Acupuncture for anxiety

Anxiety can manifest in both children and adults in many ways and with differing levels of intensity: from clinginess, crying too much, timidity and night terrors in children to adult anxieties such as constant worry, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, panic attacks and insomnia. There may even be anxiety about your first acupuncture session!

Acupuncture is a time-tested remedy for anxiety. In particular, Japanese acupuncture uses minimal and painless interventions, including treatment without inserted needles that enable you to relax and feel calm very quickly.

Acupuncture is in itself mood altering, which is one of the reasons why it has been used so successfully in drug rehabilitation. It`s also very fast-acting for emotional problems. Often you can walk in feeling bad and walk out feeling good.

Anxiety and yin and yang

In traditional acupuncture theory, both the natural world and the human body can be divided into two complementary opposites: yin and yang. In nature these take many forms, for example cold and heat, dark and light and stillness and movement.

In the body we can see the same polarities: all those functions that keep things still and cool are yin and all those functions that keep things warm and moving are yang. A hot air balloon is a perfect example of yin and yang in action. The ballast and weight in the basket bring the balloon to earth, which is yin. The fire and hot air move it upwards and give it movement, which is yang.

If the yin and yang in the balloon are balanced it will behave as it is designed to. If they are not, it will either lie on the ground or fly away uncontrollably.

We can look at anxiety in the same way. Traditional acupuncture theory maintains that the mind and body are inseparable. Those yin meridians whose job it is to keep things cool and still are not balancing those yang meridians whose job it is to make things move. So in an anxious person there is an imbalance of yin and yang.

Acupuncture treatment is designed to correct this imbalance. It can help an overwrought person relax within minutes and over the long term can help you feel more grounded.

Do I have to stop my medication if I have acupuncture?

Acupuncture works even if you are taking medication. It may even help to increase the intended effects of medication while mitigating unwanted side-effects. Many anti-depressant, anxiolytic and sedative drugs, however, are habit-forming and hard to stop taking. You may wish to come off them during your course of treatment. This is a slow process and should only be done in consultation with the doctor who prescribed them. Acupuncture can help with this gradual rehabilitation.

What are the treatments for anxiety?

As you will see elsewhere in this website, Japanese acupuncture makes a distinction between `root` treatment, which balances the yin and yang of the body and `branch` treatment, which treats symptoms.

In the treatment of anxiety, we emphasise light, quick, gentle root treatment. This is usually given with non-insertive needle techniques. The reason that treatment is light and quick is that the body`s system is already jangled. There`s too much hot air in the `balloon` and not enough ballast. Too much movement. So a big therapeutic push might have unintended side-effects. It is better to treat lightly.

If suitable, gentle moxa or warm bamboo treatment may also be given, as both of these techniques are very relaxing.

Dietary advice may also be given. In acute conditions it seems that we always know what is best for us to eat; hot drinks when we`re cold, for example. Unfortunately, in chronic conditions it seems that we favour the foods that make things worse. If your energy is very `hot`, in the sense that your yang is not balanced by your yin, we may recommend you to avoid stimulants, spices and fried food. These types of food tend to feed the hot air of the `balloon`, for example, coffee makes you more awake, and this can exacerbate the imbalance. We can discuss diet during your course of treatment.

For those people wary of acupuncture, Zen Shiatsu is also extremely helpful for anxiety. We recommend Zen Shiatsu as a regular treatment on its own or in conjunction with acupuncture, although we advise you not to have shiatsu and acupuncture on the same day.