Dr. Panattoni grew up in California where she got her masters in psychology and worked in a mental health hospital with women and children who had been abused. Upon graduation, she settled in Pennsylvania and worked in a mental health hospital, in a medical hospital with the behavioral health center, and as an adjunct professor in the psychology department of a liberal arts college. She went on to get her Ph.D. During this time of education, she met Dr. Turnpaugh who taught her more about functional medicine and led her to Turnpaugh Health and Wellness Center. Dr. Panattoni loves that functional medicine looks at a person’s bio-individuality, environmental factors, and lifestyle factors and that valuable time is spent with patients. Often, people overlook their social, emotional, and spiritual well-being and just focus on the physical aspects of their health. Because of how hard it is on patients to feel so terrible for so many years, there is often a mental health component to their condition as well. When we have problems with our minds, we often ignore it or are told we’re crazy. Dr. Turnpaugh, Dr. Panattoni and many other professionals believe that anyone can benefit from therapy. For these reasons, a visit with Dr. Panattoni is included in the new patient package at THWC. Initially, there was some push back from patients but, as Dr. Turnpaugh says, if you’re truly looking at a person’s whole body health, the mental component has to be a part of it. THWC combines the physiology with the psychology.
When a patient comes in, Dr. Panattoni will talk to them about their exercise, sleep, diet, breathwork, and meditation. She focuses on the limbic system- the part of the brain that helps us emotionally regulate ourselves and helps with memory and learning. The limbic system is the physical aspect of your body that isn’t functioning properly when you have a mental health condition, just as people with physical health conditions have a part of their body not functioning properly. Dr. Panattoni educates her patients. When they realize there is something in their physiology driving their condition, they have hope. Hope is a major piece. People have to feel like they have the ability to make the change. Breathwork, meditation, and yoga are very important components Dr. Panattoni teaches. When patients don’t resonate with these techniques, she teaches them ways to implement movement into their lifestyles that are more suited to them.
The underlying cause of an emotional condition can often be physiological. For example, a patient may come in with anxiety and depression to find out that these symptoms were driven by chronic Lyme Disease. For this reason, Dr. Panattoni has her patients get blood work done, speak with the health coach to talk about their diet, and meet with a nurse practitioner to incorporate physiological aspects into the patient’s care. Dr. Panattoni uses what is called a genogram to really understand the history of her patients’ conditions and which components of it are genetic and which are learned. Sometimes, something as simple as dietary changes can actually make people feel happier, less stressed, anxious, etc. Their diet can be what is actually driving their mental health issues. On the other hand, our social norms drive an emotional relationship with food. We develop feelings around food. People associate foods with comfort, joy, and love. Dr. Panattoni works to change these associations so when certain foods are removed from a patient’s diet, they recognize these foods are actually poison.
Dr. Panattoni sees part of her job as making people feel safe talking about their feelings. These patients are often told their illness is all in their head, thereby instilling fear in them when it comes to talking about their health. She meets patients where they are and works in a way that is easiest for them to move forward. As a functional therapist, she explains that she is looking at their psychological, emotional, social, and occupational health. She is looking at everything externally that could be driving their conditions which led them to a functional medicine doctor in the first place. Her goal is to help patients find balance in their lives.
Dr. Panattoni always says “you have to be the advocate in your own life”, if you don’t fight for yourself, change won’t happen.