Managing Anxiety with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
By Richard McMahon
BHSc (Acupuncutre), Dip Remedial Massage
Anxiety is the most common mental disorder affecting modern day Australians with 14% of those between the ages of 16-85 suffering from some degree of the condition.[i] It is a state of mind categorized by excessive worry, hyper-vigilance, avoidance, emotional tension, irrational thinking and may be accompanied by physical anxiety reactions such as hot and cold flushes, irritable bowel syndrome, tightening of the chest, racing heart and palpitations.
The thoughts and behaviours associated with an anxiety disorder are generally extreme or excessive versions of normal thoughts and behaviours. The causes of anxiety disorders are thought to be a complex interaction between several factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events. Common treatments for anxiety disorders include cognitive behavioural therapy, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practice and medications such as anti-depressants. [ii]
There is a long history of use for both Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine in the treatment of anxiety or mental unrest in China with the Shan Hun Lun Za Bing Lun written in 220ad recording multiple situations leading to the development of the condition including shock or fright, exhaustion due to overwork or excessive thinking, mistreatment of illness or prolonged convalescence that leads to an imbalance in the body and subsequent mental emotional condition.
Acupuncture is also one of the few complementary therapies that gets the thumbs up by Beyond Blue for the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This is due to recent studies that have shown the positive benefits of adding Acupuncture treatment into the management of this condition. [iii]
In the Chinese Medical Model anxiety conditions could be linked to a large variety of constitutional imbalances but the most common situation involves a dysregulation between the relationship between the Heart and Kidneys. In Classical Chinese thought the Heart is associated with the emotion of Joy and the element of fire whilst the Kidneys are associated with the emotion of Fear and the element of water. In Anxiety conditions we see an abundance of fear and the inability to maintain a balanced positive emotional sense of self. Keep in mind that the Hearts state of joy is not a hyped up excited state it is a steady positive warmth that when present effuses our lives with feelings of safety, warmth and gives us the ability to move forward without fearing the unknown.
Treatment aims to strengthen and stabilize the heart, calm the mind and re-establish a healthy balance in the body. Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, breathing techniques and exercises would all be utilized in this model. The basic breathing technique and mindfulness drills are included in the introduction to meditation article on the website under the general health link for those who are interested.
[i] Australian Bureau of Statistics
[iii] Beyond Blue The National Depression Initiative www.bspg.com.au/dam/bsg/product?client=BEYONDBLUE&prodid=BL/0762&type=file