One of the most satisfying aspects of my work is bringing relief to those suffering from anxiety. In my role as an Licensed Acupuncturist, I am trained to see the connections between the body, mind, spirit and emotions. I ask each client where in her body she feels what she calls “anxiety.” Some people report it as persistent feeling in the gut, others as heart palpitations, and others as tension in the head, for example. Anxiety may manifest itself very differently from person to person.
You are not alone
Anxiety, worry or fear can all be a normal response to stressors, real life situations, or things that can cause harm. These emotions can motivate us to take action. But sometimes the uneasy feeling lingers, affects sleep, and diminishes quality of life.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 40 million American adults suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder but only about a third receives treatment. Their website has a useful chart to help you determine the difference between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders.1
Why acupuncture is a promising option
Whether we’re talking about anxiety as an appropriate emotional response (about to take a big exam, feeling the financial crunch, etc.), a diagnosed anxiety disorder (PTSD, GAD, etc.) – or somewhere in between – evidence is increasing that acupuncture can help.2,3,4,5 Depending on the situation, acupuncture can be used on its own or in combination with conventional treatment (cognitive-behavior type therapy and/or medication).
What makes acupuncture an ideal choice is that it doesn’t have the potential for dependency or the unwanted side effects of anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazapines, beta blockers or buspirone).6
Feel so good
From a modern perspective, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, regulate neurotransmitters and hormones and influence homeostatic mechanisms that promotes well being. That said, a full unified understanding of the mechanism of action is still being discovered.7
While there is always room for more and better designed double-blinded controlled clinical trials, what matters most to me as a holisitic clinical practitioner is how my clients feel in their own bodies.
During my internship at The Academy for Five Element Acupuncture in Gainesville, FL, I had a patient who served several tours with the Air Force in Iraq. When he returned home he began experiencing troublesome anxiety in large crowds. After about a month of weekly treatments, he reported that he no longer felt any anxiety in those situations at all and could again enjoy things like football games.
In one of my Cancer Support Community treatment sessions here in Bozeman, I had a patient who suffered from anxiety, a possible side effect of cancer treatment. After removing the needle I place on the midline of her upper abdomen, a point known to have an ameliorating effect on anxiety, she sighed, “That felt so good, I wanted to wear it all day.”
4 Errington-Evans, N. (2015) Randomised controlled trial on the use of acupuncture in adults with chronic, non-responding anxiety symptoms. Acupuncture in medicine: Journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society.