Emotional and psychological symptoms are some of the most widely studied in relation to acupuncture due to their prevalence in the world. The onset of stress can cause symptoms that range from mood swings to addictive tendencies. The source of these emotional and psychological symptoms is often chemical imbalances. By bringing down your stress threshold, you will have a better chance of alleviating symptoms of:
- Chronic Stress
- Bi-Polar Disorder
- Chronic Fatigue
Chronic Stress: Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia
Our stress response is a natural process that helps us cope with change. When we encounter an immediate threat, the series of chemical reactions triggered by our autonomic nervous systems (ANS) – or our “fight-or-flight” response – becomes self-limiting to the excess amounts of Adrenaline and Cortisol that is produced. The over-activity of our HPA-axis (made up of our hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands) can lead the acute stress into the stages of chronic stress.
Chronic stress develops when there is a constant increase in stress hormones in the body that are generally sustained for long periods of time. The body learns to stay in a state of stress as a protective mechanism and this can manifest as anxiety, depression and insomnia.
It’s been suggested through controlled studies that acupuncture can be a healing modality to help normalize stress hormone levels, as it stimulates the conduction of electromagnetic signals that could be connected to Enkephalin – a chemical involved in managing pain sensation. This is said to stimulate the body’s natural opioid system in order to reduce anxiety, help create a state of calmness and even induce sleep.
The stimulation of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland also impacts numerous body systems, helping to relieve symptoms of chronic stress. The change in secretion of neurotransmitters and neuro-hormones is highly significant to positively influencing a person’s brain chemistry and mental wellness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) Perspective
There are a large number of acupuncture points that can address symptoms of chronic stress. These points vary on the specificity of the condition. In general, TCM is a strong proponent of organ-emotion connections as the emotional and physical body are interconnected and strongly influence one other. For example, fear is seen as directly affecting the kidneys.The adrenal glands, a crucial part of how stress is regulated in the body, also happen to lie directly on top of the kidneys. This is considered to be the core organ associated with any kind of symptoms related to fear.
Fear presents externally in the form of:
- Panic attacks
- Heart palpitations
- Digestive distress
- Fear of death
Fear also drives Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is linked to excess adrenaline levels brought on by an onset of stress. The release of the body’s natural opioids can help to bring these adrenaline levels down.