While modern life has helped make so many aspects of daily living easier, many people still suffer from emotional distress. Subsequently, Anxiety and Depression are two of the most common mental-emotional conditions affecting individuals today. The good news is that Acupuncture can provide a natural form of relief from these feelings, helping you return to a happier life.
How Can Acupuncture Help Anxiety and Depression
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine have always considered the connection between mind and body to be inseparable. Along with the ancient descriptions of external environmental disease factors, such as Wind, Heat, and Cold, internal causes of disease were considered to be due to emotions. Anger, fear, sadness, worry, and joy were correlated to each of the five Yin organs of the body. Imbalances within these organs could be the origin of the emotion, or the emotion could injure the corresponding internal organ over time.
The Western viewpoint of “more is better” has taken a toll on mental health. While some chose to work hard and play hard until exhaustion, others will suffer from over-thinking, worrying about every detail of life. There never seems to be time to just relax and unwind, without turning on the TV or seeking some social event. This lifestyle causes the mind and body to become tied-up inside, creating anxiety and depression. Acupuncture can help treat these mental-emotional disorders by helping you to “un-do”. The needles create a deep state of relaxation during the treatment, allowing true rest and healing of both mind and body.
Acupuncture for Anxiety
Anxiety comes in a variety of forms, from mild worrying about an upcoming speech or exam to phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a nervous stomach, and even panic attacks. Some anxiety is a normal healthy response to the stresses of daily life and new situations; however, anxiety that occurs randomly or in an excessive manner is a sign for concern. Fortunately, acupuncture can help balance both the mental and physical manifestations of this condition returning you to an easy-going life.
When anxiety occurs, you may experience the obsessive thoughts circling the fearful situation you are experiencing, and physical symptoms such as chest pain, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, stomachache, nausea, or headache. Depending on the exact manifestations of your anxiety in conjunction with an observation of the pulse and tongue, an acupuncturist can determine which Oriental Medicine (sometimes called Traditional Chinese Medicine) pattern of anxiety you are experiencing.
Most conditions of anxiety are related to imbalances of the Heart and Kidney, referring the energetic aspects of these organs. The Heart organ is considered a very Yang energy organ, constantly pumping the blood throughout the body. Over-excitement of the Heart due to excessive joy or an imbalance of Fire within the body can create Heat in the Heart, leading to anxiety and insomnia. The Kidney is the Water organ and functions to balance the Fire of the Heart helping to contain an excess of Fire. If the Kidney is deficient, the Heart Fire can rise up disturbing the mind.
Acupuncture treatments for anxiety can use both body and auricular (ear) acupuncture. Body acupuncture points may include Heart 7, Kidney 6, and Spleen 6 to harmonize the Heart and Kidney and nourish the cooling Yin energy of these organs. In cases of excessive Heart Heat, the points Heart 8 and Heart 9 may be used to sedate the Fire within the Heart. Auricular points, such as Shenmen (Spirit Gate), can effectively reduce anxiety; in some cases, retaining ear tacks or small magnetic balls at this auricular acupuncture point can prolong the effects between treatments.
Acupuncture for Depression
Depression affects an estimated 20% of the population at some point in their life. Because of its prevalence, many professionals consider depression to be the “common cold” of psychology. While there are effective medications for the treatment of depression, the possible side effects make considering a natural therapy such as acupuncture worthwhile.
Depression can feel like a form of extreme exhaustion. You want to get better, but just don’t feel like you have the energy to do so. While the symptoms of each individual vary, each case has a common thread: a poor state of mind that you can’t quite climb out of. Breaking out of this stuck place is the key to feeling better.
In Chinese Medicine, depression is considered a problem of constraint, called Yu. The primary Yin organ related to this condition is the Liver, with the Spleen and Heart playing secondary roles. The Liver is the energetic organ responsible for circulating the Qi, or vital energy, of the body. As your mood becomes low, this depresses the flow of Qi within the body leading to Liver Qi Stagnation. This impairment in the flow of Qi can affect all other physiological activities, such as digestion, sleep, and energy level. If this condition persists, additional stagnations of Heat, Phlegm, and Blood will occur, possibly leading to mania, mental cloudiness, and body pains, respectively. Over time, the secondary stagnations will spread to affect the Heart and Spleen creating additional symptoms, such as poor memory and fatigue.
Acupuncture treatment for depression will focus on circulating the Qi and balancing the flow of energy to relieve specific symptoms. The most common Qi circulating treatment is called The Four Gates. This treatment includes the use of Large Intestine 4 (LI4) on the hand and Liver 3 (Liv3) on the foot, bilaterally. These two sets of points are located in similar anatomical positions on the body: LI4 in the fleshy web between the thumb and index finger, and Liv3 on top of the foot between the big toe and the second toe. Additional balancing points may include Stomach 36 and Spleen 6; these points are useful to strengthen the digestion and improve the production of Qi in the body. Once your Qi is circulating properly and your energy levels are normalized, you can begin to have the strength to lift yourself back into the swing of life, leaving your depression behind.
Regardless of whether you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or some other emotional difficulty, making changes in your lifestyle can help balance your mind. The mind likes to attach to negative emotions and resists acceptance of new ideas. However, consider beginning a program of exercise to help circulate your own energy and studying a form of meditation to learn how to control and relax your mind. Activities such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Yoga are excellent forms of mind-body exercise that can improve you ability to control both anxiety and depression. Practicing these arts in conjunction with regular acupuncture treatments will provide the foundation for a positive change in your life.