Acupuncture for anxiety and depression
In these difficult times, we are all striving to keep ourselves on course and this is bound to have an impact on the way we feel. Some of us already suffer from anxiety and depression and may be finding it difficult to cope, while others are now experiencing these feelings for the first time.
Our susceptibility to anxiety and depression is believed to be influenced by a combination of our inherited genes, a negative schema and stressful life events. Therefore, it is not surprising that this year, many of us have ‘tipped the balance’ into anxiety and depression.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are multifaceted conditions that cause people to experience psychological symptoms, varying from chronic low mood to suicidal thoughts as well as physical symptoms such as gastric pain and insomnia.
Right now, there are many things to feel anxious about. But, for those people who are already anxious and depressed, life can feel like a struggle, even when everything is going well.
You know there is no logical reason to feel the way you do but, even though you may tell yourself this, you are unable to change how you feel. It’s as if an ‘emotional tap’ has become stuck.
The unpredictable nature of these conditions combined with our ever-changing lives makes it difficult for GPs to devise an appropriate treatment for individual patients. We are all unique and feel differently from day to day, moment to moment. This means treatment is often a case of trial and error with the patient continuing to suffer for months and years before feeling better.
Counselling and medication (or a mixture of both) are the main treatments they can offer and, while helpful for some, others can find they are still struggling to cope or battling with side effects.
Why consider acupuncture for treating anxiety and depression?
I have been treating patients with acupuncture for eight years and have always had a special interest in treating anxiety and depression. Through research and my own practice, I have seen how it can really help.
Despite studies to the contrary, acupuncture is not widely recognised as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Therefore, many of my patients come to acupuncture as a last resort. However, most find they feel much better and can gradually start to reduce their medication.
It treats physical and psychological symptoms
Practised for thousands of years, traditional acupuncture is based on observation and has few (if any) side effects. It is holistic and, therefore, each treatment is designed for the individual and, unlike Western medicine, it does not separate physical from emotional self. This makes it a logical choice for treating a condition which is often physical as well as psychological.
When we experience emotion, we are feeling a change of energy and, sometimes, we can see or feel those emotions as physical changes such as our heart racing or our face blushing. However, at other times we may not be aware of the changes and this is how constant stress can sneak up on our health, manifesting in either a physical or mental crisis.
Through the insertion of fine needles at special points in the body, acupuncture works to balance the energy (Qi) within our bodies. By moving and re-establishing a balance of energy in the body, acupuncture can help restore a reasonable emotional response.
Acupuncture restores balance
In recent years, we are all becoming more aware of how balance is important in our lives and how our everyday environment can impact us emotionally. Global warming reminds us how even small changes can easily damage that delicate balance.
Everyday emotional energy changes are a normal response to what is happening in the world around us. But, for someone experiencing anxiety and depression, the normal ebbs and flows of energy have become so extreme that it is difficult for them to return to a more moderate level.
Classical acupuncture has always recognised how important this balance is and, for those of us struggling with anxiety and depression, the energy changes brought about through the needles can help bring back a sense of normality to our mental health.
What to expect when going for acupuncture
It’s natural to feel apprehensive before starting a new treatment. Here are some commonly asked questions about acupuncture, to help you anticipate what you can expect from sessions.
What should I wear?
Patients are encouraged to wear comfortable, loose clothing for ease of treatment and their own comfort. As there are over three hundred acupuncture points all over the body, access to any of these may be needed. However, points on the back as well as the arms and legs are commonly used.
How many sessions will I need?
A typical course of acupuncture for anxiety and depression can be up to 12 treatment sessions, but this depends on the patient's response. The sessions are usually 45 to 60 minutes long and may be weekly or bi-weekly.
Ideally, treatment should be reviewed by the patient and practitioner together after the fourth session, to decide if the acupuncture is helping. Like any treatment, acupuncture may not work for everyone.
Those who come for an initial course often find it helps to have top-ups, to avoid returning to ‘that dark place’. But, the frequency is dependent on the individual. As is often the case with anxiety and depression, how we feel is dependent on what is happening in our lives and the environment around us. Therefore, you may decide to seek acupuncture when you need that extra support.
What information does the acupuncturist need from me?
The first session may be longer so that a full history can be taken. This can be an initial telephone consultation followed by a tongue diagnosis and pulses taken at both wrists during the first clinic visit. For subsequent appointments, just a tongue diagnosis and pulses are taken.
Currently, most acupuncturists are asking for a photo of the tongue to be sent prior to the appointment, so that patients can keep their masks on throughout treatment. Additionally, cleaning regimes between patients have been increased during this time and you can expect your acupuncturist to wear personal protection equipment (PPE).
What does the treatment involve?
Once a treatment has been devised, discussed, and agreed with the patient, fine needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points. The needles may be left in place for 20 minutes or more, depending on the treatment regime and patients can rest while they are in.
Patients often report they are surprised by how suddenly relaxed they feel once the needles are in. The number of needles used will vary from treatment to treatment and some acupuncturists will tend to use more than others. So, you may like to ask how many needles your acupuncturist might typically use.
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