Anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental disorders which affects 1 in 4 Australians at some time in their life. Women are more likely to develop anxiety than men however, the cause of this is not known why. Anxiety has a huge impact on a person’s day-to-day life.  Many people who suffer from anxiety are not able to stop worrying, overthinking or analysing what might go wrong today. Anxiety can affect your sleep, concentration and day to day tasks such as going to work, going to school and household chores. Anxiety from a body’s point of view is a form of self-protection – it’s there to help us survive from stress and from environmental dangers however once the stress is gone our body should return to normal.

For people suffering from anxiety – their body does not know how to separate what is actual stress and what is perceived stress and danger.  As a result, their body is constantly in a state of stress and perceived danger. This in the long term also affects their immune system, sleep patterns and concentration.

To an anxious person, everything is heightened and is perceived differently. They have trouble reading other people’s emotions and are in a constant state of fight or flight. Over worrying and overthinking about every little detail. This in term can begin to affect how they interact with others, how they communicate and can also cause panic attacks, social anxiety and a fear of going out. 

Anxiety can present with many different symptoms including shortness of breath, heart palpitations, trembling hands, panic attacks and over analysing or over worrying about situations. Anxiety from a Western perspective can be caused by ongoing stress, family background issues, physical health issues and from a traumatic event.  

So how does Chinese medicine assist with anxiety?  Chinese medicine sees anxiety from a different perspective. 

In Chinese medicine anxiety is caused by disharmony between the main organs.

 The main organs associated with Anxiety are the Kidney, Spleen, Liver and the heart.

Each of these organs is associated with an emotion – the liver will be quick to anger, spleen is excessive worry, kidneys are fear and anxiety and heart with joy. A lack of balance or harmony between these organs causes all the main organs to be out of balance.

 The way in which Chinese medicine works is to rebalance the stuck energy or the energy that is blocked  to enable the flow of Qi and blood to be free and flowing, this reharmonizes the organs and assists with helping those signs and symptoms perceived with anxiety and  can assist with reducing over worry,  excess fear, heart palpitations and ringing in their ears. Chinese medicine diagnoses anxiety from three major patterns; each of which is based on an individual persons signs and symptoms. These patterns include Heat and Yin deficiency, blood deficiency and disharmony between the heart and kidneys. 

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine assist with anxiety by working together in harmony with the body’s own healing process. Fine filiform sterile needles are inserted into different acupuncture points to assist with helping the body to reharmonize the energy which has become stuck and to build up organs (mainly the Spleen, heart, kidney and liver) that have become weak (deficient). In treating anxiety, we use the combination of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine to reinforce the acupuncture treatment and provide tonifying herbs to help your body to assist in restoring the organ’s function and energy back to its optimal state for the individual person.

5 Ways that Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can assist with Anxiety:

  1. From a Chinese herbal medicine perspective there are a few formulas that we can use to assist with the signs and symptoms of Anxiety. These formulas are known as TONICS. The main action of the tonics is to build up the heart and spleen and reduce inflammation in the body there’s also.
  2. Treat the “shen”, which houses the heart or the spirit of the body. As described above, anxiety and stress go hand in hand so it’s important to treat the spleen, heart, and kidneys to restore the function of these organs.
  3. Food AS Medicine.
    Include in your food:
    * eating bitter foods, this is the taste of the heart and it’s the bitterness of taste works on the heart that can enable heart palpitations to be reduced. Include bitter-tasting foods in your diet such as – bitter melon, apricots, winter melon, asparagus, avocado, bananas, and broccoli. Brown rice, dried fruit, grapes, and leafy green vegetables are also good as these work on the spleen organ.
    calming herbs such as including chamomile, passionflower, valerian – these calm down the sympathetic nervous system.

    Foods to avoid:
    * caffeine such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate and reduce alcohol and sugar. Caffeine is an adrenal stimulant and causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, further draining the body’s energy resources. (When we are stressed and anxious the body is already in adrenal “overload” and using too much energy).  Caffeine and other stimulants affect the kidney organ and the adrenal gland, causing these organs to be drained and depleted in energy. An increase in adrenaline increases anxiety and causes “toxic heat” to build up in the body – which can cause irritation, frustration, and anger in the body.
    * Processed foods and sugary foods also deplete the B vitamins and its natural environment in the body leading to an energy crash, therefore it is essential to avoid processed foods and sugary foods.  Instead, eat a diet rich in protein fruit and vegetables. For those that suffer from anxiety, a diet rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and potassium is important. You also need to consume vitamin D and vitamin E as these vitamins are depleted by stress.  will attach some recipes that can be used for anxiety is well.

  4. MINDFULNESS & EXERCISE– Practicing mindfulness is essential in assisting with the signs and symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorders.
    * Meditation, walking barefoot on the grass, practicing deep breathing techniques all assist to ground and decentre us. Even if you feel a panic attack coming on, deep breathing can stop it in its tracks.
    * Exercise also helps. Practicing tai chi, yoga, deep breathing, and Qi gong are beneficial to assist with the free flow of energy in our body and in recentering us and giving us time out for self-care.
  5. JOURNAL/JOT DOWN WORRIES: For excessive worrying and overthinking I also recommend having a paper and pen (paper pad) next to your bedside table so that if you wake up due to your worries and concerns, you can write them down and your brain will compartmentalize them until the morning.
    Playing nice soft music before bed also prepares the body for sleep and helps to decrease stress within the body.
    Also talking to someone, a friend, colleague, or even a health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist or another allied health practitioner can also assist with the management of stress and anxiety.

If you feel like your anxiety is getting out of control, please talk to someone about it, or call the beyond blue helpline.  IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK.  We all have issues and difficult times when you go through stress and anxiety. I know myself, after my car accident I was terrified about getting in a car again. Even to this day, when I am a passenger and the driver gets too close to the car ahead, I tense up and my heart rate increases, and I can panic. Even now 12 years later, when I hear the squeal of tyres on the road my heart beats faster and I almost have a panic attack, or I go into panic and I have uncontrolled trembling of my hands. This is also my body remembering the trauma that it went through and its association with the squeal of tyres as its trigger.

Book your appointment now, so that we can kick start a treatment plan to help you asses your anxiety and get control of your life back on track so you can relax, rebalance and rejuvenate your health.

Written by Dr Julia Bartrop – Acupuncturist and busy mum of 2.

If you require urgent assistance you can also contact Beyond Blue – phone: 1300 22 4636