Acupuncture for Anxiety: Why it’s worth trying out
Acupuncture for anxiety is an area of treatment that I have over the years seen some of the most remarkable changes in patients. The moving testimonials from patients who describe how acupuncture has given them their life back, speak for themselves and show how acupuncture really can provide fast, effective and long-lasting results in the treatment of anxiety disorders and associated symptoms. One of the main reasons for this is that, despite being frequently used to treat physical problems, acupuncture is perhaps first and foremost a mental health therapy. In fact, many ancient texts of Oriental Medicine describe all diseases as rooted in the ‘spirit’, as good mental health is considered essential to life and to strong physical health.
What is acupuncture for anxiety?
Acupuncture is a safe, gentle and natural therapy which is part of an ancient and traditional system of medicine that originated in Eastern Asia. It is based on the notion that different parts of our body and mind are connected through energetic channels, which link and work together in a similar way to the connective tissue in the body called the fascia. Disruptions in the energetic flow within the channels can easily occur from even small changes, such as sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, low mood or stress, as well as major events, traumas, or chronic ill-health, which trigger further imbalances in our system. It is these imbalances which can then manifest as an anxiety disorder, whether the root cause is physical or mental. The principle used in acupuncture for anxiety is that there are specific points on these connecting channels that can be used to help the body and mind return to a state of balance.
A personalised approach to tackling anxiety
Every person will have their own reason for developing anxiety. The anxiety may have seemingly come out of nowhere, have been building over time, have been the result of traumatic events in one’s life, or come on the back of a general state of depletion resulting from poor physical health or detrimental lifestyle choices. While the reason may or may not be evident, we all have the potential to develop and suffer with some form of anxiety, and for some it is their weak spot or where their imbalance will show up most.
Identifying and addressing this weakness in an individual, lies at the heart of a style of acupuncture known as Five Element Acupuncture. Here, the emphasis is on diagnosing a person as having a dominant ‘Element’ – a state of body or mind in which one feels at home, a place where we can be our true selves. When all is well in our ‘Element’ we notice how our thoughts, actions, health and wellbeing all seem to be operating like clockwork, guiding us somewhat effortlessly through life. Everything seems to fall into place.
Having this elemental diagnosis, which uses subtle physical signs that align to particular emotional patterns, provides a detailed understanding of what the anxiety is actually about and how it may even be turned into something positive. Deep down the anxiety might be arising from fear, unachievable perfection, lack of love from our inner-self or from others, obsessiveness, or hopelessness. Such feelings have a specific elemental affinity and when rebalanced can help transform the anxiety into distinct qualities, such as wisdom, resilience, focus, belief or an ability to connect positively with the here and now. There are designated acupuncture channels and points for each element, and the treatment can through the diagnosis focus on nourishing a person’s elemental qualities to turn their anxiety around.
Turning the tide of anxiety
Anyone living with anxiety, even if mild, will tell you how it can quickly start encroaching on their everyday life, their work, and their interactions with friends or family, limiting and holding them back from having a fulfilling life. When the anxiety becomes severe and engrained, there can be a real sense of isolation and despair, which is why long-term anxiety can turn into, or be accompanied by, depression.
It is important not to ignore signs that something is not right. Anxiety can take on many forms: it could be a vague feeling of not being ourselves or of not being able to control our thoughts and bodies, an odd physical sensation, a speech impediment, coordination problems, intense fear and panic, and so on. Many people feel uncomfortable discussing their anxiety, or simply don’t know where to go for help. Yet, acupuncture is increasingly receiving praise for the way in which it can quickly and effectively help those suffering with anxiety. In the US, there have been highly successful large-scale programmes run to provide acupuncture treatments to help war veterans and soldiers overcome post-traumatic stress. In the UK, charities such as Anxiety UK have been working with the British Acupuncture Council to improve our understanding of the effectiveness of acupuncture for anxiety, and to make treatments more widely accessible for sufferers.
The challenging times we have been living through over the past few months have for many made anxiety a new reality. The good news is that engaging with acupuncture for anxiety can really help you turn things around and help you get your life back on track. There are many examples of patients I have seen overtime who have experienced incredible shifts in as little as a couple of acupuncture sessions. These include a man in his forties who started experiencing panic attacks every time he was in a work meeting. The symptoms would be the same every time. He would start feeling a little ‘odd’, then he would find it impossible to focus on what was being discussed in the meeting, his heart pounding, his hearing impaired, his back drenched in sweat. After nearly a decade of suffering and trying his best to mask what was going on inside, he decided to give acupuncture a go. At his third session, he reported how he could control his panic attacks and calmly get through his work meetings. Another patient, a woman in her twenties, suffering from anxiety, who would experience panic attacks, especially in enclosed spaces such as trains, planes and lifts, was after her first few acupuncture sessions able to travel again wherever and whenever she wanted to. There was also a pregnant woman who had endured multiple miscarriages and had started experiencing extreme anxiety when she became pregnant again, struggling to eat or sleep at times. She decided to have regular acupuncture treatments throughout her pregnancy. She not only found the sessions invaluable in helping her keep her anxiety under control, she also gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby, leaving her able to enjoy life again free from fear. Perhaps the most amazing of all was the patient who had developed a stammer which had made the anxiety, especially in social situations, spiral out of control, but who after a short course of acupuncture sessions, found it possible to socialise and speak fluently once again.
There are numerous other examples of remarkable recoveries from anxiety which people have experienced through acupuncture, which I have witnessed and which many other acupuncturists working in this area would also be able to tell you about. The idea of regaining control of our life, of reconnecting truly with who we are and doing the things we want to do in life is appealing to most of us, but for anyone suffering from anxiety, this has a particular significance. Far from being a far-fetched idea however, with acupuncture for anxiety, such freedom can be achieved.
Lisa Lee, Lic.Ac. PhD, is a fully qualified Five Element acupuncturist who works from her clinic on Harley Street. She treats patients looking for help with a wide range of health and wellbeing issues and has specialist interests in fertility, anxiety, and cancer support. www.lisaleeacu.com