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Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, separation anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder, are the most prevalent mental disorders, affecting a large number of people all over the world.

According to large population-based surveys, up to 33.7% of the world’s population is affected by anxiety disorder during their lifetime. In the U.S alone, the World Health Organizations statistics indicate that anxiety affects over 40 million (approximately 18.1 percent of total population) adults aged 18 and over every year.

Although anxiety disorders are treatable, there is no evidence that the prevalence rates have changed over past years, mainly because only 36.9 percent of the cases are treated. However, studies indicate that there is a natural decrease in prevalence rates with older age.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a general term for various disorders that cause fear, nervousness, worry, and apprehension. They include panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorders, specific phobias, separation anxiety disorders, substance-induced anxiety disorders, and anxiety due to medical conditions.

These disorders affect how an individual feels and behaves, and in some cases, they can manifest in real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is often indefinite and somehow unsettling while extreme anxiety is extremely debilitating and can even have a serious impact on daily life- it can be disabling. However, individuals affected by the condition can better manage their fear and feelings and get back to a normal, fulfilling life.

What Causes Anxiety?

Researchers do not know what exactly causes anxiety.However, like other forms of mental illnesses, anxiety can be caused by a combination of several factors.

These factors may include:

• Environmentand external considerations including stress about finances and money, stress at work/school, trauma from events such as death of a loved one, abuse, and victimization

• Brain chemistry where according to research, people with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain are more likely to suffer from anxiety-generalized anxiety disorder to be specific.

• Medical factors where anxiety may be caused by medical conditions such as anemia, severe heart conditions, asthma, and infections. Stress from serious medical conditions and side effects of medication are also known to cause anxiety.

• Genetics where research findings indicate that people from families with a history of anxiety are more likely to develop the disorder.

• Substance use and abuse where it’s estimated that approximately half of anxiety patients who seek medical treatment for anxiety disorders do so because of their dependence on drugs and alcohol.

Anxiety Symptoms

All anxiety disorders share some general symptoms including;

• Panic, fear, worrying, restlessness, uneasiness
• Breathing rapidly
• Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
• Excessive sweating
• Trembling
• Increased heart rate
• Having difficulty controlling worry
• Excessive fatigue or feeling weak and tired
• Sleep problems
• Dizziness
• Tense muscles
• Cold,sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet
• Nausea
• Dry mouth
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Western Medical Treatments for Anxiety

Western medical treatments for anxiety disorders mainly target the identified primary underlying cause of these symptoms. These disorders are either treated with medication/pharmacology, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two (Bob Flaws. 2001 and de Beurs et al.).

Antidepressant medications are the drug of choice in the treatment of anxiety disorder in Western medicine. Unlike older Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs), newer antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs),  have a higher ease of use and safer adverse effect profile. Generally, pharmacological treatment leads to a reduced severity of the symptoms of anxiety as well as significant improvement in social and occupational functioning.

Other available treatment options such as behavioral therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have also demonstrated efficacy through controlled studies. Various studies have examined the efficacy of CBT for adult anxiety disorders. In addition, several meta-analyses have been conducted to quantitatively review the evidence of the working of CBT for anxiety disorders.

Meta-analytics reviews of CBT studies in various anxiety disorders have subsequently found large effect sizes (treatment efficacy) for the majority of treatment studies. Recent reviews on these meta-analyses conclude that CBT is effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

In a number of studies, interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) has also shown some efficacy where 8 trials indicated a big effect on people with anxiety disorders after the use of this therapy. The studies also found no evidence that CBT was anymore effective for anxiety disorders than IPT (Cuijipers P. et al.2016).

Acupuncture for Anxiety Treatment – An Effective Treatment Alternative

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that the evidence of the efficacy of the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture in treating anxiety disorders is becoming stronger and stronger. It’s a remedy that is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world due to its many benefits, especially in the treatment of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

In 1997, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) documented and publicized the safety and efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of conditions. Since then, its use in the U.S has become widespread where statistics indicate that approximately 3.1 million people tried the treatment in 2007.

Now there are a plethora of studies supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

One article published in the Journal of Endocrinology presented the results of several animal studies carried out at Georgetown University Medical Center. In the studies, rats that endured highly stressful conditions and then received acupuncture experienced lowered blood hormone levels secreted by the hypothalamus pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls all reactions to stress and regulates various bodily processes such as the immune system, emotions and moods, digestion, and sexuality.

The levels of NPY, which is a peptide secreted during the “fight or flight” response was also measured. According to the study’s author, Eshkevari, electro acupuncture blocked the severe, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones as well as the NPY pathway. Electro acupuncture is a type of acupuncture in which a mild electric current is transmitted through needles.

In another study, four randomized controlled trials (RCTs) mainly focused on generalized anxiety disorder while other six were focused on anxiety in the perioperative period. The trials reported as positive for acupuncture in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, particularly auricular acupuncture which was found to be generally more effective as compared to acupuncture at sham points.

The long-term use of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs is associated with an increased risk of various body complications. Acupuncture is able to replace anxiety medication or even alleviate its severe side effects. These promising findings actually show just how powerful this traditional practice is, and the possibility of it being used exclusively in place of medications to help treat anxiety and other mental illnesses rises by the day.

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At Boca Raton Acupuncture we have successfully treated anxiety and its associated symptoms and we are confident we can help you too. Call today to schedule a free consultation.

 

References:

• https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17641561

• https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/renaissance-woman/201509/acupuncture-stress-and-depression-yes-please