Anxiety is something that all people experience at some point in their lives. Many people get anxious when speaking in public, about making a good impression or when faced with problems at work. Anxiety is a normal human reaction and can often be a good thing – forcing you to take action or face an uncomfortable situation. However, some people suffer from a form of anxiety, where fear and worry interfere with their ability to live a full and healthy life. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million individual adults (or around 18% of the population), according to the National Institute of Mental Health. There is no simple explanation as to why some people develop anxiety disorders and others do not. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life experiences. There is no right or wrong way to feel anxious (so stop worrying about it!). The good news is that anxiety disorders are highly treatable and with the help of professional care, you can minimize their effect. New research shows that complementary and alternative practices, such as acupuncture, can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine, to help battle symptoms of anxiety.
If you’ve never experienced acupuncture before, the thought of using needles to relax might seem counter-intuitive. Nevertheless, acupuncture, an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine, has been shown to provide positive benefits for those suffering from anxiety disorders. So what is acupuncture and how can it help?
Chinese medicine teaches that your health is the direct result of a harmonious balance of Yin and Yang energy, known as a type of Qi or chi. Qi flows through meridians (pathways) found throughout your body. The ancient Chinese understood that the mind and body interact as one. Our emotions have a physiological effect on the body (and vis-a-vis). When you feel bad, either physically or emotionally, it may reflect an imbalance of the Zang-Fu organ system and emotional upset can cause in imbalance of Qi. Acupuncturists help balance your energy and the interaction between the Zang-Fu organ system. They do this by using thin needles to access and stimulate the Qi of specific acupuncture points. There are 350 acupuncture points to choose from, making each acupuncture treatment tailored to your needs.
If that sounds a little “out-there” for you, be reassured that a growing body of Western research is studying the effectiveness of acupuncture. Acupuncture activates natural painkillers in the brain, jump-starts your body’s natural ability to heal itself, and stimulates the part of the brain that controls emotions, including anxiety. The benefits of acupuncture are two-fold: you feel better immediately after a session (no waiting around for medications to take effect) and a session can help you manage other health issues (which might be contributing to anxiety). Studies show that acupuncture helps calm the central nervous system and promotes relaxation. By treating your anxiety with acupuncture, you can explore lifestyle changes that will help ease anxiety. In addition, acupuncture compliments other treatment modalities, like talk therapy and prescribed medication!
Treating Anxiety with Acupuncture – Why Not?
When it comes to trying acupuncture, you have nothing to lose. The potential benefits far outweigh the almost nonexistent risks! If you’re already receiving treatment for anxiety, why not add acupuncture to your current regimen? Acupuncture might provide the relief you need. Talk to your doctor if you think this might be an option you’d like to explore. Feel free to ask questions and discuss different potential treatment plans. If you decide after a few sessions that acupuncture isn’t working for you, move on to something else. While acupuncture is effective for many people, it might not work for everyone and that’s ok (so don’t worry about it).
If you’d like to learn more, please check out the following links for additional information:
National Institute of Mental Health (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml)
Anxiety and Depression Society of America (http://www.adaa.org/)
Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin Secretion and Reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: A Preliminary Report (http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/jnp.16.1.19)