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Home > Newsletters > July 2010 > Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Acupuncture Treatment

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Acupuncture Treatment

Anxiety and AcupunctureBy Li Zhang L.Ac. MD. MS.

Recently, I have been getting a lot of phone calls asking me if acupuncture can treat Anxiety disorders. My answer is always yes. I have treated over forty patients with Anxiety; acupuncture is indeed a powerful treatment for depression and Anxiety. Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%). In a given year, it affects women twice more than men. In Western medicine, generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD) is a psychological and physiological state characterized by excessive, exaggerated Anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of GAD tend to always expect disaster and can't stop worrying about things such as health, money, family, work, or school. In people with GAD, the worry often is unrealistic or out of proportion for the situation. Therefore, daily life becomes a constant state of worry, fear, and dread. Eventually, the Anxiety dominates the person's thinking and eventually interferes with daily functioning.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), generalized Anxiety disorder is understood as a disorder of Shan You Si ( 善 忧 思) or YuZhen (郁 证). Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views Anxiety not as a brain dysfunction, but more as an inner organs dysfunction. TCM theory holds that each of the Zang Organs plays a role in the emotions. Emotions and organ’s health are intimately connected. Zang organs can develop imbalances and dysfunctions due to dietary, environmental, lifestyle, and hereditary factors. By understanding these connections, we can see how Anxiety disorder might be due to an imbalance and dysfunction in different organs. Worry, dwelling, or focusing too much on a particular topic, excessive mental work are symptoms of a Spleen disorder. Lack of enthusiasm and Vitality, mental restlessness, depression, insomnia, despair are symptoms of a Heart disorder. Liver emotional symptoms are anger, resentment, frustration, irritability, bitterness, and "flying off the handle.” With Lung disorders, we see more grief, sadness, and detachment. And finally, with an imbalance of the Kidneys, a person may be fearful, insecure, aloof, isolated, and have weak willpower. While the Heart Zang is said to store the Shen or spirit, in all Anxiety cases, the Shen is disturbed. While a generalized Anxiety disorder always affects the Shen, either primarily or secondarily, calming and harmonizing the Shen will be the fundamental treatment. TCM classifies the cause of the disorders according to the extent to which individual Zang Organs demonstrate signs and symptoms of disturbance and the extent to which their Qi is affected. In Anxiety, the most common injured organs are the Spleen and Heart. When there is a disturbance in one or more of these Zang organs from any cause, an imbalanced emotional state can happen. Therefore, Anxiety will be divided into several different types by Chinese Medicine:

1. Heart/Spleen Qi Deficiency: preoccupation, obsessive worry, aversion to speaking, palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, poor appetite, abdominal distention, teeth mark in the tongue, a pale tongue, and weak pulse.

2. Liver Qi Stagnation Affecting the Spleen: preoccupation, feelings of irritability, moodiness, poor appetite, hypochondriac tightness or pain, muscular tension, fatigue, alternating constipation and loose stools, a pale or dusky tongue with distended sublingual veins, and a wiry-weak pulse.

3. Kidney Qi Deficiency: preoccupation, feelings of fear and dread, and may be accompanied by lower back and knee weakness, lack of sexual desire, frequent urination, cold hands and feet, a pale tongue, and a weak pulse.

4. Lung Qi Deficiency: preoccupation, rapidly changing moods, sadness and easily feeling grief and loss, inability to "let go," aversion to speaking, shortness of breath, fatigue, sweating easily upon exertion, a weak cough, throat discomfort, a pale tongue with a thin white coating, and a thin pulse.

Acupuncture therapy is an ancient Chinese treatment method. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that health is dependent on Qi – which. when in good health, moves in a smooth and balanced way through a chain of fourteen main channels (meridians). By inserting needles into the points which belong to different meridians, we stimulate body's energy (Qi) to start the healing process and assist it to restore its natural balance.

Different Types of Anxiety Acupuncture Treatment

1. Heart/Spleen Qi Deficiency: sishencong(EX-HN1), shaohai(HT3), shenmen((HT7), daling(PC7), danzhong(CV17), zhongwan(CV12), qihai(CV6), yinlinquan(SP9), fenglong(ST40), Sanyinjiao(SP6)

2. Liver Qi Stagnation Affecting the Spleen: sishencong(EX-HN1), yintang(EX-HN3), taiyang(EX-HN5), waiguan(SJ10), yemen(SJ2), qimen(LR14), daimai(GB26), xuehai(SP10) yinlinquan(SP9), zusanli(ST36), ligou(LR5), taicong(LR3)

3. Kidney Qi Deficiency: sishencong(EX-HN1), yintang(EX-HN3), chize(LU6), neiguan(PC6),guanyuan(CV4), zhongji(CV3), shengting(GV24), jiaoxin(KI8), taixi(KI3), shenmai(BL62), kunlun(BL60)

4. Lung Qi Deficiency: sishencong(EX-HN1), yintang(EX-HN3), yutang(CV18),quci(LI 11), kongzui(LU6), lieque(LU7), zusanli(ST36), xiajuxu(ST39), fenglong(ST40), neiting(ST44)

For better results of Anxiety treatment, I also encourage patients to make changes in their lifestyles to help balance their mind; to help circulate their own energy and study a form of meditation to learn how to control and relax mind. Activities such as Taiji , Qigong and Yoga are excellent forms of mind-body exercise that can improve the ability to control both Anxiety and depression. Practicing these arts in conjunction with regular acupuncture treatments will provide the foundation for a positive change and medication free in an Anxiety patient’s life.


About The Author:  Dr. Li Zhang is a licensed acupuncturist with over fifteen years of experience in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. She is the president in Qi for Life Acupuncture Clinic in Brentwood, Tennessee. www.qiforlife.com

This Month's Articles

July 2010
Volume 8, Number 7

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Acupuncture Treatment

Balancing the Emotions 

The Yin and Yang of Your Body

Recent Research

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