Anxiety is a common disorder with symptoms which range from mild to debilitating. It can interfere with work and relationships and have a serious negative impact on quality of life.
The symptoms of anxiety affect everybody differently but the most common include:
- Feelings of unease, worry or fear
- Inability to relax
- Shortness of breath
It is normal to feel anxious once in a while, for example, before an exam or a job interview. However, when you feel anxious on a daily basis, this could be a sign of a deeper underlying issue. Anxiety symptoms can be caused by:
- Panic disorders
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder
When there is no specific cause for the symptoms of anxiety, this is called generalized anxiety disorder. People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder can feel anxious for a whole range of different reasons, some of which can seem insignificant and be difficult for others to understand. Once one worry has been resolved, it is often replaced by another, leading to a feeling of constantly living on edge.
It is unclear exactly what causes anxiety disorders, but some possible factors are:
- Overactivity in the areas in the brain responsible for behavior and emotions
- An imbalance in the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine
- Chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia
- A history of drug or alcohol abuse
- Emotional trauma
- Genetic factors
The most common treatments for anxiety disorders are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and counselling. Medications such as antidepressants can sometimes help, but these also carry the risk of side effects and most people prefer to choose natural methods such as acupuncture for anxiety.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient therapy which originated in China thousands of years ago. It involves placing fine needles at certain points on the body surface in order to maintain health and treat disease. It is particularly suitable for treating emotional disorders such as anxiety. This is because it views the body and the mind as one, treating physical and emotional symptoms with equal importance.
Acupuncture for anxiety works by regulating the central nervous system and releasing hormones called endorphins. Endorphins are the body's natural painkillers and “feel-good” chemicals. They calm the mind and give an overall sense of well-being.
Acupuncture also releases tense muscles and improves circulation allowing the body and mind to relax and begin to heal itself. It can help to promote good sleep and improve mental focus. Many people report feeling refreshed and rejuvenated following an acupuncture treatment.
Since it has been tried and tested over the course of many years, we now know that acupuncture is both safe and effective. It has a low risk of side effects and can be used by people of all ages including pregnant women and children.
Many people worry about acupuncture being painful, but the needles used are extremely fine and should not cause discomfort. In fact, most people find acupuncture an extremely pleasant and relaxing experience.
Research on Acupuncture for Anxiety
Recent research studies have found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for a range of anxiety disorders.
This 2007 study looked at 286 patients with concurrent anxiety, depression and substance misuse problems. 185 of the subjects received auricular (ear) acupuncture, while the remaining 101 acted as a control group. It found that the patients in the acupuncture group felt less anxious, less depressed, had fewer cravings for substances and were better able to resolve difficulties than the control group.
A further 2012 study looked at women undergoing IVF treatment and suffering from anxiety. There were 43 participants in the study. 22 received real acupuncture while 21 received sham acupuncture (needling of non-acupoint areas). After 4 weeks of treatment, the real acupuncture group was found to have significantly lower anxiety levels compared with the sham acupuncture group.
These studies confirm that acupuncture is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders which can be used alongside conventional treatment methods to further enhance their results.