Stress & Anxiety
1 in 6 people in the UK will experience a common mental health issue every year.
The signs of stress can vary from one individual to the next. They may manifest physically as an illness, tiredness or as sore, tight muscles. Mental stress can result in depression, anxiety, mood swings, anger, frustration, confusion, or erratic sleep patterns.
Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD),panic disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) & post
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can be chronic & cause considerable distress & disability; if left untreated, are costly to both the individual & society. As well as emotional symptoms such as worry, disturbed sleep, irritability & poor concentration, anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, nausea, diarrhoea, dry mouth, palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, cold hands, muscle tension & aches.
There has been surprisingly little research on generalised or chronic anxiety; much more for situational anxiety, for example pre-operative, exam-related or associated with stressful work. The results have been consistently positive, with fewer side effects than conventional treatment, acupuncture could be considered as one possible therapeutic option alongside the existing repertoire.
PTSD is also an area where the BAcC has been research-active. Acupuncture is also much used for treating veterans in the US, through the Veterans Authority, & for serving personnel within the military. In a systematic review of seven randomised trials there were significant differences favouring acupuncture (versus other comparisons) on PTSD symptoms, at post-intervention & at longer follow-up.
In general, research shows that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, while acupuncture may activate the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response, thus promoting physical and emotional wellbeing.
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) worked with the charity Anxiety UK to gather generalised anxiety outcomes data from patients having a course of 6 acupuncture treatments as in usual practice which Eleanor participated in for about 3 years. The data is now being correlated.