Treatment of Anxiety with Acupuncture & TCM

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that most people will experience in their lives in response to stress. It becomes pathological when anxiety interferes with daily life and is irrational, or excessively prolonged, or disproportionate to the cause. Panic attacks are episodes of intense panic or fear. Anxiety attacks usually peak within ten minutes, and they rarely last more than a half hour.

Common Symptoms:
  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Watching for signs of danger
  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank

Additional physical symptoms can include the following and more:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset or dizziness
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath

Anxiety Attack Symptoms:

  • Surge of overwhelming panic
  • Feeling of losing control or going crazy
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain
  • Feeling like you’re going to pass out
  • Trouble breathing or choking sensation
  • Hyperventilation
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea or stomach cramps
  • Feeling detached or unreal
Western Medical Treatment

Medication in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy is the general treatment. Anxiety is often treated with benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Xanax, and Valium. Antidepressants can also be used such as Paxil, Prozac, Effexor, Zoloft, and Lexipro.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Treatment

Anxiety almost always involves some dysfunction of the Heart. Excessive sadness, depression, or grief can actually damage the Heart qi and/or blood. Inadequate nutrition and excessive intake of stimulants can also deplete the Heart and cause anxiety disorders. Anxiety can also be associated with hormonal imbalances such as can occur during menopause, the menstrual cycle, or postpartum, withdrawal from cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, and as a side effect of medication or complication of other disease. In these cases the anxiety would be treated in conjunction with the other concerns. The following are the predominant patterns for anxiety:

Heart Qi Deficiency: Patients feel easily vulnerable. disoriented, and unstable. There is often fatigue, palpitations, poor concentration, and fitful sleep. The treatment principle to tonify Heart qi and calm the spirit. Acupuncture can provide almost instant relief that will last longer after each consecutive treatment until the patient no longer needs to come in often. Herbs are very important in the treatment of anxiety.

Heart Blood and Spleen Deficiency: Phobias, panic attacks, difficulty falling asleep, blurred vision, abdominal bloating after eating, and poor appetite. Treatment principle is to tonify Heart blood and Spleen qi and calm the spirit. Acupuncture can provide almost instant relief that will last longer after each consecutive treatment until the patient no longer needs to come in often. Herbs are very important in the treatment of anxiety.

Heart and Kidney Yin Deficiency:  Palpitations, panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, heat in palms and soles of the feet at night, and night sweats. Treatment plan in to nourish Heart and Kidney Yin and clear heat. This case is a little more involved so treatments will take longer than in the case of Heart Qi deficiency.

Heart and Gall Bladder Deficiency: People with this pattern often describe their anxiety as a personality trait or it arises after a significant shock or trauma. Acute anxiety and frequent panic attacks, nightmares and waking up terrified, restlessness, timidity, and phobias. Treatment principle is to calm the spirit and tranquilize the Heart. This case is a little more involved so treatments will take longer than in the case of Heart Qi deficiency. Regular treatment with acupuncture and herbs is crucial.

Phlegm Heat: This is a result of longterm inappropriate diet or febrile disease. waking up around 4 am and not able to fall back asleep, irritability, nausea, abdominal bloating, bitter taste in the mouth, nervousness, and poor appetite are common symptoms. This case is a little more involved so treatments will take longer than in the case of Heart Qi deficiency.

We recommend that with emotional disorders that TCM be used in conjunction with either traditional or nontraditional counseling. Feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression are often signs that something is legitimately out of balance in our lives and can be a call for positive changes.

Lifestyle

Stabilizing blood sugar, treating anemia, getting rest and regular meals are often key to treating anxiety.

Some things you can do at home:

1. Are you breathing? This may seem like a silly question but if you are chest breathing most of the time it will make you feel panicked and uneasy. Consciously start to expand your lower ribs when you breath. Though meditation is wonderful, it is particularly difficult for the anxiety-prone. Gentle activities such as tai chi, relaxing yoga, walking, and relaxed swimming can be very helpful.

2. Are you blood deficient? Blood deficiency (anemia) can make you feel tired, weak, and emotionally fragile. Eating dark leafy greens, beets, beef, and liver are very helpful as are iron-rich vitamins. In less severe cases this can be enough to correct it.

3. Are you running on sugar and caffeine? Your body needs real food and actual rest on a daily basis to function optimally. You can’t cheat this on a longterm basis by using sugar, caffeine or other uppers.

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