Stress, Anxiety, Depression & Insomnia

Anyone can be affected by stress, life can throw many curved balls at us and situations can become very challenging, especially if there are a number of difficult things going on all at once! Or maybe you feel stressed and you dont know why? Sometimes a person might feel a permanant low mood and cant put their finger on what’s wrong. Eitherway, giving yourself extra support during this time is very beneficial. Acupuncture is an excellent treatment to help individuals feel calmer, more emotionally balanced and resillient. Individuals often comment on feeling stronger in themselves after treatment and a lot better able to cope with life.

Anxiety and depression cause heightened emotional states in individuals which can become debilitating in some cases. Often with anxiety people feel unable to cope with the pressures in their lives, affecting their ability to concentrate and function, this inevitably creates more tension. Anxiety affects people in different ways and can range from intense paralysing fear and panic attacks in some individuals, to milder forms of anxiety where a person can often feel ill at ease, nervous and restless in different situations, perhaps not understanding why. Depression also comes in many forms but feelings of despair and hopelessness accompanied by a very low mood is common. Levels of motivation are then affected and the person ends up with little desire to do much, accompanied by an inability to feel happiness in situations which would normally trigger a positive mood.

Acupuncture can help in many different ways:

Acupuncture treatment really helps to regulate the nervous system in anxiety, balancing the emotions and calming the mind. With depression, treatment helps to lift mood, increase motivation and energy levels. This inevitably helps people to engage more with their life, become more active and feel more positive about themselves generally. The goal of treatment is always ultimately to treat the root cause of the condition, strengthening and reconnecting a person with themselves so they feel calmer, have more emotional resilience and mental clarity. My role as an acupuncturist is also to help individuals identify dietary and other lifestyle changes that may also be helpful in overcoming anxiety and depression.

Research has shown that acupuncture may specifically benefit anxiety and depression in the following ways:

  • Acupuncture is believed to affect the brain’s mood chemistry by regulating levels of neurotransmitters and hormones such as serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine to name a few. This helps to combat negative affective states.
  • Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system while acupuncture is believed to activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system which initiates the relaxation response.
  • The analytical brain can intensify in activity and processing during anxiety, creating heightened emotional states. Acupuncture treatment is believed to help regulate the
  • Analytical brain during anxiety and promote more relaxation and calm, returning the person to more rational and calmer states of mind.
  • Some of the most recent research suggests that depression is associated with dysfunction in the way that parts of the resting brain interact with eachother; acupuncture has been shown to be capable of changing the ‘default mode network’, but the effect goes beyond that of expectation/placebo.
  • Acupuncture can be safely combined with conventional treatments such as medication and counselling. Treatment will help to reduce the unwanted side effects of medication and enhance their beneficial effects. During a course of acupuncture treatment, once people begin to feel better in themselves, it is possible to reduce the dose if appropriate, individuals would need to consult with their doctor first however.


Acupuncture and Insomnia

Acupuncture treatment is effective for regulating disturbed sleep patterns. Insomnia can often be part of an anxiety disorder or accompany depression, at other times it can develop after a stressful life event/situation and occasionally it can just appear out of the blue. In most cases, longterm sleep deprivation can create low mood and and anxiety, to what extent, depends on the individual.

Acupuncture can be profoundly calming and relax the mind. Improvement in sleep patterns can be quite dramatic after treatment or with others it will improve gradually over a course of treatment to the point where no more treatment is required.

Reviews are consistent in showing that most clinical trials have found acupuncture to be significantly more effective in improving sleep patterns than hypnotic drugs (usually benzodiazepines). Meta-analysis supports these conclusions.

Research has shown that acupuncture may specifically be of benefit in:

  • reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, hence increasing relaxation
  • increasing nocturnal endogenous melatonin secretions
  • stimulating opioid production and u-opioid receptor activity
  • increasing cerebral blood flow
  • regulating levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and GABA, hence altering the brain’s mood chemistry to help increase relaxation and reduce tension.
  • acupuncture can be safely combined with conventional treatments for insomnia, such as benzodiazepines, helping to reduce their side effects and enhance their beneficial effects.