Anxiety can affect any of us, in different ways and at different times, whereas stress can come and go according to changes in the cause (e.g. work, relationship or money problems). Anxiety can persist; whether you know the cause or not. It can make you imagine that things in your life are worse than they really are, and can prevent you from confronting your fears – you might even think you’re going mad. However, it’s important to realise that anxiety is normal and is part of your body’s protective system.
Everyone has an internal alarm system that’s designed to protect you from danger. It enhances your alertness by giving you a boost of adrenaline. This increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen going to your limbs. When you’re anxious, your sympathetic nervous system—the one that controls your “fight or flight” system—takes over, whereas your parasympathetic (“rest and digest” system) is stifled. This explains why your heart hammers in your chest and you can feel short of breath as anxiety takes hold in you.
Acupuncture treatment helps shift the body back into a relaxed state where the sympathetic system is more balanced and no longer dominating.
Acupuncture is one of the most used complementary methods in psychiatric care and can be interpreted in neuro-physiological terms. Acupuncture affects the autonomic nervous system, the release of several neurotransmitters and hormones, the HPA-axis and the limbic system (Fang et al., 2009) and it alters the balance of prefrontal cortex activity, resulting in relaxation and decreased anxiety (Sakatani, Kitagawa, Aoyama, & Sasaki, 2010).