From a Chinese medicine perspective, human psychology is not separate from the body or spirit.
Acupuncture for Stress, Anxiety & Depression
It is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with around 1 million adults experiencing depression, and over 2 million adults experiencing anxiety, in any one year in Australia.
Chinese medicine is widely accepted as a viable treatment for pain and functional disease, but it is less widely known that it also has a powerful psychological effect.
Is there any evidence that it works?
There is high level western scientific evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment for anxiety, including for patients with chronic anxiety symptoms that have proven resistant to other forms of treatment.
The most recent (2018) systematic review (the gold standard of western scientific evidence) concluded that of the 13 studies reviewed, “all reported an anxiety decrease for their treatment group relative to the control groups”, including 3 studies that used pharmaceuticals as controls.
Another large study, which included 120 randomized patients, found that acupuncture had a large effect on reducing anxiety and depression compared to conventional treatment involving pharmacological approaches and psychotherapy.
There is also high-level western scientific evidence to support the use of acupuncture for treating anxiety and depression during pregnancy.
How does acupuncture work for Anxiety & Depression?
From a western medicine point of view, acupuncture is thought to have a reducing effect on stress, anxiety and depression due to its ability to affect the autonomic nervous system (which regulates the involuntary functions of the human body such as heart rate, muscle tone etc).
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has revealed that acupuncture evokes deactivation of the limbicparalimbic-neocortical network (LPNN) / default mode network which is thought may enhance the connectivity of brain networks and function in analgesia, anti-anxiety and anti-depression.
Despite such promising research, significant scientific gaps remain in the understanding of the relationship between these mechanisms and the observed responses to acupuncture in clinical trials.
Chinese Medicine for Anxiety & Depression?
From a Chinese medicine perspective, human psychology is not separate from the body or spirit. All three of these elements (body, mind and spirit) are considered expressions of qi of different density and structure, but qi all the same. Qi of the spirit is more ephemeral than qi of the mind, and both are less dense and physically structured than qi of the blood, bones and muscles of the physical body. The lines between them are blurred but intrinsically linked by the complex pathways of channels that circulate qi and blood from the deepest parts of the body, through every tissue and every cell, even encompassing the mind and spirit, of the integrated whole.
Acupuncturists are able to affect human psychology and the physical symptoms that accompany stress, anxiety and depression, by inserting hair-thin needles into specific acupuncture points around the body to access this complex network. Healing occurs when balance and harmony is restored to the flow of qi and blood in the body.
If you are suffering from panic attacks or other anxiety symptoms or depression symptoms, see what Chinese medicine can do for you.
Yoga for Stress, Anxiety, Depression & Pain
For the last 5000 years, Chinese medicine has considered the human organism as being a united body, mind and spirit, with no separation between these 3 elements, with each element reflecting the state of health of all others. Now, there is also a growing body of scientific evidence that demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent.
Yoga has been scientifically studied as a possible treatment for depression and anxiety since its introduction to the west in the 1970s. The most recent systematic review (2017) and meta-analysis (2016) examining the benefits and effectiveness of Hatha yoga for managing anxiety and depression symptoms found that it statistically and clinically reduced the severity of anxiety and depression symptoms (14) (15), with treatment efficacy associated with the total number of hours practiced (16).
Yoga is not about tying yourself in knots or becoming super flexible. Yoga involves gentle physical movement combined with breathing and mindfulness practices. It is suitable for every body, no matter age, fitness or experience.
How can Yoga help?
Recent studies of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress by balancing the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
There is evidence that yoga helps to increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body's ability to respond to stress more flexibly. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, lowering blood pressure and respiration rate. Regular yoga practice also reduces muscle tension, increases vagal tone, modulates neuroendocrine release, and causes change in neurophysiology; all of which have a positive effect on anxiety and depression symptoms.
Multiple studies have found that regular yoga practice also contributes to emotional and psychological wellbeing with participants reporting an increased connection with spirituality, a sense of gaining control over ones life, increased self-confidence, increased self-awareness, increased capacity to meet the challenges of life, self-acceptance and openness to change; all of which lead to increased life-satisfaction and overall improved quality of life (17).
Yoga & Depression / Anxiety-related Pain
A small study done at the University of Utah provided some insight into the effect of yoga on the stress response by looking at the participants' responses to pain. The researchers noted that people who have a poorly regulated response to stress are also more sensitive to pain. The studies subjects were 12 experienced yoga practitioners, 14 people with fibromyalgia (a condition many researchers consider a stress-related illness that is characterized by hypersensitivity to pain), and 16 healthy volunteers.
When the three groups were subjected to the same painful thumbnail pressure, the participants with fibromyalgia — as expected — perceived pain at lower pressure levels compared with the other subjects. Functional MRIs showed they also had the greatest activity in areas of the brain associated with the pain response. In contrast, the yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-related brain activity during the MRI.
This study underscores the value of techniques such as yoga, to help people regulate their stress and, therefore, pain responses (18).
14. Bridges L, Sharma M. The Efficacy of Yoga as a Form of Treatment for Depression. J Evid-Based Complement Altern Med. 2017 Oct;22(4):101728 15. Hofmann SG, Andreoli G, Carpenter JK, Curtiss J. Effect of Hatha Yoga on Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis. J Evid-Based Med [Internet]. 2016 May 20; Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5116432/ 16. Effect of Hatha Yoga on Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jan 2]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5116432/ 17. Hanson R. Yoga for Depression and Anxiety: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Master Soc Work Clin Res Pap Univ Univ St Omas [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2019 Feb 1]; Available from: https://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1591&context=msw_papers 18. Yoga for anxiety and depression - Harvard Health [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jan 3]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu