Treating Anxiety with Acupuncture
Interruptions to the flow of Qi, your body’s energy force, occur for a variety of reasons and result in an even wider variety of issues, from bodily health to mental and emotional health.
Qi flows through meridians, pathways that run throughout the body. This is Eastern medicine’s description of the chemical reactions your body regularly experiences. Environmental changes, injuries, stressors, and even poor nutrition may create interruptions in this flow. The result may be physical illness, pain, or even mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Your acupuncturist restores proper flow by inserting acupuncture needles at the appropriate meridian points. Your body responds accordingly to restore healthy function, such as creating chemicals that help control pain or stimulating chemical reactions in the brain that support emotional balance.
What is Clinical Anxiety?
In the United States, anxiety disorders affect 15.7 million people each year, with 30 million experiencing clinical anxiety at some point in their lives.
Clinical anxiety differs significantly from the occasional bouts of nerves or anxiousness most people feel at some point
in their lives. Some experts relate these differences to the impact of migraines compared to people who endure
extreme headaches. Migraine sufferers experience nausea, extreme light-sensitivity, and an inability to function while in the throes of a migraine. In other words, if you have a headache but are still able to eat, move around, or sit in the sun or look at a computer or TV screen, you are not suffering from a migraine. In the same way, nervous tension and butterflies in the stomach are not indicative of clinical anxiety.
An individual with anxiety cannot manage the average person’s natural response to stress; they often feel overwhelmed almost to the point of panic. Symptoms vary, and the patient may present more than one. The patient’s response to triggers helps diagnose the disorder. Common symptoms include fear, irregular heartbeat, restlessness, negative thoughts, and aggression.
Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For some sufferers, the cause is genetic. For others, it may be due to a chemical imbalance.
How Does Acupuncture Treat Anxiety?
In acupuncture, the five elements – earth, fire, metal, water, and wood – correspond to and impact the body’s internal organs. In addition, these elements correspond to emotions:
- Earth and worry
- Fire and joy
- Metal and grief
- Water and fear
- Wood and anger
Acupuncture adherents recognize the connection between mind and body, including the physiological effect your emotions have on your body.
Your acupuncturist sees anxiety as an imbalance between heart and kidneys, with fire representing the heart and water representing the kidneys. Without balance, the water of the kidneys is incapable of containing the fire of the heart; the result is anxiety. Balance is restored by stimulating the points around the heart and kidneys, as well as the ears and spleen.
One of the ways acupuncture helps treat anxiety is through the practitioner’s methods, which include attentive listening to your symptoms in order to find patterns and determine the particular imbalance causing your symptoms. This contrasts greatly with Western medicine’s focus on treating symptoms while often ignoring the cause.
Studies on Treating Anxiety with Acupuncture
Though Western medicine is beginning to recognize the value of traditional and alternative medicines like acupuncture, it is still very much a world of referrals and word-of-mouth. Part of this is due to the nature of acupuncture itself, which resists the uniformity required by science-based research.
Acupuncture treatments vary by patient, depending on symptoms and patient history. Medical research requires large testing groups with a broad demographic base (i.e. variations in age, gender, occupation, and geography). It also requires uniformity in treatment, with a control group of comparable size to the treatment group. Meeting these criteria presents numerous challenges, particularly the uniformity in treatment requirement.
Despite these challenges, there are numerous studies proving the efficacy of acupuncture in treating anxiety. They are not definitive, but they suggest correlations in acupuncture’s ability to relieve anxiety.
The National Institutes of Health released the results of six separate studies of women treated with acupuncture after receiving a diagnosis of either clinical depression of clinical anxiety. The group also released a study on treating chronic stress with electroacupuncture. In all of these studies, acupuncture proved more effective than prescription drug therapy and even when compared to patients undergoing psychotherapy alone. In addition to improved treatment results, participants had a lower rate of remission (around 50 percent of anxiety patients go through remission once they end therapy or medication).
Studies like these have helped prove the power of acupuncture. As a result, many insurance companies now cover these treatments. To determine whether acupuncture is right for you, contact Accurate Acupuncture today.