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  • Writer's pictureDr Jeff Lou

Acupuncture and Mental Health

During my years of working in China, I attended a specialist clinic every Wednesdays alongside with one of the top physicians in Beijing that treated patients with Anxiety, Depression and Various Mental Disorders using purely acupuncture treatments. Over the years I have witnessed severely depressed patients who were catatonic and needed to be carried into the clinic by their families, with continuous treatments they flourished into bright and happy individuals who regain control of their lives and career living with optimism and hope.

It is suggested that between 1-30% of the global population suffers from some form of anxiety. The latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual lists out different sub-classifications of anxiety disorders with symptoms and physical manifestations varying considerably:

(1) Panic attack

(2) Agoraphobia ± history of panic disorder

(3) Panic disorder ± agoraphobia

(4) Specific phobia

(5) Social phobia (

6) Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

(7) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

(8) Acute stress disorder

(9) Generalized anxiety disorder

(10) Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition

(11) Substance-induced anxiety disorder

(12) Anxiety disorder not otherwise specified

According to the most up to date evidence, acupuncture is an effective treatment for anxiety. In 2017, The Acupuncture Evidence Project, co-authored by Dr John McDonald, PhD and Dr Stephen Janz, was published, providing an up-to-date comparative review of the clinical and scientific evidence for acupuncture. They reviewed that over 400 randomised patients that concluded that ‘the effects from acupuncture for treating anxiety have been shown to be significant as compared to conventional treatments. They found that acupuncture had a large effect on reducing anxiety and depression compared to conventional treatment involving pharmalogical approaches and psychotherapy, with over twice the reduction in symptoms.

Furthermore, in a study published online in October 2013 in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, students who underwent a 20-minute acupuncture session were found to have less anxiety and better memory immediately afterward than those who didn't have acupuncture.

Unlike with counselling, people treated with acupuncture often see results after one session, and the results improve with continued treatment. Acupuncture is particularly helpful for people who want to limit or stop drug use — prescription or otherwise. Because it regulates the body’s chemical balance naturally, acupuncture can even prevent people from needing medication at all, Here is a how and why Acupuncture can affect our minds.


Our nervous system is comprised of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), regulates the internal conditions necessary for existence. Information is received from the body and external environment and a response is delivered by either the SNS, which releases excitatory signals, or the PNS which releases signals for relaxation. These signals stimulate the body to react in very different manner, such as increasing or decreasing the heart rate and contraction force, or blood pressure.

When the body is faced with stress, the hypothalamus in the brain releases stress chemicals, and research shows that acupuncture can calm this response.

Acupuncture has also been shown to increase the release of happy chemicals, endorphins, which play an important role in regulating physical and emotional stress responses such as heart rate, pain, blood pressure, digestive function and so forth.

Other studies also show acupuncture has both nervous systems. One of the body’s ability to cope with stress is something called Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Rather than beating consistently at the same rate like a metronome, the heart rate canges based on its fine-tuned response to the environment. A higher HRV has been associated with better health in all domains, including mental health and low levels of anxiety. Acupuncture has been shown to improve the body’s ability to cope with stress through improving HRV.

All of these acupuncture mechanisms have a direct effect on reducing anxiety. If you are interested in learning more about Acupuncture and Depression/Anxiety treatments, feel welcomed to get in touch or just raise your concerns/questions to my email.

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