Acupuncture for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Updated: Feb 6
The CoViD-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways that we could not possibly have imagined a year ago. The social constraints are very difficult to manage and these enforced but necessary changes may have resulted in feelings of increased anxiety in many of us. Sleep deprivation, low tolerance levels, eating and drinking habits which have altered during lockdown are just a few examples. But for those who have been on the frontline - either as the providers of treatments, those receiving the treatment, or those caring for or concerned about affected loved ones, the pressure and stress may have caused new or increased symptoms of anxiety and stress or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Recent reports in both mainstream and the medical press have suggested the regulation of screening anxiety in patients affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anxiety UK list the psychological symptoms of anxiety as follows:
Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
Thinking that you might die
Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you
Medical News Today list these four symptom types which categorise PTSD:
Reexperiencing the trauma: A person may have nightmares or experience flashbacks.
Avoiding certain situations: A person may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic experience.
Experiencing negative changes in emotions and beliefs: A person may experience changes in the way they think about themselves and others around them. They may also forget about parts of the event and be unable to experience loving feelings toward others.
Experiencing hyperarousal: Those with PTSD may experience difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and they may become easily startled.
How acupuncture may help
Irrespective of the underlying cause of anxiety, traditional Chinese acupuncture may be able to help more than you think. The reason for the anxiety may or may not be clear to you at first but feelings of fear and worry can become unrelenting, causing a level of anxiety which can then start disturbing sleep and affecting your daily life. Physical symptoms of anxiety may include increased heart rate, shortness of breath, headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, digestive disorders and muscle pain, to name a few.
According to the British Acupuncture Council, research has shown positive findings for the treatment of many different forms of chronic anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and musculoskeletal pain. Recent evidence has also shown that acupuncture treatments have a great effect on reducing anxiety and depression when compared to conventional psychotherapy and pharmacological approaches, with more than two times the reduction in symptoms.
How does it work?
Acupuncture has been shown not only to calm the response of the hypothalamus (part of the brain), which releases neurochemicals when the body is under stress, but also to increase the levels of endorphins which regulate the body's emotional and physical stress responses, positively affecting heart rate, blood pressure and also perceived levels of pain. The calming and relaxing effect of acupuncture is often commented on by people trying acupuncture for the first time. They regularly seem surprised by how relaxed they feel during and after their treatment.
Over the years acupuncture has evolved into many forms - I trained full time over three years, incorporating Western medicine anatomy, physiology and pathology - it was hard work but it paid off. I was awarded a first class Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree which incorporated five elements style acupuncture, traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture and classical Stems and Branches Acupuncture.
Each treatment is tailored to you and your individual needs, taking account of your medical history and presenting symptoms. I will be more than happy to discuss whether acupuncture can help you in any way and offer free 15 minute consultations to enable you to ask any questions you may have.
I am an Anxiety UK approved acupuncture practitioner. This means that I am subject to Anxiety UK's regular monitoring of my professional qualifications, supervision, continual professional development, insurance and professional body membership in addition to complying with the ethical framework and professional standards set down by my registered governing body. Details about becoming a member of Anxiety UK to be able to access support via the charity can be found here: www.anxietyuk.org.uk/membership
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More information can be found in these links:
Merck & Co., Inc. (2003) Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home Edition (2nd edition) London: Simon & Schuster
International College of Oriental Medicine, (ICOM) (2019). Dalziel, A. The physiological response to fear and anxiety from Western and Chinese medical perspectives and implications for acupuncture treatment. West Sussex: ICOM