What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a part of our built-in survival mechanism. It’s appropriate to feel a certain amount of anxiousness when you’re driving in a snowstorm or giving a speech to a large group. However, if you’re anxious for no apparent reason, find anxiety is taking over your life, or experiencing panic attacks, your anxiety has gone from appropriate to being a problem.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, you’re not alone. Up to 30 percent of people worldwide suffer from anxiety. Symptoms may include a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest tightness, feeling lightheaded, numbness and tingling in your extremities, and a general feeling of fear. Extreme anxiety may trigger a panic attack, with the above symptoms, plus an overwhelming fear that you may be having a heart attack or dying right now. Panic attacks often seem to come out of nowhere, and are so frightening that most sufferers worry about having another.
Anxiety can be caused by traumatic events, overwhelming stress, or constant worry. In addition, physical factors, such as a hormonal imbalance, heart problems, or the side effects of certain medications may also trigger anxiety. Some experts speculate that anxiety may be genetic, as it tends to run in families.
Treatments For Anxiety
Standard medical treatment for anxiety includes talk therapy and the use of medications. Some doctors support self-treatment in the form of meditation, relaxation techniques, developing a support network, thought-stopping exercises, and physical activity.
A large number of people who are struggling with anxiety have turned to acupuncture for treatment. There is a great deal of research to support their decision. In a 2017 review of thirteen clinical and scientific studies, researchers determined that acupuncture was an effective treatment for anxiety; similar in effectiveness to talk therapy. This review included three studies in which subjects reported more improvement in their symptoms than control subjects who received medications for their anxiety.
From a Chinese perspective, anxiety may be diagnosed as an imbalance of the Heart, Kidney, or Spleen organ systems. Your Chinese Heart houses something called the Shen, which encompasses your consciousness, feelings, memory, and spirit. Disturbances of the Shen can result in anxiety. The emotional make-up of your Kidney system is deep-seated fear, and your Spleen is associated with worry—either of which can be an underlying cause of anxiety.
There are, however, very real and measurable physiological changes that occur as the result of acupuncture; changes that can account for acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating anxiety. Scientists have found that acupuncture increases the circulation of endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters that improve your mood, regulate the stress response, lower blood pressure, enhance digestion, and decrease pain. In addition, acupuncture helps slow down your brain’s release of stress neurochemicals, and helps to balance the interplay of the stress hormones of cortisol, adrenalin, and insulin.
If you choose to treat your anxiety with acupuncture, your practitioner may combine their treatments with Chinese herbs, lifestyle changes, and something called auricular (or ear) acupuncture. Originally developed to treat addictions, auricular acupuncture has been found to be so effective in treating anxiety and mental health conditions that the Veterans Administration is using acupuncture for veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTSD).
The bottom line is that when it comes to treating anxiety, acupuncture can be an effective option. Your practitioner has a number of healing tools and strategies, and can individualize your treatment plan for the best results.