Acupuncture for stress and anxiety related symptoms is performed by registered acupuncturist and herbalist Lachlan McDonald OMD. Lachlan is experienced in working with patients with stress, anxiety, and mood related concerns.
Anxiety is an umbrella term for a group of mental health conditions that have some similar characteristics, all falling under anxiety disorders. These include generalised anxiety, social anxiety, specific phobias (eg agoraphobia), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
This group of anxiety disorders have some similar features – they have fears or thoughts that are chronic, the thoughts are distressing, and they interfere with your normal life (Better Health Channel, 2018). Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. These are normal reactions to a situation where we feel under pressure, and the feelings usually pass when the pressure is taken away (Beyond Blue, 2018). Anxiety, on the other hand, is when the feelings persist after the stressful situation has finished, or come on for no reason.
The symptoms of anxiety can be varied, and include:
What this leads to is people not really feeling themselves, and not able to do the things that they normally would do. When you have racing thoughts, restlessness, and are worrying all the time, it is difficult to go to work, to see friends socially, or spend time with your family.
Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia, and it is estimated that in any one year 2 million Australians will experience symptoms of anxiety (Beyond Blue, 2018).
To be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder you would normally see either a GP or a psychologist. There are a number of tests for different anxiety disorders that are based on the symptoms you are feeling. If you have above a certain number of the symptoms, you are considered to have an anxiety disorder, and treatment can proceed from there.
Treatment for anxiety usually comes down to either medication or counselling/psychotherapy, or both. Medications include anti-depressants for long term management, and benzodiazepines for short term management (Beyond Blue, 2018). The most common psychological approach is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a structured psychological treatment, using a limited number of sessions that aim to change your thought and behaviour patterns. In a session you may learn relaxation techniques, identify the difference between productive and unproductive thought patterns, and how to let go of worries and solve problems (Beyond Blue, 2018).
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the body and the mind as inextricably linked, so when something affects one, the other is also affected. This can very clearly be seen with anxiety as you get both physical and psychological symptoms. There is also a focus in TCM on not just the symptoms you may be feeling, but also the underlying condition that has led to those symptoms. By taking both aspects into account, it creates a more complete treatment, allowing your body and mind to return to a more balanced state.
Recent research has shown that acupuncture can be a safe and effective treatment for anxiety. The Acupuncture Evidence Project (McDonald, J. & Janz, S., 2017, p.39) found that there is moderate to high quality evidence of a positive effect on anxiety levels by acupuncture. Another systematic review by Amorim et al. (2018) found there is good scientific evidence for acupuncture (including electroacupuncture) in treating anxiety disorders, and that they have fewer side effects than conventional treatment. Auricular (ear) acupuncture was also found to be able to reduce anxiety in a group of health care providers who were experiencing work related stress (Buchanan et al., 2018).
In more specific settings, a number of studies have found that acupuncture can be used to reduce stress and anxiety in the lead up to, and following surgery, in what would be considered a relatively high stress situation. Quinlan-Woodward et al. (2016) found that women who received acupuncture after having a mastectomy reported a greater reduction in anxiety, as well as nausea and pain, and an increase in the ability to cope, on the day following their surgery. In another study of 112 patients awaiting neurosurgery, acupuncture at a single point was found to reduce anxiety prior to them being anaesthetised (Wiles at al., 2017). And in a meta-analysis study that was comparing real acupuncture with sham acupuncture (Bae et al., 2014), it was found that patients who received the real acupuncture had a greater reduction in their anxiety before going into surgery.
An initial appointment will last about 60 minutes, with follow up appointments lasting between 45-60 minutes. In your initial appointment, I will ask about all aspects of how anxiety affects you, including physically, mentally and emotionally. I will also ask about other aspects of your health and lifestyle, and then feel your pulse and have a look at your tongue. This will give me a more complete picture of not only how the anxiety is affecting you, but also what the underlying condition is that has brought it about.
We will then get to the acupuncture treatment. For most people acupuncture is a very relaxing experience, with a lot of people falling asleep on the table. I use very fine acupuncture needles, which are about the same thickness as a human hair. You may feel a small pinch as the needle is inserted, and afterwards you might feel the area getting warm, or feel a slight heaviness in the area. I will then leave you alone to relax for about half an hour, with the lights turned down and music on.
After the session, I’ll check in with you to see how you’re feeling, and I might give you some dietary or lifestyle advice. I may also prescribe either Chinese or Western herbal medicine for you to take in between appointments.
Amorim, D., Amado, J., Brito, I., Fiuza, S.M., Amorim, N., Costeira, C. & Machado, J. (2018). Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for anxiety disorders: A systematic review of the clinical research. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 31, 31-37.
Bae, H., Bae, H., Min, B-I. & Cho, S. (2014). Efficacy of acupuncture in reducing preoperative anxiety: A meta-analysis. Evidence- Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Vol. 2014, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/850367.
Better Health Channel (2018). Anxiety Disorders. [Online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/anxiety-disorders [Accessed 21 May 2018].
Beyond Blue (2018). Anxiety: The facts. [Online] Available at: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety [Accessed 21 May 2018]
Beyond Blue (2018). Anxiety: Signs and symptoms. [Online] Available at: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/signs-and-symptoms [Accessed 21 May 2018]
Beyond Blue (2018). Anxiety: Treatments for anxiety. [Online] Available at: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/treatments-for-anxiety [Accessed 21 May 2018]
Buchanan, T., Reilly, P., Vafides, C. & Dykes, P. (2018). Reducing anxiety and improving engagement in health care providers through an auricular acupuncture intervention. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 37 (2), 87-96.
McDonald, J. & Janz, S. (2017). The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A comparative literature review (Revised Edition). Brisbane: Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd; 2017. http://www.acupuncture.org.au.
Quinlan-Woodward, J., Gode, A., Dusek, J.A., Reinstein, A.S., Johnson, J.R. & Sendelbach, S. (2016). Assessing the impact of acupuncture on pain, nausea, anxiety, and coping in women undergoing a mastectomy. Oncology Nursing Forum, 43 (6), 725-732.
Wiles, M.D., Mamdani, J., Pullman, M. & Andrzejowski, J.C. (2017). A randomised controlled trial examining the effect of acupuncture at the EX-HN3 (Yintang) point on pre-operative anxiety levels in neurosurgical patients. Anaesthesia, 72 (3), 335-342.