Can Acupuncture Help Anxiety?

anxiety and acupuncture

Chinese Medicine and Anxiety

Did you know that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help with anxiety and other emotional difficulties?

Anxiety is a normal response to stress or danger. When this reaction occurs frequently, at inappropriate times, or chronically, it is considered a disorder. Symptoms vary greatly depending on severity and can happen suddenly or gradually. Additionally those who experience anxiety are twice as likely to experience depression.

Acupuncture has been clinically proven to calm the mind, help sleep patterns, ease tension in the body, and regulate neurotransmitters that are related to mood. Many patients find relief from anxiety and its accompanying symptoms with acupuncture; either on its own or in conjunction with western medicine.

Anxiety can be caused by multiple different energetic patterns. TCM diagnoses patients according to a complex theory based on the specific symptoms an individual presents. So while a group of patients may all seek treatment for the western disease “anxiety” the TCM doctor will diagnose and subsequently treat each patient differently according to the presentation of symptoms. While TCM doesn't have an exact diagnostic equivalent to the western diagnosis of "anxiety" there are a number of conditions that closely correlate. According to TCM, anxiety can be caused by a constitutional weakness, stress leading to either tension or depletion, irregularity in diet and lifestyle, or heavy blood loss (such as during childbirth). 

There are a number of common groupings for anxiety that are seen in clinical practice. Below I discuss a number of these categories. Take a look at the groups below to see where you fit. While this is not an exhaustive or detailed list it should get you started. Keep in mind that self diagnosis can be difficult and treatment with the help of a practitioner is always best. 

In all of the cases below symptoms such as palpations, the heart racing, a feeling of worry or fear, and sleep disruptions are usually present. For ease of use this list does not contain detailed diagnostics including pulse diagnosis which is an important indicator. 

Organ Involvement

Anxiety and its accompanying symptoms are most often considered a disorder of the spirit in TCM because of its close connection to the energetic Heart system. However, at times other organ systems are involved. In my experience the Heart, Spleen, and Kidney are most often related to this condition. When the Heart system is mostly involved the patient will perhaps have a more 'emotional' experience and symptoms related to the chest such as tightness and palpitations. When the Spleen is involved there is more thinking, worrying, repetitive thoughts and perhaps digestive disturbances. When the Kidney is involved there is a deeper sense of fear or fright. 

Blood/Qi Deficiency

In Qi and Blood deficiency there can be paleness (face and/or tongue), and a lack of energy. There can be fatigue, loss of memory and dizziness. In these cases it is important to build up your reserves of energy with adequate rest and regular healthy meals. With blood deficiency the diet should also include healthy sources of iron. 

Yin/Yang Deficiency

With Yin deficiency the person is still depleted but the depletion presents as heat. This person will be more restless, experience more anxiety in the evening, may have night sweats and dryness. Yin deficient type anxiety is seen more commonly in menopausal women. Especially in Yin deficiency assessing what might be depleting the yin; such as staying up too late, sweating too much through hot yoga, or overwork is important. Yang deficiency is also a depletion but instead there is a lack of the warming quality of yang, so there will be a feeling of cold, cold hands and feet, and paleness.    

Qi Stagnation

With any kind of stagnation in the body there is usually a sense of "stuckness". This can manifest as a feeling of not being able to move forward in life, or a sense of tension and built up energy. Depending on the organ involved this person will experience a feeling of distention (sensation of pushing outward - similar to the feeling of bloating) in either the chest or abdomen, more sighing, and perhaps have a slight purple color either on the lips, or tongue.    

Excess Heat and Phlegm

This is usually a more serious case where excess heat and the accumulation of an energetic substance called "phlegm" is obstructing the mind causing erratic or hyper activity. Dreams are heightened, there can be the presence of physical phlegm in the throat, constipation, and a flushed face.    

Rebellious Qi

Another less common and generally more serious extension of anxiety in Chinese Medicine is rebellious Qi causing 'internal urgency". This is most similar to a "panic attack" in western medicine. The sensation of movement or tightness beginning in the abdomen and radiating upward toward the heart indicates an involvement of a channel in the body called the "Chong". A more detailed analysis of symptoms is required for full treatment of this manifestation.


If you suffer from bouts of anxiety or depression you may want to try acupuncture. I have a special interest in the field of TCM psychology and have had many positive outcomes with clients. If you're local to Victoria BC you can visit me here for more info.