Acupuncture: the natural way to beat Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Most of us will experience some negative emotions and symptoms at some point in our lives, regardless of how well we look after ourselves. Life happens. And for some people, mood disorders are part of their make up (its biological).
Fortunately, Acupuncture – based on the unique theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine about how mood disorders and associated symptoms arise – offers an effective way to manage or even eliminate the symptoms of stress, and mild-moderate anxiety or depression.
So, what are these conditions and how to they differ from each other? In western medical terms:
- Stress is defined as being a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. While stress can actually be good for us in moderate amounts (e.g. motivating to us to achieve things) if it is sustained for long periods it can lead to anxiety and depression and a range of health problems. In fact, stress has been called the biggest killer in the western world because of strong evidence to associate it with cardiovascular disease, severe depression, cancer and immune suppression.
- Anxiety is broadly defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. The term Anxiety also encompasses several disorders with symptoms ranging from relatively mild to severe and debilitating.
- Depression is defined as feelings of persistent low mood, severe despondency and dejection. It can be caused by genetic and biological factors (endogenous depression) and is more commonly known as biologically based depression. Or, it can occur in people after a stressful or traumatic event takes place (exogenous depression). This type of depression is more commonly called “reactive” depression.
There’s a considerable amount of overlap in the symptoms associated with these conditions – for example, they can all be associated with insomnia – and indeed the conditions can co-exist. The extent to which you are suffering with one (or more) of these conditions depends on many factors, and depending on how severely you are affected you may have just one or two one of the symptoms on the list below, or several.
Which symptoms of Stress, Anxiety and Depression can Acupuncture help?
- Irritability, anger, feeling overwhelmed, wound up, fearful
- Feelings of apprehension, panic attacks, worry, low self-esteem, shame
- Racing mind, inability to switch off and relax
- Insomnia: trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep (frequent waking)
- Drinking too much alcohol, eating too much, smoking (coping strategies)
- Avoidance of situations or people
- Low energy/fatigue for no reason
- Pain and tension in the neck and shoulders, and/or back
- Palpitations, chest tightness/oppression, sweating, shaking
- Headaches, usually focussed on the forehead or temples, or the top of the head
- Poor concentration, forgetfulness, sense of distraction
- Alternating loose stools and constipation (sometimes termed IBS)
- Appetite and digestive problems, such as lack of appetite, or bloating after eating
- Excessive period pain, distension or moodiness (PMT); infertility
- Mood fluctuations and hot flushes/sweating during the time of menopause
How much treatment with Acupuncture will be needed?
This is somewhat difficult to answer because it depends on so many factors. Very simplistically, something like stress that hasn’t been present for long should respond well within 6-8 treatments, while stress of longstanding duration, and mild to moderate anxiety or depression will need more, and most likely ongoing support. Biological conditions are hardest to treat but some benefit may be gained from ongoing supportive treatment.
The benefits of Acupuncture for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
- Diagnosis and treatment focusses on your constitution, and specifically addresses how stress, anxiety and depression manifest in your body (for an explanation and example of diagnosis, see here)
- Several symptoms can be addressed at the same time
- Consultation includes advice on lifestyle, diet and nutritional supplements that will help enhance your outcome. For a start, see here.
- Acupuncture is low risk, has no side effects, and is safe when trying to conceive, while pregnant or breast feeding
- Acupuncture can be used alongside anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications, without interactions, to further improve your mood
- Acupuncture isn’t addictive
- Acupuncture can, in some circumstances, help you to reduce or eliminate your need for medication, and ease the side effects of any drugs that are necessary
- if you have health insurance your Acupuncture treatments will normally be recognised and you will receive reimbursement for some or all of your treatments
The disadvantages of Acupuncture for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
- while individual treatment costs are comparable with other therapies and visits to GPs, these can mount up over a longer course of treatment
- if you don’t like needles, this is not the treatment for you
- it can be time consuming to attend for one or more treatments per week
Contact Mairi Caughey
Dip Ac, CAc, Lic Ac (Nanjing)