Occasional stress is a natural part of life—caused by everything from work deadlines to public speaking to rush hour traffic. Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, are more intense and more difficult to overcome than those temporary moments of stress. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can become worse over time, affecting daily activities like job performance, schoolwork, and relationships. There are many types of anxiety disorders, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. Together, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders—affecting around 40 million American adults.
Each anxiety disorder has its own symptoms, but all are connected to excessive, irrational fear and dread. And the effects can add up to other dangerous problems, including increased risk for:
- Chronic health conditions, including arthritis.
- Heart attack
- A weakened immune system, making you more vulnerable to colds and illness.
It takes time to feel the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy and/or to find the Western medication(s) that work best for a person’s specific symptoms. Many people with anxiety disorders find that they’re unable or unwilling to submit to trial-and-error medication treatment and are concerned about possible side effects and risks. Antidepressants, for example, require long-term use. Benzodiazepines, which are often prescribed for panic attacks, are highly addictive and can cause serious withdrawal symptoms.
Acupuncture is an option that may be the ideal combination of low-risk treatment and valuable results. Research has shown that acupuncture treatment can act on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress. It can also promote relaxation and deactivate the “analytical” brain, which is the area linked to anxiety and worry. Acupuncture has been used to treat many forms of anxiety disorders (including PTSD and GAD), and can be used in combination with medication or therapy treatments. In fact, acupuncture may enhance the benefits of conventional treatments; according to a 2011 review published by the journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, “There is evidence that acupuncture is comparable with CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] … but in a setting and environment in which most patients seem to find less stressful, and are well known to access voluntarily in preference to regular medical avenues.”
Routine acupuncture for anxiety and panic attacks can be a highly effective resource for those debilitating anxiety disorders—but there also may be good news for less chronic instances of anxiety. In a study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, college students who underwent a 20-minute acupuncture session were found to have less anxiety and better memory immediately afterward than those who didn’t have acupuncture.
So whether you suffer from panic attacks, General Anxiety Disorder, or simply would like to try acupuncture as preparation for an upcoming stressful event, Acupuncture Associates can help you find the treatment that’s right for you.