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I suffer from anxiety and/or depression, can acupuncture help?

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common psychiatric disorders, which often includes feelings of fear, apprehension, and excessive anxiety energy. Depression, as a primary disturbance or secondary effect of anxiety disorder, manifests in feelings of emptiness, deep sadness or misery, loss of hope, and even thoughts of suicide. Chinese Medicine treatment of anxiety and depression relies upon the diagnosis of each individual and on formulating use of a distinct group of acupoints unique to each individual, along with a strategy that may also include other recommendations, including, but not limited to, exercise, herbal therapy and lifestyle modifications alongside your doctor’s recommendations. Acupuncture for anxiety works by:

  • Downregulating the body’s stress response by balancing neurotransmitters and hormones. Stress triggers the production of certain hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) to enable the body to deal with stress accordingly. Chronic stress can reduce your serotonin levels which is the hormone associated with happiness and feelings of wellbeing. Acupuncture can help balance these hormones and reduce anxiety symptoms.

  • Deactivating the “analytical” brain which is responsible for anxiety and worries, and acting on the primary somatosensory cortex which is the area in the middle of the brain which is known to reduce sensitivity to stress and pain.

  • Stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the relaxation response. When we get stressed, our sympathetic nervous system gets switched on which triggers physiological and emotional changes within the body including anxiety. The parasympathetic nervous system acts like a brake and when stimulated, will calm your nervous system down to help you relax.

  • Regulate the release of inflammatory markers and chemicals which are associated with anxiety. Emotional disturbances and anxiety can lead to lowered immune system function and increased inflammation in the body. Acupuncture has shown to restore immune function when anxiety is present.

  • Reverse the effects of stress-induced behavioral and biochemical changes that are triggered when someone experiences anxiety.

How often should I get acupuncture for anxiety? Most anxiety-sufferers respond quickly to acupuncture and find it a very effective modality to use as part of their treatment plan. The number of acupuncture sessions you’ll require depends on your personal constitution, medical history, the severity and occurrence of your anxiety and how quickly your body responds to the acupuncture treatment. We generally recommend acupuncture visits one to two times a week for anxiety issues and the duration of treatment depends on how chronic the anxiety is, lifestyle factors, and whether you can reduce exposure to stressors that may be contributing to your stress and anxiety.


Elisabete Cruz, ND, Dipl. Ac., MBS, IFMCP

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