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Using Acupuncture to Treat Mental and Emotional Problems

The understanding of the mind and emotions in health and dis-ease is an inherent component of Chinese medicine. The seven emotions: joy, grief, sadness, fear, anger, fright, and worry are intimately connected to the organs and have a reciprocal effect on one another. The effects of emotions which are unbalanced for long periods of time may be manifested in three aspects of the body: the Qi, the Blood or on the Yin aspect. And conversely an imbalance of Qi, Blood or Yin can effect the Shen or the Mind and Emotions in Chinese medicine.

An impairment of Qi and its normal flowing nature is the most external and subtle manifestation of an emotional imbalance. Emotion may effect Qi through making the Qi rise, sink, or stagnate; depleting, knotting, and scattering the Qi or causing the Qi to rebel, or flow in a direction which is contrary to the normal flow of Qi, is also possible from emotions. The impairment of normal Qi flow can effect any organ but is seen most frequently in the Liver, Lungs, Heart and Stomach.

The effect of emotions at the Blood level is deeper, more internal and more problematic than at the level of Qi, and usually takes longer to rectify. The Blood in Chinese medicine is considered to be the physical foundation of the Shen and Spirit. It is a Yin substance that provides stability and anchoring, a residence for the Mind. Disorders at the Blood level may be connected to the Heart and Liver and to the extraordinary meridian of the Chong Mai. The Blood may become afflicted through becoming deficient, stagnant or through containing heat.

Yin has a tendency in our culture to become deficient. We are a very Yang society encouraging constant activity and stimulation. We frequently live in our heads and have difficulty with quietness and keeping still. With emotional problems this may be exacerbated, leading to a Yin deficiency and empty heat. Empty heat is not able to warm, especially the lower part of the body and may lead to symptoms such as flushing of the face yet coldness is the abdomen or low back and hips. Hot flashes at menopause are sometimes considered a sign of Yin deficiency and empty heat. Yin deficient signs at the emotional level may lead to depression, insomnia, tiredness, and lack of enthusiasm, feeling unsettled, memory loss and confusion.

An unbalanced emotional state may lead to damage of the internal organs, while obstruction or stagnation of the Qi connected to a particular organ may result in an unbalanced emotional state. For example anger is associated with the Liver in Chinese medicine. Anger may result from Liver Qi stagnation, while anger over a period of time may cause Liver Fire, resulting in headaches, irritability, red and dry eyes, or asthma, constipation or insomnia. Through proper acupuncture treatment both the physical and the emotional component of the disorder may be addressed.

Another good example of the connection between emotion and illness can be seen in the case of worry and digestive problems. Most of us have experienced the feeling of nausea or an upset stomach when in a difficult situation. Some actors and performers are known to have nausea or even vomit before appearing on stage. This is considered a case of counter flow Stomach Qi. Worry may deplete Qi, and impair the function of the Spleen in Chinese medicine, which is the organ of transformation of food into Qi and the transportation of the food Qi to all tissues of the body for nourishment and energy. This is why over time those who are filled with worry may become exhausted and depleted.

Anxiety is a good example of a distressful emotion which may be treated successfully with acupuncture. Anxiety in Chinese medicine is considered an imbalance between the Heart and Kidneys, an imbalance between the Fire and Water elements in the body. In TCM energetics the warmth of the Fire element generated by the Heart is sent down to the Kidneys to provide warmth and energy for the Kidneys to function. The Kidneys send their cooling Water element to the Heart to maintain a balanced state, and prevent the Heart from becoming overheated. An overheating of the Heart may lead to anxiety and insomnia. In this case the treatment would aim at reestablishing a connection between the Heart and Kidneys so a normal flow of Qi could be restored.

Anxiety may also be associated with other various patterns in Chinese medicine. These include Heart Blood stagnation, Heart Blood Heat or Fire. As with all treatment with Chinese medicine, the most effective treatments result from the most thorough and comprehensive evaluation of the condition.

So if you or someone you know is having emotional difficulties and would like to explore treatment without medications give acupuncture a try. It is especially effective at treating recent and mild cases of anxiety, insomnia, depression, anger and grief. Acupuncture also works in conjunction with therapy and medications. I have experience treating all of these emotional problems and have had good results over the course of treatment in relieving these conditions. Serious depression however needs treatment from a qualified therapist in conjunction with acupuncture.

Terry Tangredi Lic. Ac. 131 Main Street, Hatfield, MA. 01038 (413) 247-3388