Anxiety and depression are often lumped together though completeley different, as they exhibit some of the same symptoms. However whilst many of us suffer a 'low mood' from time to time, or get anxious about a big life event, it doesn't feel too disruptive. The HADS (Hospital Anxiety and Depression) scale - which you can access here - is a downloadable checklist to rate your feelings and help you understand what might be going on for you, but what do you do about it? Is a natural approach worth considering?
There are many tools as our disposal as we understand more about brain chemistry and how we work. Doctors may well prescribe exercise, getting more sleep, CBT or mindfulness training now before they suggest antidepressants. Whilst research around acupuncture and anxiety or depression isn't extensive the British Acupuncture Council has reviewed it and info from their website is replicated below or can be accessed here.
I have worked with many patients who are suffering with some level of anxiety or depression. Loss of a loved one, struggling to conceive or coming to terms with not having children, social anxiety, the menopause, work stresses, or relationship difficulties, whatever the cause is the approach is the same - treat the individual. Not one single person is the same, so although I may see five people in a day for 'the same thing', its really not the same thing at all. This completely tailored approach means that we can work together to get to a better place as quickly as possible. So whether anxiety is the main concern, or it's a secondary symptom of a bigger life issue, getting to the root of it is what yields results.
Completely safe, a course of acupuncture can be undertaken side by side with any other treatments, including antidepressants. British Acupuncture Council info - Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically benefit anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety by:
- Acting on areas of the brain known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the 'analytical' brain, which is responsible for anxiety and worry (Hui 2010).
- Regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; hence altering the brain's mood chemistry to help to combat negative affective states (Lee 2009; Samuels 2008; Zhou 2008; Yuan 2007).
- Stimulating production of endogenous opioids that affect the autonomic nervous system (Arranz 2007). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture can activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response.
- Reversing pathological changes in levels of inflammatory cytokines that are associated with anxiety (Arranz 2007)
- Reversing stress-induced changes in behaviour and biochemistry (Kim 2009).