Anxiety treatment with Chinese medicine
Chinese medicine’s unique sensitivity, in both diagnosis and treatment, lends itself well to the intricacies of anxiety and the field of mental health.
It’s understood in Chinese medicine that there is no separation between mental/emotional and physical health. When one is affected it’s a given that the other will be too.
Anxiety is a common condition
It is the most prevalent of the mental health conditions. It is estimated that more than 2 million Australian adults are living with active anxiety.
It is a normal response to feel worry, stress or anxious feelings in connection with a stressful situation however these feelings should subside once removed from that situation.
Anxiety is when those feelings occur in the absence of a stressful situation or are perhaps disproportionate to the situation.
Common symptoms include:
- Hot and cold sensations
- Tight chest
- Heart palpitations
- Jumpy/easily startled
- Snow balling worry potentially building to a panic attack
- Obsessive thoughts and behaviour
Western medicine also breaks anxiety down into a number of sub-categories like Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Phobias, Panic Disorder, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Fortunately these categories aren’t so relevant to a Chinese medicine treatment. We use a completely separate system to assess and diagnose what we’re presented with.
How does Chinese medicine understand anxiety?
Chinese medicine views anxiety as a form of fear. Each of the internal organs have a primary emotion which associates with that organ. For the Heart it’s joy, for the Kidneys it’s fear.
Anxiety is essentially an excess of the emotion of the Kidney (whereas depression is a deficiency of the emotion of the heart – joy).
There are a multitude of ways one can arrive at an excess or deficiency of one (or more) of the primary emotions, and treatments have been developed and refined over long periods of time to address each of the possible scenarios.
This is, of course, a very simplistic explanation but it gives you a short taste of how these problems are broken down. It’s obviously quite different to the language used in modern Western medicine, but don’t get too hung up on terminology, it is simply a system to guide us towards an appropriate treatment.
How does traditional Chinese medicine treat anxiety?
The main treatment tools of TCM are acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Some conditions are best treated with one or the other or the two in combination. This is one condition where I usually recommend both acupuncture and herbal medicine combined. Either modality can achieve great results as a standalone treatment however best results come from the combined approach.
Acupuncture for anxiety is gentle and calming. The effects of acupuncture are usually cumulative, so initially, the effects tend to be short lived. Then as you progress through a treatment course the period of relief following each treatment should become increasingly more extended.
I’d usually suggest a good 5-10 weekly sessions, depending severity, after which more of a maintenance program can be adopted.
Herbal medicine prescriptions can be reviewed and refined each time we meet for acupuncture.
A regular review allows us to stay on top of any changes that may be needed as you progress through the treatment course.
A holistic approach to anxiety
Traditional Chinese medicine is a holistic system of medicine. While your primary symptoms are addressed other associated issues can usually be incorporated into the treatment.
Common issues regularly associated with anxiety are:
- Insomnia or dream disturbed sleep
- Digestive upsets.
Can Chinese medicine treatment be combined with anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs? In most cases yes they can. There is certainly no issue with combining acupuncture with Western pharmaceuticals. Some care needs to be taken with herbal medicine however a well-qualified Chinese herbalist will be able to guide you through this.
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