Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time - it is part of the human condition. For some people, anxiety can be intense, excessive and persistent. It can interfere with work, school and your personal life. People suffering from this type of anxiety are often diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that requires treatment.
For the most part, treatment of anxiety is through talk therapy, anti-anxiety drugs, or a combination of the two. We are big proponents of talk therapy here at City Acupuncture and we regularly refer to psychologists and social workers for complementary treatment.
Anti-anxiety drugs, although sometimes helpful in reducing the immediate and acute panic attacks, are very often responsible for negative side effects and in our view should be avoided if possible. Thankfully, another option exists for people who want to treat anxiety without potentially harmful medication: acupuncture.
Unlike modern pharmaceutical medicine, acupuncture always views anxiety as the symptom of a larger problem. In other words, there is no anxiety-for-anxiety's-sake in the acupuncture view. Rather, a licensed acupuncturist is trained to look at other signs and symptoms that accompany your anxiety and to use all of this information to determine what the underlying cause of the anxiety might be. The treatment for anxiety, therefore, is actually the treatment for the root cause, with the understanding that when the root cause for anxiety has been tretated, the anxiety will go away.
So without further ado, here are the top 3 ways acupuncture can help you find relief from anxiety:
1. Build More Blood.
Ok, this almost certainly looks strange if you are not a trained acupuncturist. How can one build more blood? And why would that be a good thing for anxiety?
In acupuncture theory, blood is more than just the red stuff that flows through your veins. It's a little too much to get into detail about here, but blood is responsible for providing nourishment to the organs, bones, muscles, tendons and skin. Along with qi (more on this later), blood is responsible for normal brain function and mental activity.
When your body does not produce enough blood (or if you do produce enough but are using it up too fast), the heart cannot be properly nourished and this leads to the palpitations and anxiety normally associated with panic attacks. Rather than suppress the panic attack, acupuncture can help you get your blood stores back to an appropriate level and this will get rid of the anxiety as the heart is properly nourished once again.
For a more detailed technical view about blood in acupuncture theory, click here to read and excellent overview by our friends over at YinYangHouse.com.
2. Reduce Stagnation.
Acupuncture relies not just on the blood to nourish the organs. As I mentioned in number 1, your blood works in close concert with a concept called qi to properly nourish the organs, muscles, tendons and skin. This is frankly not an easy concept to digest, but in simplest terms you can say that the blood is the substance, the qi is the energy required to move the substance where it needs to go. In other words, although the actual nourishment lies in the blood, qi is necessary to move the blood through the vessels where it can properly distribute the nourishment to the organs, muscles, etc.
What happens often when you are under stress is called qi stagnation. Basically this means that stress creates a barrier to the free flow of qi. Functionally this is a lot like a traffic jam. Your car is in good shape, the road is working fine, but you can't get where you want to go because the way is blocked by other cars trying to get to the same place at the same time. As you go through life collecting stresses it's as if more and more cars are getting on the parkway. When events in your life get overwhelming, this can physically create a traffic jam of sorts that prevents the qi from being able to bring the blood where it needs to go - heart palpitations and anxiety follow. When you use acupuncture to relieve the stagnation and reclaim the free flow of qi, the organs are happy, the heart is calm and the anxiety subsides.
3. Clear Phlegm.
Another entry in the, "wait... what?" files.
Of course acupuncturists recognize phlegm as the gross stuff that clogs up your nose and lungs when you are sick. But in acupuncture theory there is another type of phlegm, one that cannot be seen. This phlegm creates a barrier like a thin film between you and the world. This phlegm can collect around many different organs, leading to a variety of different problems. When phlegm collects around the heart it constricts the heart's normal function and often times anxiety ensues. This type of phlegm is normally produced by your diet, so if your acupuncturist says this is what you are working with you should be prepared to change your diet along with taking your acupuncture and/or herbal medicines for anxiety.
So there you have it: the top 3 ways acupuncture can help you with anxiety. Through building blood, moving qi and clearing phlegm (or more likely some combination of these) acupuncture can help you repair the underlying pattern of imbalance that is leading to your anxiety. All of this while you take a nap - what more can you ask?