Updated: Feb 17
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear. This feeling can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, you may feel worried or anxious about something that is important such as job interview, exam etc. This is quite normal. However, for some people their feelings of anxiety are constant and hard to control their worries which can affect their daily lives. Excessive or persistent anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): is a condition that makes one to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. People with GAD feel anxious most days and have difficulty to relax. The symptoms include feeling restless or worried, or anxious, having trouble to concentrate or sleep, dizziness, tension on the chest, or heart palpitations. The exact cause of GAD isn't clear. Research suggested that overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour is one of the causes; an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood is also a possible cause.
The symptoms of anxiety include restlessness, a feeling of dread and being on edge, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping and being easily irritated. Anxiety increases breathing and heart rate, to increase blood flow to the brain which needs the energy to cope an intense situation. you might feel lightheaded and nauseous. Anxiety disorders can happen at any age, but they usually begin by middle age. Women are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than men. There are several types of anxiety disorders. They include: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) which is excessive worry about everything; Social anxiety disorder or social phobia which is a fear of social situations; Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which develops after witnessing or experiencing something traumatic; Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which is overwhelmed to perform particular rituals (compulsions) over and over again; phobias which is a fear of something extremely; panic disorder which causes panic attacks.
Acupuncture helps reducing anxiety
Acupuncture is used by many people to reduce their anxiety. Recent research has supported the application. A study investigated the effect of acupuncture and massage on anxiety. In this study anxiety levels were measured by a self-perception 5 points scale and at the end of the 5th and the 10th treatment. After a maximum of ten treatments, the levels of anxiety were reduced (98.39% after five sessions). Women at their tenth treatment reached lower anxiety levels than those of men.This study suggested that acupuncture is efficient to treat anxiety. A review analysed 13 publications for acupuncture on anxiety. They encourage using acupuncture for anxiety treatment with effective outcomes and fewer side effects than conventional treatment. The most common used acupuncture points for anxiety is Yintang(EX-HN 3), an acupoint located between the eyebrows.Recent research has shown that acupuncture is effective to treat anxiety. there were many studies all around the world on this aspect. A review analysed current data from 19 articles. These studies were done by many countries: the United States of America had the highest number of articles on this topic (31.6%), followed by Brazil (15.7%). In turn, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia presented the same production percentages (10.5%). Sweden, Turkey, Austria, and Israel also had the same production percentage (5.3%).The results from these studies show that the effects from acupuncture for treating anxiety have been shown to be significant as compared to conventional treatments.
A report comparing acupuncture with clonazepam in treating GAD. 80 patients were participated the study. 40 patients were acupuncture group and another 40 patients were in clonazepam group. Twelve medridians acuppoints were applied. Meaning quick needling at the apecific acupoints of each meridian for example, LU7, LI4 and HT7were applied. The total treatments were 6 weeks. Hamilton Anxiety Scal (HAMA) and brain activity were used to evaluate the effects. The improvements of the total HAMA scores could be seen in 2, 4 and 6 weeks in both group but the improvements were greater in acupuncture group. The brain activity was improved in both groups. This indicates that acupuncture could be a potential option for treatment of GAD.
Which part of the brain involved anxiety?
Everyone experiences fear and anxiety at some point in their lives. Constant fear and worry without specific stimulants are not normal. Which part of the brain is related to anxiety? Research has found that amygdala, a brain region deep inside of the brain that governs many intense emotional responses. Hyperactive amygdala causes inappropriate fear and anxiety. There are also other brain regions formed a network and involved in anxiety by communicating with amygdala. The frontal cortex and hippocampus are the parts of the network. A part of the frontal cortex called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), amplifies fearful signals coming from amygdala producing anxiety which is shown on the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A different part of the frontal lobe, called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, seems to reduce the signals coming from the amygdala. Patients with damage to this brain region are more likely to experience anxiety, since the brakes on the amygdala have been lifted. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that put threatening events into memories.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a new and effective tool to study brain activity. A study investigated the effect of acupuncture on the Amygdala and hippocampus. They compared the activity of these regions before and during acupuncture treatment. They found that acupuncture reduces Amygdala and hippocampus activities. There are also other studies showing that after acupuncture treatment these regions activities reduced. Acupuncture improves stress induce memory impairment and increases AchE activity in the hippocampus. Acupuncture reduces stress hormone level such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, neuropeptide Y and ACTH; Acupuncture increases production of endogenous opioids--endorphins that affect the autonomic nervous system decreasing the sympathetic nerve activities. Acupuncture reduces inflammation and stress induced changes. These researches provide evidence that acupuncture is effective to release stress, anxiety and mood changes.
Anxiety impairs immune function, acupuncture reverses it.
It is widely accepted that anxiety impaired immune system function. Immune system defended you from illness. If your immune system is compromised, it does no good to your health.
Arranz L et al studied the effect of acupuncture in 34 women aged 30-60 with anxiety diagnosed and impaired immune function. Acupuncture was performed manually on 19 acupoints. A single session 30 min was employed. Before acupuncture and 72 hours after acupuncture, immune function was measured by blood test. They found that the best effect was seen at 72 hours after a single acupuncture treatment. They also studied long term effect of acupuncture. 12 patients completed 10 sessions in a year until the anxiety symptoms disappeared. The immune function was measured after a month at the end of a year treatment. They found that the immune function in these women was returned to the level closed to that in healthy control women. This study suggested that acupuncture improve immune function in women caused by anxiety.
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