Acupuncture for Anxiety

Easing Fear and Worry with Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Paul J.O’Brien
B.A., N.C.E.H.S., Dip. Acu., Cert Clin. Med. M.T.C.M.C.I., M.C.Th.A.

Acupuncture for Anxiety is highly effective due to the combined action of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine on both the mental emotional and physical symptoms. Most of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives. It’s a normal reaction to important events like that first date, an exam, or business presentation, and yes simple acupuncture can be used to calm nerves and ease those tummy butterflies.

In this article on Acupuncture for Anxiety, however I want to focus on the serious anxiety disorders that can affect people’s lives. There are many illness and disharmonies that can fill us with overwhelming fear and terror that can become a constant and unremitting state of panic. They can become progressively worse and left untreated can severely hamper the quality of life of any individual.

In extreme cases the mixture of sudden and unexplained panic attacks, constant obsessive thought patterns, nightmares, traumatic flashbacks and a variety of physically expressed symptoms can lead some to become completely house bound. In fact anxiety related disorders form the majority of diagnosed mental illnesses.

Luckily there are many treatments available for those suffering from this mental disharmony, one of the most effective of which is the use of Acupuncture for Anxiety. Before we look at the particular aspects of Acupuncture for Anxiety, it may be useful to examine the five primary presentations of Anxiety. They are:

Panic Attacks – re-occurring episodes of intense fear that often frequently in nature and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying. From a Chinese Medical Point of view this could be diagnosed as Heart-Blood Heat (The Mind according to Chinese Medicine resides in the blood, which of course is governed by the Heart. If there is too much heat in the Heart, or activity, blood becomes unsettled and the mind agitated – in this case it may result in anxiety).

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – this condition is characterized by repeated and unwanted thoughts or actions that seem impossible to control. In Traditional Chinese Medicine this could be described as Spleen Yin Qi Deficiency. Spleen-Yin is the residence of the Intellect and emotional problems affecting Spleen-Yin can often result in obsessive ideas and actions. In this case Acupuncture for Anxiety would involve nourishing Spleen Yin and reducing Yang elements.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – The symptoms ar quite similar to those of panic attacks – mostly nightmares, traumatic flashbacks, emotional distance and numbness, depression and unresolved feelings of anger and irritation. The unique characteristic however is that these symptoms occur as a direct response to witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event such as criminal assault, witnessing a violent car crash, war or human caused or natural disasters. In some cases the event need not happen to the individual directly, but through association e.g. a close family member suffers trauma.

From a Traditional Chinese Medical approach this could be viewed as the Suspension of Qi. In which case Acupuncture for Anxiety would seek to restore the smooth and continuous flow of Qi and Energy.

Phobias – There are in fact 2 different types of phobia - those of a social nature and those which are specific in nature. A social phobia is characterized by a generalized yet disabling fear of being subjected to scrutiny and found lacking, deep embarrassment or humiliation. This can lead to removing oneself completely from social contact.

The other more common phobia is specific in nature – and overwhelming and in proportionate fear of something that presents little or no danger. Arachnophobia is a common example – the fear of spiders.

Such fears from a Traditional Chinese Medical Perspective could be viewed as Heart Yin Deficiency (the energy of the Heart which governs blood is weak, and thus the mind, which resides in the blood has no residence leading to unruly and uncontrolled thoughts), in which case Acupuncture for Anxiety would seek to treat this through strengthening Heart Yin Qi by stimulating points along the arm.

Acupuncture and Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Perhaps the most common form of Anxiety Disorder, this presents as constant worrying and always anticipating the worst outcome. The accompanying physical symptoms would include tension, headaches, a stiff neck, muscle tremors or nausea.

This could be a result of any number of TCM patterns and would present as the initial stage in the slippery slope towards a more aggressive pattern. For instance, this could be a mild Yin Deficiency, leading to Spleen or Heart Yin Deficiency which could progress if left untreated to Yin Qi Collapse.

The unique difference in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for Anxiety is in understanding these individual patterns of disharmony and discerning which pattern is strongest in the individual presenting. Rather than just prescribing a blanket treatment of drugs in order to suppress the symptoms Acupuncture for Anxiety would attempt to treat the underlying cause which gives rise to the Anxiety itself.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding Acupuncture for Anxiety or wish to start a course of treatment then please feel free to contact me or make an appointment where we can discus any specific concerns or questions you may have.

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