Mental health is too often a taboo topic that is not discussed enough, and as a result, alternative treatments for mental and emotional difficulties don’t get the spotlight they deserve. This is problematic because certain treatments have been demonstrated to be just as, if not more, effective than conventional therapy. One of those treatments is acupuncture for mental health.
This article is intended to rectify that. We will shed some light on how acupuncture can help with general stress and anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and contribute to your mental and emotional health. So let’s delve into how acupuncture helps with:
In general terms, acupuncture can help regulate your emotions, improving your overall mental well-being. The process by which acupuncture accomplishes this is a matter of perspective. From the viewpoint of Western medicine, it stimulates the production of beneficial hormones that impact your mood and emotions.
It has been scientifically proven that the stimulation of specific acupoints can affect the functioning of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a vital system within your body that is connected to the central nervous and endocrine systems. Among other roles, the HPA axis regulates your body’s hormonal levels, so stimulating it can balance the hormones that affect your mood.
From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture for mental health helps by restoring your body’s proper flow of Qi. Qi is the vital energy that flows through 14 meridians in your body; when that energy flow is disrupted, you start to experience emotional issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression. As the proper flow of energy is restored, so are the symptoms of these issues lessened.
However, the concept of Qi is much more complex, far too complex to be explained in one paragraph. If you are interested, you can learn more about Qi and how it relates to acupuncture for emotional health here. Ultimately, it is less important whether acupuncture for mental health helps by regulating your hormone levels, your Qi, or both; what is important is that one of the long-term benefits of acupuncture is an improvement in your overall emotional well-being.
Now, let us be more specific and talk about how it helps with:
- Stress and anxiety
- Sleep disorders
Benefits of Acupuncture for Anxiety and Stress
While stress is most often caused by direct external factors and anxiety can arise from internal negative thoughts or feelings, they are closely interlinked, feed on one another, and your body responds in a similar manner to these emotions. Thus, solutions to stress also help with anxiety and vice-versa.
One of the ways that acupuncture for anxiety and stress helps is by lowering your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by your adrenal gland that performs many important functions within your body and the production increases when you are under stress. It is your body’s natural response and has multiple benefits, such as boosting your immune system to fight off inflammation.
However, having high levels of cortisol for long periods of time has many negative effects, from purely physiological ones, such as increasing your chances of type 2 diabetes, to psychological ones, such as feeling constantly anxious. Acupuncture sessions can regulate cortisol levels, thereby helping you feel less stressed and anxious.
In addition, anxiety and stress often lead to physical tension. Acupuncture treatments improve blood flow and oxygenation, helping you feel less tense. In total, it has been demonstrated that acupuncture for mental health is an effective treatment for stress and general anxiety disorders.
How Acupuncture for Mental Health Helps with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Similarly to treating general anxiety and stress, it can be used as a complementary therapy to manage the symptoms of PTSD. Some of the manifestations of PTSD include negative mood swings, hyperarousal, and a feeling of being constantly on edge. By helping a person relax and feel more balanced, acupuncture can contribute to managing some of the symptoms of PTSD.
Acupuncture for Depression
In addition to assisting with stress and anxiety, acupuncture for mental health can help treat symptoms of depression. A review of 207 clinical studies that relate to the effects of acupuncture on depressive disorders found that acupuncture, as monotherapy, is comparable to antidepressants for alleviating the symptoms of major depressive disorder.
Moreover, acupuncture has one significant advantage over antidepressants – the adverse effects are significantly less negative than the adverse effects of antidepressants. On top of that, there is an indirect way that acupuncture helps fight depression.
Because chronic pain often exacerbates symptoms of depression, pain management acupuncture, which can relieve both acute and chronic pain, can be an effective treatment for people whose depression is closely linked to the pain they experience.
Acupuncture for Insomnia
Finally, insomnia is a mental health condition that severely impacts a person’s quality of life and can be a major contributing factor to many physical and mental health issues. Studies have estimated that 10% to 15% of the population suffers from chronic, while an additional 25% to 35% suffers from occasional insomnia.
The exact cause-and-effect relationship between insomnia and other disorders is not always clear, i.e., whether insomnia causes, for example, chronic stress or whether the reverse is true. However, what is clear is that disrupted sleep patterns negatively contribute to a person’s mental and emotional health.
Typically, insomnia is treated with a combination of medications, herbal, or psychological therapy. A meta-analysis of clinical trials that studied acupuncture therapy for insomnia, which included 3811 patients in total, found that:
- Acupuncture had beneficial effects when compared to patients with no treatments;
- There was no difference between acupuncture and medication treatments in average sleep duration;
- Acupuncture in combination with medication was more effective than medication alone;
- Acupuncture in combination with herbal therapy was more effective than medication alone;
- There were no serious side effects that were related to these treatments.
Thus, acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for insomnia and, in turn, also a complementary treatment for other mental health issues that can be caused by insomnia.
Mental Health Treatments Aren’t A One-Size-Fits-All
Anxiety and stress, PTSD, depression, and insomnia can be caused by a range of factors and manifest in many ways. While the potential benefits of acupuncture for mental health are many, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every person. To get the most out of treatments, you need an experienced acupuncture practitioner who takes a holistic approach.
That is what BH Acuhealth Clinic provides. We are committed to providing the utmost compassion and care to each patient, and that includes consulting with other medical professionals when necessary. We specialize in acupuncture for emotional and mental health – make an appointment and let’s work together to find a treatment plan that will alleviate any issues you may have.