According to the ADAA (Anxiety Disorders Association of America), anxiety affects more than 40 million people in the United States which is roughly 18% of the population. We all know what it feels like to be a little anxious at times. Anxiety in moderate doses is a natural protective reaction to situations that might be in some way dangerous or threatening to us, but when anxiety begins to interfere with everyday life activities it might be time to seek professional treatment. If anxiety begins to transform into irrational fears or begins to keep you from social engagements it is time to take action. If you have panic attacks with heart palpitations and an overwhelming fear that something is constantly wrong or about to happen to you, this is another sign of an anxiety disorder.
Western treatment for anxiety often includes therapies such as cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. In addition, western treatment often includes anti-anxiety medications from the benzodiazepine family as well as anti-depressants. Traditional Chinese Medicine however, also has a long history of treating anxiety disorders effectively and naturally.
According to TCM theory, anxiety is often associated with an imbalance in the heart energy. A qualified acupuncturist or practitioner of TCM will be able to diagnose you accurately and differentiate between “heart energy deficiency”, “blood deficiency”, “yin deficiency” or other possible conditions such as “phlegm misting the heart.” Although these diagnoses may sound rather esoteric, they are effective descriptions that help to differentiate subtle differences in an anxiety condition and therefore make treatment more effective.
Practitioners of TCM look at anxiety as not just a “mental” disorder, but as a whole body disorder, more along the lines of an internal medicine condition than just “in your head”. Not coincidentally, according to classic TCM theory, the mind and the heart center are often considered synonymous. From the perspective of TCM, it would be difficult to truly overcome anxiety without addressing the underlying physical conditions that may be contributing to the disorder. As a further note, long term use of medications from the “benzo” family and other tranquilizers that are sometimes prescribed for anxiety sufferers can further deteriorate the yin and blood of the heart center according to TCM theory. In addition these types of medications can disrupt the digestive system and intestinal flora. Poor intestinal health has long been strongly correlated with mental illness which is one more reason that a more holistic approach can sometimes provide more effective and longer lasting results.
Terry M. Chen, L.Ac.
Open Sky Acupuncture – Eugene, OR.by