Acupuncture Emotional Support
Acupuncture is best known for its treatment of pain management, or simply getting rid of pain. Usually, when we speak about pain management or pain relief, it’s physical pain symptoms. However, acupuncture is incredibly successful in dealing with internal medicine issues as well, including emotional concerns. This page is all about how we use Acupuncture Emotional Support and Psychological Disorders.
Mind and Body Intertwined
In Chinese Medicine, consciousness resides throughout the body, holistically integrated. Therefore, emotional responses are not just felt in the mind, but are present throughout the body. The storing of not fully processed emotions have a physiological effect on the body. Anytime a feeling comes up but is not able to be fully felt and moved through, the body holds onto that experience and this produces symptoms that wreck more havoc on the body than simply emotional distress. Fortunately, the connection of emotions and their impact on the body has been observed through centuries. And recorded with the empirical evidence of how to treat those conditions. In Chinese Medicine, each of the major organs in the body are related to five elements that are also paired with an emotion. The pairings are as follows:
- Water – fear – kidney – bladder
- Wood – anger – liver – gall bladder
- Fire – joy/excitement – heart – small intestine
- Earth – worry – spleen – stomach
- Metal – grief – lung – large intestine
Four Major Categories of Emotional and Psychological Disorders
- Stress, anger, irritability
- Anxiety (PTSD, Panic Attacks)
Stress is something that all of us experience at least occasionally, but often times more consistently. This can come from financial worries, health concerns, employment dynamics, and interpersonal relationships. While we may try to show up fully for our lives, stress can prevent us from participating as fully as we may desire. It also changes the way we respond to situations, including acting with less patience, more irritability, and inappropriate anger. Acupuncture has been shown to lower the hormones and neurotransmitters associated with stress. When untreated, stress can have impact on “digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality, and energy storage and expenditure”.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide, and fortunately there is plenty of research showing how acupuncture helps. There is a wide spectrum of the severity of how anxiety affects people. Many people experience some form of anxiety occasionally as one end of the spectrum, such as social anxiety in certain settings. But others have symptoms so severe that their ability to react to a stressful situation is greatly impaired or altogether impossible. Some of the more minor symptoms can be just an ominous feeling in the pit of the stomach. However, on the other end of the spectrum, some people suffer much worse, becoming unable to live an active, engaged life.
Anxiety can trigger the following responses:
- physical, such as an irregular heartbeat, upset stomach, feelings of heat rushing up, etc
- cognitive, including inability to focus, think clearly, remember facts or faces, etc
- behavioral, such as feeling “shut down”, unconnected, or uncharacteristic restlessness, etc
- emotional, including getting caught in unproductive loops of cascades of emotions, etc
Chinese medicine examines the constellation of symptoms presented in an individual with anxiety and has many different diagnoses and treatment strategies appropriate for each specific case. One of them is differentiated as an imbalance between the kidney and heart. As noted above, fire represents the heart and joy/happiness according to the five elements. Thus too much heat in the heart will cause an imbalance in the interaction with the kidney (represented as water and fear). The result of this imbalance is that the kidney, associated with the water element, is unable to balance the heart and its corresponding fire, which leads to anxiety, sleep troubles, and even urinary tract infections. However, many different organs can be involved in anxiety, and taking into consideration other signs and symptoms, the specific Chinese medicine diagnosis will be determined.
It is estimated that approximately one in five people will experience clinical depression at least once in their lifetime. Although it is natural to feel sad and down at times, especially after experiencing loss, these slight effects can be managed with gradual lifestyle adjustments. Clinical depression, however, refers to a long-lasting and intense emotional, physical and cognitive state that greatly affects day-to-day life. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as a viable treatment. Symptoms include:
- Loss of positive associations and sense of achievement (lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities)
- Negative thoughts (often worrying about the future)
- Irritability, agitation and exhaustion
- Changes in sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
- Hopelessness (feeling trapped or even suicidal)
Qi Stagnation – the cause of depression
The causes of depression vary, but oftentimes it has to do with qi becoming stagnant in the body. Instead of qi and blood smoothly flowing harmoniously, qi stagnation is a blockage in this circulation, which makes those who suffer from depression feel stuck in place, in a holding pattern. There are contributing factors that may come from other organs, but oftentimes the liver is involved. The main organ responsible for circulating qi is the liver, and depression is considered to be a problem with circulating qi around the body.
There may be other root causes, such as a deficiency of qi, which then isn’t enough to keep things moving, or excess, which is so much pent up emotion that builds up to such an extreme that it can’t move smoothly. Other organs such as the heart and spleen also play supporting roles, but depression can come from many places. One of the more common acupuncture treatment used to increase the flow of qi is a treatment called The Four Gates. This treatment stimulates points on both hands between the thumb and index finger and on both feet between the big toe and second toe.
The Chinese consider insomnia differently than we do in the West. Again, it’s manifestation in Chinese medicine is seen as a symptom of an underlying imbalance — and people present with different patterns which acupuncturists treat accordingly. When you treat the pattern, the symptoms tend to fall away.
These patterns, to use the acupuncture terminology, might be “liver qi” stagnation, “heart fire” or “kidney yin deficiency” and they’ll manifest slightly different patterns of insomnia. If someone can’t fall asleep, this is treated differently than if you can fall asleep, but you can’t stay asleep. Therefore, when patients get treated for insomnia, the practitioner will want to know the sleep patterns. Sometimes vivid dreams or nightmares are causing someone to wake frequently throughout the night. Due to the elemental connection to different organs, particular themes in dreams may also indicate different imbalances. For example, if you dream of forests, the liver (wood element) may need to be addressed versus if you dream of the ocean, your kidney (water element) may need the focus. Acupuncture can uniquely address your concerns.
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