Julie Kelham gives us an insight into how acupuncture works to calm anxiety
There is a complex relationship between the different associated patterns and causes of anxiety in Chinese Medicine.
Emotional stress is an understandable main cause arising from a whole range of emotions such as fear, excess joy, worry, guilt and shame. In addition, irregular diet or a lack of nutrition in our diet, blood loss (such as through childbirth, injury or illness), shock/trauma, our individual constitution and overwork can all cause an energetic imbalance in the body resulting in feelings of anxiety.
Chinese medicine and anxiety
There are nine main Chinese Medicine patterns that have anxiety as a symptom. These can involve the energy (Qi) of one or more of the following organs:
- Heart – anxiety arising from a Heart pattern may be felt as a fluttering feeling, palpitations or tightness in the chest area; there may be feelings of restlessness and insomnia, and a feeling of heat
- Liver – anxiety arising from a Liver pattern may be felt as a tension or not being satisfied with one’s achievements in life; there can be a vague anxiety felt at night
- Spleen – anxiety arising from a Spleen pattern may be felt alongside worrying and going over and over things in the mind)
- Kidney– anxiety arising from a Kidney pattern may be felt alongside panic and an ongoing feeling of fear in life
- Lung– anxiety arising from a Lung pattern, either a full or deficient pattern, can often follow a period of sadness and grief.
Spirit and essence
Each of the above five organs are seen as ‘housing’ a particular aspect of the mind and as a whole these mental aspects create our spirit and essence:
- Shen– the spirit of the Heart – is concerned with our memory, speech, intuition, consciousness and thought
- Hun– the spiritual soul of the Liver – is concerned with our ability to plan, our sleep and dreaming world
- Po– the animal soul of the Lungs – is concerned with movement, physical senses and coordination
- Yi or intellect – the spirit of the Spleen – is concerned with our ability to have clarity in our thought process and when studying
- Zhi or will – the spirit of the Kidneys – is concerned with our drive, will and determination.
The Shen (spirit of the heart) oversees all of these mental aspects. As a result, treatment for anxiety will often include calming the Shen, alongside treatment to address the other Chinese Medicine patterns.
How can acupuncture help?
Acupuncture can help calm anxiety by:
- clearing heat (which may be agitating the Shen, spirit of the Heart)
- clearing Phlegm (which may be obstructing the Shen)
- nourishing blood (so the Hun and Shen can settle resulting in feeling less restless and more grounded and embodied)
- nourishing Yin (which will help to feel more rooted and grounded in the body)
- regulating and strengthening the energy (Qi) of the organs where there may be particular Qi imbalances causing feelings of anxiety.
What will the treatment involve?
Your treatment will be focused on clearing and regulating where there is fullness and strengthening and nourishing where there is a deficiency.
Chinese Medicine is based on treating the whole person, so I will spend time talking through with you what you are experiencing and feeling in your body and mind as well as taking your pulse and looking at your tongue. The diagnosis of your particular anxiety pattern will be dependent on what other symptoms you may be experiencing along with the anxiety.
The beauty of integrated acupuncture is that I can treat your Chinese Medicine patterns as well as your predominant element type (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, or Wood). This is a wonderful way to treat you as in turn it supports the energy of the other organs and can help you to feel a greater sense of emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
I love the poetic nature and emotional resonance of the spirit points. Examples of points used are Shen Hall, Supreme Spring (Heart), Encircling Glory, Yi Dwelling, (Earth), Central Treasury, Door of Po (Metal), Gate of the Hun, Head above Tears (Liver), Zhi Dwelling, Spirt Storehouse (Water).