It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (12-18 May 2014) with the theme of Anxiety, so I’d like to talk about anxiety and how acupuncture can help.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and uneasiness. Normal anxiety, stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system, has its root in fear and serves an important survival function. In fact feeling anxious in response to unpleasant upcoming events such as a job interview or a medical test is perfectly normal. However, when that anxiety becomes persistent, irrational and excessive, it can begin to take over your life and is an indication that there is an imbalance in the sympathetic nervous system.
Chronic anxiety can involve uncontrollable and irrational worry about everyday things. It can be as severe as a panic attack, or it may be more of a generalized and unfocused feeling of unease. People often experience physical symptoms, such as breathlessness or a racing heart, which are usually a result of adrenaline (our fight or flight response hormone) acting on the body. The experience of anxiety is unique to each individual and people can experience very different symptoms.
How acupuncture can help
Conventional treatments for anxiety generally consist of drug therapies which, although helpful may have debilitating side effects or dependence. Acupuncture is a medication-free way to relieve anxiety with both immediate and long-lasting results.
Anxiety is one of the most common conditions that people come to me with, and I find acupuncture is a really effective treatment. It can make a real difference to people’s lives, enabling them to feel calmer, happier and back in control. In fact it was my own experience of anxiety that first led me to try acupuncture many years ago, and the profound affect it had sparked my love of Chinese medicine.
In traditional acupuncture every patient is considered to be unique, and this means that there is no single treatment for each sufferer as each person has differing symptoms. We aim to treat you as an individual, identifying the imbalances which cause your anxiety, not just treating the symptoms themselves. In traditional acupuncture, we see that mind and body are intrinsically linked, and therefore we treat you as a whole, mind and body.
Acupuncture treatment is enhanced when used alongside other self-help tools such as breathing techniques, exercise or mindfulness. We can develop a personalised ‘toolbox’ of techniques to help you manage your anxiety and enable you to retake control
How does it help?
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety by:
- Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010).
- Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Samuels 2008; Zhou 2008; Yuan 2007).
- Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response.
- Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with anxiety (Arranz 2007)
- Reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009).
For details of further research and evidence of acupuncture effectiveness see the British Acupuncture Councils factsheet on anxiety here
If you suffer with anxiety and would like to have a chat about how acupuncture could help you, please give me a call on 07834 160906, or drop me an email
Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol
Arranz L et al. Effect of acupuncture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2007;35(1):35-51
Hui KK et al. Acupuncture, the limbic system, and the anticorrelated networks of the brain. Auton Neurosci. 2010 Oct 28;157(1-2):81-90.
Kim H et al. The effects of acupuncture stimulation at PC6 (Neiguan) on chronic mild stress-induced biochemical and behavioral responses. Neuroscience Letters. 2009; 460 (1) (pp 56-60)
Lee B et al. Effects of acupuncture on chronic corticosterone-induced depression-like behavior and expression of neuropeptide Y in the rats. Neuroscience Letters 2009; 453: 151-6.
Samuels N et al. Acupuncture for psychiatric illness: a literature review.Behav Med 2008; 34: 55-64
Yuan Q. Li J.-N. Liu B. Wu Z.-F. Jin R. Effect of Jin-3-needling therapy on plasma corticosteroid, adrenocorticotropic hormone and platelet 5-HT levels in patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine.2007; 13 (4): 264-268.
Zhou Q et al. The effect of electro-acupuncture on the imbalance between monoamine neurotransmitters and GABA in the CNS of rats with chronic emotional stress-induced anxiety. Int J Clin Acupunct 2008 ;17: 79-84.