Acupuncture for Anxiety

anxiety

In western medicine, anxiety is often regarded as a chronic condition of excessive, and irrational fear, dread or worry that becomes debilitating over time. Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, as well as other specific phobias. Along with these emotional issues, physical symptoms can also arise including muscle tension, nausea, sweating, GI conditions, insomnia, and fatigue, among others (1) (more on PTSD here).

Acupuncture as well as specific herbs can directly address and ameliorate these conditions. Dietary changes and nutritional supplementation as well as exercise, meditation, and mind-body practices such as yoga, tai chi or qi gong can help sustain the improvements obtained from acupuncture and herbal remedies so you can get back to living your life—free from anxiety.

Several recent studies have validated the effectiveness of acupuncture on anxiety. One study performed over a 6-week period demonstrated that acupuncture in combination with SSRIs proved to be more effective than the SSRIs alone. (2) Another study noted “the volume of literature, consistency of statistically significant results, wide range of conditions treated and use of animal test subjects suggests very real, positive outcomes,” making it clear that acupuncture can be beneficial in treating these conditions. (3)

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, anxiety is categorized in three different ways:

  • Fear and Palpitations (Jing Ji)
    This condition is often brought on by external events, specifically fright or shock, and can develop into panic throbbing, which is more severe.
  • Panic Throbbing (Zheng Chong)
    This is not brought on by specific external events, and is described in TCM as the heart shaking in the chest. In panic throbbing, qi (or life force) cannot stay grounded in its place of origin and exhaustion often ensues. Panic attacks would fall into this category.
  • Rebellious Qi of the Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai)
    This is often described as an internal urgency (Li Ji) or feeling of restlessness that radiates upwards from the lower abdomen, often causing feelings of tightness or fullness in the upper chest, hot flashes, palpitations, breathlessness as well as cold feet and irregular or painful menstrual cycles in women.

Factors that can influence anxiety in TCM include emotional stress—fear, shock, guilt, shame, pensiveness and even excess joy can lead to qi stagnation or deficiency in certain areas of the body. This essentially means that energy is “stuck” and not getting where it needs to go. Over time, stagnate qi can generate too much heat and these stagnations and deficiencies begin to send organs out of balance—specifically the heart, lungs, kidneys, spleen, and liver when we’re talking about anxiety.

Five types of Anxiety in TCM (as they relate to the organs):

  • Heart
    The main symptom here is palpitations, simply meaning that you’re aware of the heart beating in an uncomfortable way. Other things like tightness or oppression in the chest, insomnia, feeling restless, fidgety and flustered indicate a Heart pattern.
  • Lungs
    Lung patterns usually result from grief or loss and are characterized by tightness in the lungs, frequent crying, and a pale complexion, weak voice and weak pulse. Anxiety over spiritual matters, existential suffering, and life’s meaning are common in a Lung pattern.
  • Kidneys
    Fear is the emotion related to the kidneys. This person may appear gaunt, have a dark complexion with a look of panic in the eyes, and often feel hot in the face or dizzy. Kidney patterns tend to manifest as pessimism, chronic fear and guilt, and expecting the worst in all situations.
  • Spleen
    The spleen is related to pensiveness. This is often seen as having mental arguments with yourself, or thoughts that go around in circles, possibly becoming obsessive. People with spleen anxiety may be prone to grasping or clinging, excess weight gain, suffer from lack of mothering, or have a tendency to put other’s needs before their own.
  • Liver
    Worry is the trademark sign of liver anxiety. A person with a Liver pattern is often a perfectionist, sets high standards for themselves and often feels a dissatisfaction with their achievements or a sense of “not being good enough.” This person is often thin and sinewy in body type.

Citations

  1. Maciocia, Giovanni. The Practice of Chinese Medicine: The Treatment of Diseases with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier. 2008: 385-395.
  2. Chan, Yuan-Yu et al.  The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2015(176): 106-117.
  3. Errington-Evans Nick. Acupuncture for anxiety. CNS Neurosciences and Therapeutics. 2012;18(4):277-84.

by Claire Stark

Claire Stark is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in medical anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a certified yoga instructor at the 200-hour level registered with Yoga Alliance. Working towards a career in acupuncture and holistic health, Claire is passionate about a mind-body-spirit approach to healing in order to help people achieve long-lasting, sustainable wellness in all facets of life.

Guest authors’ work is reviewed and edited by Ben Townsend.

Acupuncture and PTSD

PTSD trauma help

PTSD: if you’re not suffering from it, chances are you know of someone who has

Whether it is veterans returning from war, the aftermath of a car accident or an abusive relationship—PTSD is more common in today’s society than we might think. However, the typical treatment protocol for PTSD (drugs, drugs, and more drugs) is rarely helpful. Many patients become hooked on their prescription painkillers, or turn to overconsumption of alcohol as a means of coping—which we all know only makes a bad situation worse over time.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine provide another way

An increasing number of studies have reported the benefits of acupuncture as viable treatment for PTSD.

  • As the medical director of the Program for Traumatic Stress at the VA hospital in Long Beach, California, Dr. Michael Hollifield has extensive experience with patients suffering with PTSD and in 2011 he identified “conceptual, clinical, and biological data” in support of the acupuncture’s efficacy for the treatment of PTSD. (1)
  • Further research has concluded not only that acupuncture improved symptoms of PTSD but also that patients continued to experience relief three months after their last treatment.(2)
  • Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, Chief Clinical Officer, Department of Mental Health, for the District of Columbia and Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, speaks to the effectiveness of acupuncture, specifically for veterans, in her article, Acupuncture for the Treatment of PTSD:

One veteran says, “I had not been able to sleep more than 2 hours a night since I returned. After one session with the needles, I had the best sleep I had had in a year.”

Dr. Ritchie backs up these veteran testimonials with support from the health care providers themselves “[regarding veterans] When they first come to me, those guys who have been deployed three, four, five times, they can’t sit still for CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). We get them a few sessions of acupuncture or yoga, and they can settle down enough to do the trauma work.”

“I had not been able to sleep more than 2 hours a night since I returned. After one session with the needles, I had the best sleep I had had in a year.”

Acupuncture addresses illness at its root

As holistic medicine, acupuncture works on the mind, body, and spirit as a unit making it ideal for people dealing with the complex symptoms of PTSD. Instead of putting a Band-Aid over the symptoms with drugs, acupuncture addresses illness at its root — and then the symptoms just go away.

The take away message: If you’re struggling with PTSD, regardless of the reason, acupuncture can offer relief (more on acupuncture and anxiety here).

Works Cited

  1. Hollifield, M. (2011), Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Conceptual, Clinical, and Biological Data Support Further Research. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 17: 769–779.
  2. Hollifield M, Sinclair-lian N, Warner TD, Hammerschlag R. Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled pilot trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007;195(6):504-13.
  3. Ritchie, Elspeth C. Acupuncture for the Treatment of PTSD. Psychiatric Annals. 2013; 43(5): 235.

Guest authors’ work is reviewed and edited by Ben Townsend.

Why Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

Healthy fats avocado fish olive oil seeds

It seems intuitive—if you eat a lot of fat, you’ll get fat. That’s what we’ve been told, right? Wrong. The truth is, fat is not making us fat. Sugar is what’s making us fat. This includes processed, refined grains and white flour products, which are metabolically just as harmful as consuming white sugar by the spoonful (more on the dangers of sugar here).

Fats, on the other hand, are essential to human health, and if you’re looking to feel better and lose weight—yes, even lose weight—then healthy fats should become a staple in your diet.

The role that fat plays in health:

  • Support brain health
  • Increase metabolism
  • Control blood sugar and curb hunger
  • Protect against cancer and diabetes
  • Improve skin, nails, and hair

Some key healthy fats to emphasize in your diet:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut and coconut products (coconut oil, coconut butter, etc.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dry roasted, unsalted or sprouted nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews)
  • Seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin, sesame, hemp)
  • Pastured, organic eggs
  • Grass-fed, organic beef
  • Fatty fish (wild caught salmon, mackerel, sardines)
  • Fish oil supplements have been shown to improve mood-related disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as prevent brain-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In fact, one study noted how “those who consumed fish were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who rarely or never ate fish” (see my white paper on fish oil).

It’s important to remember that not all fats are created equal. Some fats are harmful, particularly trans fats and inflammatory vegetable oils (think hydrogenated oils found in many packaged foods). Opt for getting fats from whole foods (foods with only one ingredient) to be sure you’re getting the highest quality fuel for your body—and of course, choose organic and local whenever possible to minimize pesticide exposure and avoid GMOs.

Citations:

Hyman, Mark. “Separating Fat from Fiction: 10 Fat Facts You Need to Know.” Dr. Hyman. Hyman Digital, n.d. Web. 3 Aug. 2016.

by Claire Stark

Claire is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in medical anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a certified yoga instructor at the 200-hour level registered with Yoga Alliance. Working towards a career in acupuncture and holistic health, Claire is passionate about a mind-body-spirit approach to healing in order to help people achieve long-lasting, sustainable wellness in all facets of life.

Guest authors’ work is reviewed and edited by Ben Townsend.