [Acknowledgement to Dr. Kelly Brogan MD; see link to her research below.]

o A now famous 2008 study looked at 74 studies testing whether antidepressant drug use showed beneficial results. 38 showed positive results and 36 showed no benefit. Most of the ones that showed no benefit were never published.

o Another review of existing research showed that when unpublished studies were included, placebos (sugar pills with no active ingredient) outperformed antidepressants in more than half of the studies[Placebos work because of the power of the mind to believe they will work.]

o To prove this point further, other research studied patients who were taking Prozac and reported a benefit from the drug.  They lost their perceived benefit if they believed that they might be getting a placebo sugar pill – even though they were actually still getting the Prozac.

o A meta-analysis (which is a review of a large number of existing studies) found that when patients reported feeling better, only 27% of the reported benefit was from medication.

These are just a very few examples that leave a lot of room for questioning.

If you’re interested in links to these studies and more, you can find more science and technical information in Dr. Kelly Brogan’s article “Depression: It’s Not Your Serotonin.   

How Psychiatric Medications are Prescribed Today

Most psychiatric medications are prescribed by primary care providers, with anti-anxiety drugs being the most prescribed

At the same time, research shows more and more people are being prescribed psychiatric drugs without having a psychiatric diagnosis.

I believe that doctors are caring and want to help.  They do their best to help relieve people’s symptoms with the time and tools they have to offer.  Medication is their primary tool. And time is unfortunately limited – often times limited to 10-15 minute appointments.  

My clients often tell me how this leaves them feeling under-informed, frustrated, limited, helpless, and even defective (i.e. I have a disorder, I have a permanent brain imbalance, I have a defect, I am weak, I’m not like normal people, I’ll be like this forever).

[By the way, ALL of those thoughts and feelings themselves are likely to cause anxiety and depression!]

Is There a Better Way?

Lots of experts have differing opinions about that. 

I happen to believe in alternatives to medication which are proven by research to be equally or more effective. These have nothing to do with chemical imbalance.  [HINT: The gold standard treatment for anxiety and panic is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).]  

What do you believe? 

I encourage you to question, to be aware, to be informed and know that there is more than one way to feel better.  Ask yourself what makes sense to you.

Sometimes things are worth questioning.

There was a time when we all believed that the world was flat.



Disclaimer:  The topic of prescription medication can be a challenging one for many people. I encourage you to take responsibility for being fully informed and confident making the right healthcare choice for yourself. This article is not medical advice and does not replace consultation with a qualified healthcare professional of your choosing. Never make medication changes on your own.

Drug-Free: Is it Possible for You? (Part 1)

One of the main things I do is help people avoid psychiatric medications, especially for anxiety.

That’s not always the goal but that often is the result of holistic anxiety treatment.  I have many clients who are sensitive to medications, or just plain tired of drugs that don’t really solve their whole problem.

Believe It Is Possible?

People want to get off of psychiatric medications for anxiety but they don’t believe it is possible.  Why?

• They are told that they have a chemical imbalance in their brain (because of this they tend to feel defective, helpless).

• They are told that the only thing they can do is take drugs.

• They are told they will have to do this for the rest of their lives.

• They are afraid to ask questions of their doctor, or don’t know what to ask, or don’t have enough time to ask questions.

Did You Know?

Learn about anxiety treatment without drugs• The chemical imbalance theory about anxiety and depression is just one theory.  In my reading, some prominent doctors and researchers call this theory a “myth.”

• This theory is highly promoted by drug companies who have everything to gain from it.  They actively market to both doctors and the general public (through billions of dollars’ worth of TV commercials).

• Drug companies promote their drugs routinely to doctors by inviting them to “drug dinners” at fancy restaurants with the drug companies footing the bill.

• Serotonin is the main chemical that the chemical imbalance theory was based upon.  There is no way to measure levels of serotonin in the living brain. Also, it is now known that 90-95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the stomach, not in the brain. (Then how can the brain be so out of balance to warrant a need for brain altering drugs?)

• The FDA does not do its own independent research.  It merely reviews the results of research the drug companies themselves conduct and/or pay for.

• The result is that drug companies (with obvious vested interest in the chemical imbalance theory) pay for the vast majority of research about psychiatric medications. 

• If drug companies conduct and/or pay for a study that does not show results in their favor, they do not have to submit it and the FDA never has to see it.

• Research paid for by the National Institute of Mental Health has failed to show that psychiatric medications regularly help a majority of people get well and stay well.

• It is well known that there is about a 30-80% placebo effect with any medication (meaning a sugar pill with no active ingredients works just as well because of the power of the human mind to believe it will work).

• Psychiatric medications have up to 84 side effects! (as Prozac does per webmd.com).

• Additionally, there are long-term risks of psychiatric medications.

• Tapering off of psychiatric medications can be difficult and be accompanied by withdrawal. It must be done under close medical supervision (so don’t make medication changes on your own).

What To Make of All This?

The average person can’t really understand all the complexities of human biology and neuroscience.

It’s also really hard to understand all the technicalities of research methods and how test results can be manipulated and interpreted.  The hardest class I’ve ever taken in my life was the research methods class required as part of my master’s degree!


Q:  With so much conflicting and confusing information, what can we actually take away from all this?

A: To QUESTION.  To be aware.  To keep yourself informed.  To ask yourself what makes sense to you.  To listen to your INNER WISDOM about what is right for you and what isn’t.

In Part 2 on this topic (Click HERE) , I provide an overview of significant research that challenges the chemical imbalance theory.

Disclaimer:  The topic of prescription medication can be a challenging one for many people. I encourage you to take responsibility for being fully informed and confident making the right healthcare choice for yourself. This article is not medical advice and does not replace consultation with a qualified healthcare professional of your choosing.

When Panic Attacks: Part 2

At least 6 million Americans suffer from panic attacks.  They are very scary but (contrary to what you may think) they are not life-threatening.  Most importantly, they can be successfully treated with long-term results…without medication or side effects.

In this article (Part 2 of a series), I explain the treatment that is 80% effective for ending panic attacks, according to scientific research.  I have found an even higher rate of success in my work with clients.

If you missed Part 1 of my series on panic attacks in last month’s newsletter, you can read more on what panic attacks are, symptoms and causes here on my blog: When Panic Attacks: Part 1

First, What Doesn’t Work

Stress Meter Showing  Panic Attack From Stress And WorryIf you had a panic attack while driving on the freeway, the fight-or-flight mechanism in your brain will tell you to avoid the freeway in the future. Avoidance is the first thing everyone does in response to a panic attack.  Avoidance or Distraction.  But this doesn’t really work.

Avoidance or distraction may decrease anxiety in the short term, but in the long term it actually makes anxiety worse.  Avoiding also restricts your life and limits your options and thus, avoiding actually makes it feel MORE like you are losing control over your life.

It can be helpful to imagine your panic attacks as an external enemy that is trying to control you. If the panic prevents you from doing what you want to do, then the panic wins and becomes stronger. If you can do all the things you want to do in your life, then you win and the panic becomes weaker.

What Does Work: CBT

cbtthinkingprocess-dreamstime_xs_36181364Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very specific type of treatment used by specially trained CBT therapists.  [Sidebar: I was trained at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This organization is run by Aaron Beck who is the creator of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – he will go down in the history books with Freud and other psychology leaders – way cool.]

The Cognitive part of CBT teaches you concrete strategies to transform the fearful thoughts about panic attacks.  Changing your thoughts automatically changes the way you feel and, therefore, reduces anxiety and panic. 

You learn to change your thoughts about feared situations, and most importantly, you learn to change your thoughts about the panic itself (the anxiety about the anxiety).

The Behavior part of CBT teaches you tool and techniques so you can face the anxiety-provoking situations instead of avoid them. You regain control.

And CBT takes less time than you think. Most of my clients start to see dramatic reductions in anxiety and panic attacks within weeks.

Scary Does NOT Equal Dangerous

Young woman with hands on eyes sitting depressed in carPeople who have panic attacks get anxiety about the anxiety because they often believe that their symptoms mean that they are having a heart attack or going crazy or losing control or that they are just plain broken or defective.  This catastrophic belief is not accurate.

The truth is that panic symptoms are neither dangerous nor a sign of heart problems or any other physical or psychological problem. 

The real problem is your catastrophic thoughts and beliefs themselves.

A thought/belief like “Oh no! What if I have another panic attack and have a heart attack or go crazy” is actually an inaccurate thought.  However, that thought anticipates danger (whether or not there really is danger, and there’s not) so the fight-or-flight mechanism in your brain surges into action, thereby creating more panic.

Just because you think a thought does not make it true.  So a key component of CBT is to teach you accurate information and teach you how to assess the accuracy of some of the scary thoughts.  You learn to shift catastrophic thoughts into accurate ones – the truth is a lot less scary than your catastrophic thoughts.

Long Lasting Relief with CBT

CBT provides long-term benefits because it is essentially a learning program. You learn specific strategies, tools and techniques for reducing anxiety and panic. 

Neuroscience research on CBT is so amazing.  It shows that through practice and repetition, the new tools help literally change the neural pathways in your brain that were connected to the panic.

New ways of thinking about and responding to panic feelings/situations become a natural part of the way you respond to life on an ongoing basis. 

You literally change the way your brain is wired to think.  Finally, you can take charge of your thoughts.

CBT for panic attacks is most successful for those with motivation to learn new tools and techniques, willingness to question inaccurate beliefs and learn new information, and willingness to practice doing things differently. 

The payoff is huge: regaining a sense of control over your thoughts, your body, and your life.

When Panic Attacks: Part 1

Stress Meter Showing  Panic Attack From Stress And WorryPanic attacks are an extreme form of anxiety that include very scary physical symptoms.  People having a panic attack often fear they are having a heart attack, fear they will stop breathing, or fear they will go unconscious. Thus, they often end up in the Emergency Room and go through lots of testing, only to be told there is nothing physically wrong with them.

Panic attacks are different than other kinds of anxiety because they come on suddenly and include a sudden rush of intense fear or discomfort, along any combination of these common symptoms:

Physical Symptoms of Panic Attacks

  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Feelings of choking

Fear Symptoms of Panic Attacks

  • Fear of having heart attack
  • Fear of fainting
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of going insane, crazy
  • Fear of losing complete control
  • Fear that something is just wrong with me, I’m defective in some way

When Does Panic Attack?


• Sometimes panic attacks come on “out of the blue,” even when you are sleeping or sitting and feeling relaxed, such as watching TV. 

• They can also be tied to specific situations, often where you feel trapped, or become afraid you may not be able to escape or find help.  Examples include:

Stock Photo by Sean Locke www.digitalplanetdesign.com

  • crowded or small places
  • traffic jams
  • unfamiliar places
  • places far away from home
  • confined spaces like elevators
  • rooms where it feels like there’s no easy exit
  • driving on the freeway

• Major life transitions can also bring on anxiety and panic attacks, even for those who never had anxiety before.  Major life transitions are inherently stressful: graduating from college, getting married, having a first child, being laid off from a job, losing a loved one, and so on. 

• If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, panic attacks can be triggered by things that remind you of the traumatic situation.

What is the Biggest Cause of Panic Attacks?

Once you’ve had a panic attack, the fear of having another one starts to take over.  Anxiety grows as fear of another panic attack grows.

It is very common that people get anxiety in any situation where a panic attack has occurred before.  Also, expectations or predictions that panic symptoms (such as diarrhea or sweating) will occur actually can cause symptoms to occur.

The biggest cause of panic attacks is the fear of the panic attacks themselves.

Getting Rid of Panic Attacks

You do not have to live with panic attacks! 

6 million American adults live with panic attacks, even though panic attacks are highly treatable! [Don’t be one of them!!]

In truth, it is extremely hard to get rid of panic attacks on your own.  And taking medication for panic attacks may or may not provide some immediate relief, but medication does nothing to prevent another panic attack in the future.

Research shows that CBT is highly effective for 80 percent of people who have had panic attacks.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for panic attacks has the highest success rate of any treatment for any psychological issue. 

This means panic attacks are the #1 most treatable problem!  That means treatable and preventable, without medication!

Want More Info on CBT?

In Part 2 of this article (coming soon), I will explain how and why CBT works specifically for treating panic attacks.

In the meantime, you may want to learn more about CBT in general in these articles:

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Why Does CBT Work (for Anxiety and More)?
#1 Most Effective Anxiety Treatment: CBT

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented type of treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving.

cbtthinkingprocess-dreamstime_xs_36181364CBT is different than traditional ‘talk therapy’ because it is a more educational approach. The CBT process teaches you new tools and techniques, and helps you learn how to apply them to difficult situations in your life.

You will learn to understand and manage your thinking (cognitive), feelings (emotions), and actions (behavior).

Because of its high success rate, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has become a first choice treatment for anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, depression, chronic pain and much more. [See more on scientific research results below, including effectiveness of CBT compared to medication.]


Thoughts –> Feelings –> Behaviors

CBT diagram2According to CBT, it is largely your thinking about (and interpretation and processing of) events that leads to your emotional and behavioral upsets.

Think about it…10 different people can find themselves faced with exactly the same situation, but all 10 will think and feel and behave differently about it. We human beings cause our own “upsettness,” therefore we can uncause it! You just need to learn how.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on a scientific understanding of how the brain works. Thoughts and neural pathways in your brain are connected to how you feel. CBT gets to the root cause of problems by identifying problematic thought patterns and teaching you how to change them.

Change your thought patterns and you change how you feel!

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Anxiety

CBT is highly effective for all types of anxiety disorders including: generalized anxiety disorder and worry, insomnia, panic attacks and panic disorder, social anxiety, specific fears and phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Stock Photo by Sean Locke www.digitalplanetdesign.com

For example, a person having panic attacks may have the belief, “I’m going to die or lose control.” The person really believes this to be true because panic attacks include very scary physical sensations.

A client having panic attacks is encouraged by a CBT therapist to question beliefs they have related to panic attacks, and to see if those catastrophic beliefs are really accurate, and then develop more accurate thoughts/beliefs. The result is a decrease in both frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

CBT therapists help you search for conscious and sub-conscious patterns in your thinking which cause negative thoughts and lead to anxiety feelings. The CBT process can also help you discover behaviors which are actually making the anxiety worse rather than reducing anxiety. With CBT, you learn new tools and techniques for more constructive thoughts and behaviors.

Scientific Research Proves CBT Effectiveness

powerfulmindStudies have shown that CBT actually changes brain activity. Your brain literally has the ability to change the way it thinks, and therefore change the way you respond to situations. CBT teaches you how.

Research shows that 60–80% of people with an anxiety problem who complete CBT with a CBT therapist will experience a significant reduction in anxiety. This is very often better than the effectiveness of medication. Why?

Medication is designed to address the resulting SYMPTOMS of anxiety (such as tension, nervous stomach, palpitations, sweating, dizziness, etc) so it is generally a reactive approach. On the other hand, CBT is proactive because it addresses the root cause of the problem to prevent anxiety.

Skills Not Pills

CBT teaches concrete skills and tools you can use to:
• Prevent anxiety in the first place; and
• Stop anxiety symptoms quickly if they do start to creep in

If you rely on medication for anxiety and you stop taking the medication, it is quite likely the anxiety will come right back.

On the other hand… studies show that CBT provides longer-lasting results than medication because once people complete CBT, their brain and neural pathways are actually functioning differently AND they have learned effective tools and coping skills that last a lifetime.

To find out of CBT can help you, I would be happy to offer you a FREE consultation to discuss it. Just give me a call and tell me you read about CBT in this article. I help people every day to get control of their thoughts and get rid of anxiety!

Click here to learn WHY CBT works


The One And Only Resolution You Ever Really Need

What keeps you from your goals and resolutions? 

Why do you keep setting the same goals again and again?

Change your thoughts, change your feelings, change your life! Di Philippi, Holistic Anxiiety TherapistIt’s impossible to change old habits or make new habits without changing your thinking.

It is your old thinking that got your old results, and continuing your old thinking makes it impossible to change. For example: Thinking differently about exercise is required to change your exercise habits… Thinking differently about yourself and food is required to lose weight.

The real secret is that you have to think differently FIRST, or else you won’t be able to do things differently.

The problem is that it’s not easy to change your thinking! If it were easy, you would have already done it – and achieved all those old resolutions/goals, and they would have already become new habits. 

Why It’s So Hard to Change Your Thinking – And How to Do It

It has to do with how your brain makes new thoughts, so let’s take a look at the neuroscience behind this…

You have millions of neurons in your brain. To form a single thought, a group of neurons connect to each other to create a neural pathway – and that neural pathway is the thought.  As you think a different thought, those neurons scurry away and connect up with other neurons to make new thoughts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

When you think the same thoughts (or same type of thoughts) over and over, the neurons in your brain get very smart. They figure “why should we scurry away and connect with other neurons to make different thoughts. We’ll just stay here because we know you’re going to think this thought again.”

Imagine thoughts like: I can’t do it, what if I fail, this is hard, I’m too busy to do that, I just like food too much, I can do that tomorrow, what’s the point, etc.

The more you think the same old thoughts, the more cemented that neural pathway becomes. It becomes a paved freeway like I 94! At that point, it becomes what is called “the automatic pathway”. Your brain quickly and automatically repeats that old way of thinking because you have pre-paved the way with your past thinking.

Your Thinking Can Change!

The amazing thing about your brain is that no matter how long old automatic pathways have been there, your brain has neuroplasticity: the ability to change and create new ways of thinking.

Your challenge: learning how to interrupt the old automatic pathway and create new alternative pathways/thoughts.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Identify the old, automatic pathways. The big challenge here is that they are so automatic that they have often become subconscious (you’re not even aware of them).  
2. Create new, alternative pathways. These are new thoughts and new ways of thinking that feel better, let you break old patterns, and create new patterns. The challenge here is that when the automatic pathway is still running the show, it is very difficult to be able to just think different thoughts. It’s definitely not as easy as “just think positive.”
3. Catch yourself going down the old automatic pathway and switch to the new one. There are specific techniques used to help the brain be able to shift to a different pathway.

cbtthinkingprocess-dreamstime_xs_36181364This is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)! CBT uses steps 1-3 above to help you change your perspective and literally train your brain to see things differently.

CBT helps you:

  • Think new thoughts that feel better
  • Break old patterns you want to get rid of
  • See things differently
  • Meet your goals
  • Make new habits

CBT is really hot right now because scientific studies prove CBT is the most effective treatment for so many things, including anxiety, depression, weight loss, chronic pain, and making just about any kind of change. And it gives you long-term results because of how it works to literally rewire the way your brain thinks. 

Click HERE for more on CBT for anxiety!

CBT is one of the main techniques I use with all my clients – for reaching any goal or making any type of long-term change they want to make in their lives.

The One and Only Resolution You Ever Really Need? Change Your Thinking!


Mindfulness: A New, Ancient Anxiety Treatment

Mindfulness is a natural remedy for anxiety, stress,and worry. Mindfulness helps increase happiness, peace, and joy.   Sound good?

What is Mindfulness?

womanonhardwoodfloorA simple definition is very difficult… experiencing it is easier than describing it.   Mindfulness is a way of being…being mindful. It involves focus and attention on only what is happening in the here and now. It’s about noticing the present moment.

You’d be surprised how many moments of your day go by WITHOUT your conscious attention to the here and now.

Ever had a time when you were driving and suddenly realized you missed or almost missed a turn, or that you were further along the road than you realized because you were driving on auto-pilot? At times like that, the body and the mind are doing two different things.

Integrating Mind and Body

Mindfulness means keeping the mind and the body together in the present moment. Unless you have a magic time machine, your body’s only choice is to be in the present moment. But your mind has the amazing ability to go to other places.

Your mind can go to the future, worrying or anticipating what may or may not happen. It can also go to the past, rehashing what already happened, wondering if you did the right thing, guessing what other people thought, reliving a positive or negative experience.

Stress and anxiety often result when the mind goes somewhere else. This is why I incorporate mindfulness into my anxiety treatment work with clients.  Zen Buddhists have known this for centuries.  Western medicine is just now realizing the value of mindfulness for anxiety disorders.

How to Enjoy Your Tea

Thich Nhat Hanh, famous Zen Buddhist Master, said: “You need the practice of mindfulness to bring your mind back to the body and establish yourself in the moment…Suppose you are drinking a cup of tea. When you hold your cup, you may like to breathe in, to bring your mind back to your body, and you become fully present…You are not lost in the past, in the future, in your projects, in your worries…you enjoy your tea.”

Mindfulness often begins with slowing down and consciously focusing your attention on what you can notice in the here and now with your senses: seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, touching.

You can notice how your tea cup feels in your hand, smell the aroma, feel the heat, taste the different flavors on your tongue. As you simply notice, you become the “observer.”

Notice and Accept

The mindful “observer” can simply notice physical sensations, and then begin to observe thoughts and feelings as well, all without judging or analyzing.

Observing your thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental and accepting way helps you approach stressful situations more clearly and in a mindful (i.e. not mindless) way. Rather than have an automatic anxiety reaction to a distressing event, you will be better able to mindfully choose a more objective response.

Practicing Mindfulness for Anxiety Relief

There are many different ways to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can involve a formal practice, and it can also be integrated into many of your usual daily activities.

Woman practicing yoga.A formal practice might mean setting aside time for a sitting meditation or mindful movement practices like walking meditation or yoga. However, this is not necessary.

Mindfulness transforms stress and anxiety when it becomes a way of life… a way of being where you are truly present in the moments of your life. You must be present to love. You must be present to experience peace or contentment. You must be present to feel pure joy.

Moment-to-moment mindfulness involves a relaxed state of awareness, noticing your inner and outer worlds without judging or trying to control anything. This state of being requires commitment and lots of practice.

Simple Day-toDay Mindfulness

You can be mindful as you focus your attention on your feet planted firmly on the ground. You can practice mindfulness while eating, walking, sitting with your pet, brushing your teeth, walking in the forest…when doing just about anything.   According to John Teasdale, a leading mindfulness researcher, “Mindfulness is a habit, it’s something the more one does, the more likely one is to be in that mode with less and less effort…it’s a skill that can be learned… Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is to remember to be mindful.”

Emotional Eating: The Mind-Body Connection

Ever eat when you’re stressed?  Eat when you’re not really hungry?

Join the club!

Wired to Eat Under Stress

Looking in the RefrigeratorWe’re actually hard-wired to eat when we’re under stress or anxiety. This comes from the brain’s evolutionary process, from a time when fight-or-flight was a necessary daily survival skill (think Cave People). The energy gained from the extra food calories could help the body react and survive.

Our brains still have that old wiring that unconsciously tells us to eat when we feel stress. And every time you go for that candy or chips (or fill-in-the-blank with your stress-food of choice), you reinforce that wiring.

So is it food you are really craving?

Answering YES to more than one of the following questions is a clue that your eating patterns may be driven by emotions rather than hunger:

Are You an Emotional Eater?


  • Do you often eat when you’re not physically hungry?
  • Does your hunger come on suddenly?
  • Do you crave specific foods (often times, carbs or sugar)?
  • Do you want to eat when you’re upset, lonely, sad, worried, bored, or irritable?
  • Do you sometimes feel a sense of regret or guilt after eating?
  • Do you find yourself eating unconsciously (and suddenly surprised at what or how much you just ate)?
  • Have you been on lots of diets and put lots of energy into losing the same weight again and again?
  • Do you feel like even though you just ate, you still want more?


No matter what you weigh, if you often eat when you aren’t hungry and any of the above questions ring true for you, you are using food to fill other needs.

The Heart of the Problem

There is never enough food to make upsetting situations or feelings disappear. There will never be enough sweets to make sadness or boredom go away…never enough snacks to make anger or stress go away.  Therefore, emotional eating never satisfies.

Problem #1: Using food as a means to feel better about a situation or about yourself.  This is comfort eating.  If you do this, then comfort is what you really crave!

Problem #2: There’s a good chance you’re not even aware of why or how you use food for comfort. It’s a subconscious and automatic behavior pattern. You may not know which emotional states cause you to reach for food.

The Heart of the Solution

Bathroom Scale iStock_000001667800XSmall

==> Resolve the underlying issues that cause you to use food for anything other than physical hunger.

This is the real solution to ending emotional eating, ending battles with your weight gain, and ending yo-yo dieting.


Find out what you REALLY crave

We make about 200 choices a day about food and we’re only aware of about 25, according to Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating. You’ve got to get real with yourself by increasing your awareness of what you’re eating and why.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to get connected to your own body and understand more about both your physical needs and your emotional needs. Then you can consciously choose healthy and supportive ways to fill the real “craving” of the moment.

If you’re reaching for food to help you handle upsetting situations or feelings, you will never be satisfied. To quote song lyrics, it’s like “looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Maybe you’re going for chocolate when what you really crave is to feel respected. Maybe you’re eating too much ice cream when what you really crave is to have a friend to be there for you. Maybe you’re finishing off the bag of chips when what you really crave is to feel like you’re not a failure.

Start transforming your relationship with food, and with yourselfwoman-on-scale-istock_000011472381xsmall

  • Know the difference between physical hunger and emotional hungers.
  • Keep a food log: what, when, where, why are you eating?  What is your emotional state when you eat?
  • Ask for help. Emotional eating is automatic and subconscious, so it’s often hard to identify the emotional component of your own eating patterns without a little help.
  • Interrupt emotional eating and ask yourself:  why am I eating now and what am I really craving?
  • Learn new tools for dealing with stress and emotional upsets in healthier ways.

Have the courage to get real with yourself and you can transform your relationship with food (and with yourself) forever!


Anxiety FAQ

This is the most Frequently Asked Question I get asked about anxiety…

FAQ - Di Philippi, Holistic Anxiety Counselor, Milwaukee, BrookfieldMy biggest question is how can anxiety/stress create such scary physical symptoms?  I’ve been to the doctor and they can’t find anything wrong, but I still get chest tightness, heart palpitations, dizziness, etc.   Also, how do these symptoms persist even though I do not feel anxious or stressed?

My Answer….

Anxiety Starts in Your Mind

Di Philippi, MA, LPC, Holistic Anxiety Therapist, MilwaukeeIt’s important to understand that anxiety is a mind-body condition…

Your thoughts and automatic reactions to situations trigger a part of your brain called the amygdala, a critical part of your “fight or flight response.”  In medicine and psychology, we refer to this as the “stress response.”

This automatic stress response triggers real physiological responses in your body by increasing production of certain chemicals in the brain/body/bloodstream.  These chemicals are your stress hormones:  cortisol, adrenaline, DHEA and a few others.

Anxiety Moves into Your Body

We all need a certain amount of stress hormones to function normally.  However, with extreme or chronic stress and anxiety, your body becomes overloaded with stress chemicals and an imbalance is created.  At some point your body cannot keep up with the processing of all these excess stress chemicals, so it cannot continue functioning “business as usual.”   Thus, eventually physical symptoms of anxiety appear.

Anxiety can create some pretty scary symptoms, such as:

  • Chest tightnesscropped-wcmheader-2_nophone.jpg
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness or light-headedness or “out of body” feeling
  • Headaches
  • Hot flashes or perspiration
  • Numbing or tingling in legs, arms or head
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Choking sensation

Anxiety or a panic attack can come up immediately in response to given situation (such as when you’re giving a presentation, or late for an important meeting, or stuck in an elevator, or faced with your fear of flying).  In such cases, you’re aware that physical anxiety symptoms are a direct response to a stressor or anxiety going on right in that moment.

“But I Don’t Even FEEL Anxious”

However, physical anxiety symptoms don’t always appear like that, right in the moment.  They can pop up even at seemingly random times, even when you don’t feel stressed or anxious in that particular moment.  It can happen while you are sitting watching TV or even while you are sleeping.

This seems random but it’s not.  It can happen for two different reasons:

anxiety-magnifying-glass-istock_000013887814xsmall1.  There is an accumulation of stress chemicals over time.  When you experience continued stress or anxiety-provoking thoughts or situations repeatedly, the excess stress chemicals build up over time.  You may not experience the physical symptoms until later when your body simply can’t handle the overload of chemicals any longer.  It’s like a delayed or cumulative response.

2.  Often times, anxiety occurs in the sub-conscious part of your mind. This is tricky because the word “sub-conscious” literally means “below your consciousness.”  In other words, you’re not always aware of what’s causing the anxiety, and you may not be feeling anxious in a particular moment, yet the physical symptoms are your sign that chronic stress or anxiety is there under the surface (in your sub-conscious mind).

Get to the Root Cause of the Problem

Regardless of how or when physical anxiety symptoms may show up for you, what we know is this:  anxiety symptoms are triggered by thoughts and processes going on in your mind.

Therefore, the key to getting rid of anxiety is retraining your thoughts and your amygdala so they don’t produce so many excess stress chemicals in the first place.  This is done with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), along with holistic mind-body techniques so you can learn how to take control of your physical symptoms and stop them in their tracks. [See more about my Holistic Treatment for Anxiety HERE.]

Is What You’re Feeling Actually Anxiety?

Anxiety Disorder?  Do I have one?

I don’t like labels. In the anxiety counseling field, therapists have a defined set of “anxiety disorders” to use for diagnosis.

I prefer an individualized approach… looking at the unique way that anxiety surfaces for each person, and making a customized plan for getting relief.   But people often ask whether different problems are actually anxiety, so here’s a look at different types of anxiety without worrying about the labels. Remember these are generalities and show up differently for different people.

Different Types of Anxiety

Holistic Anxiety therapy with Di Philippi, MA, LPCChronic Worry

You would probably call yourself a “worry wart.” You constantly worry about a number of different things… work, health, relationships. You think of worst-case scenarios and often wonder “what if” this or “what if” that.

Panic Attacks (aka Anxiety Attacks)

You suddenly feel physical symptoms that feel out of control, such as heart racing, dizziness, trembling, sweating, chills or flush, tingling or numbness. It comes out of nowhere and is very scary.  That causes more panic. You might think you’re having a heart attack and go to the emergency room, only to find out nothing is physically wrong.

Fears and Phobias

You have strong fears of very specific things, such as: flying, driving, heights, enclosed spaces (like elevators, planes, or rooms without a clear exit route), bugs, blood, driving, being alone, or being away from home. These are just some examples.

Social Anxiety (Shyness)

You often feel nervous around other people, perhaps only in a certain social situation, or in many different ones. You feel very self-conscious, wonder what people are thinking about you, and worry about embarrassing yourself.

Obsessive Thinking

You have the very same upsetting thoughts over and over again. This could include thoughts of losing control, being contaminated (or contaminating others) with dirt or germs, or feeling guilty for things you didn’t even do.

Compulsive Behaviors

You have an urge to do certain things. Perhaps count things, check and re-check things, wash/clean repeatedly, repeat words, or arrange things in a certain way. It’s like you HAVE TO do them or you’re certain something bad will happen.

Post-Traumatic Stress

You still have intense memories, flashbacks, and/or nightmares related to a past traumatic situation you witnessed or experienced. You may avoid certain places, people or situations. You may feel jumpy or “on alert” much of the time. Traumatic situations could include abuse, rape, violence, car accidents, bullying, injury/illness, someone dying, or many other things.


“Stuff” is overtaking your home. You may collect too many things, have a problem getting rid of things, and/or have a problem organizing things… to the point where it limits the use of your living spaces and wastes significant amounts of time.

Health Concerns and Worry

Your doctor tells you there is nothing to be concerned about, but you still seem to have health complaints and symptoms. You often focus on health problems and wonder if you have a serious medical condition even though you’ve never been diagnosed with one.

Body Image Issues

You’re convinced there’s something about your physical appearance that looks terrible. You’re sure everyone notices so you don’t believe them when they say that they don’t see anything wrong. It could related to your body shape, weight, hair, nose or another body feature.

Public Speaking Anxiety

You dread having to speak in front of a group of people (small or large). You get extremely nervous and may start to panic, afraid that your mind will go blank or that you may make a fool of yourself.

Performance Anxiety

You get overly anxious and may start to panic when you’re expected to perform or compete in front of others.

“Shy Bladder”

You avoid public restrooms. You can’t urinate when others are in the bathroom or might be within earshot. Even if you try, you just can’t go.

White Coat Syndrome

You get nervous and your blood pressure spikes every time you go to a doctor’s office (and therefore they often want to give you medication for it).