Acupuncture for Stress and AnxietyHow Chronic Stress Contributes to Anxiety and Depression

Stress is a way of life for many people these days.  When we experience a thought or an event that we perceive as stressful, our bodies begin producing hormones and neurotransmitters designed to help us respond to the stressful situation by engaging in a conflict or fleeing.  This is referred to as the “fight or flight” response.

The “fight or flight” response is important for motivating us to take action and avoid danger when needed.  It’s meant to be a short-term reaction to a situation that may be life threatening.  Thankfully, most of us don’t experience those situations as part of our daily lives. However, unless we take action through regular exercise, meditation, or other stress management techniques, we don’t give our bodies the opportunity to recover from stress.

Being in a long-term experience of stress leads to persistent elevation of adrenal stress hormones and neurotransmitters including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.  Over time, the adrenal glands may become fatigued and imbalances occur in other hormones that cause symptoms such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems, weight gain, fatigue, frequent infections, digestive problems, and chronic pain, among many others.

Acupuncture and Stress Relief

Most people who get acupuncture will tell you that they feel relaxed and peaceful during and after treatment and they also seem to handle the big and small stresses and challenges of life with greater ease.

Acupuncture for Anxiety and Depression

For many, the emotional symptoms of chronic stress are the most apparent and troubling.  Fortunately, acupuncture provides excellent strategies and tools for effectively treating both anxiety and depression, and for supporting patients in working with their underlying stress.

Many studies have demonstrated the benefit of acupuncture for treating anxiety disorders such as a recent study conducted at the University of York in the UK. It found that acupuncture is as effective as counselling and more effective than antidepressant medication alone in the treatment of depression.

In this study, the researchers found that one in three patients who received either acupuncture or counselling were no longer depressed, compared to one in five patients who received only standard medical care.

What to Expect

In my practice, I regularly see patients who suffer from the effects of chronic stress, depression, and anxiety achieve significant relief with acupuncture treatment. For most patients who choose acupuncture treatment alone or as a complement to other care, an initial series of weekly acupuncture treatments is recommended.  After that time, treatments may be spaced out to once every 2 weeks.  Over time, the gap between visits gets longer until eventually patients only come for “tune up” treatments every 3 months to help maintain balance, or as needed when acutely stressful situations arise.


Posted by Niall O’Leary

If you suffer from anxiety, stress or depression and would like to find out more about how acupuncture may be able to help you, call Niall on 087 2632732 for an appointment, or a free consultation.


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Niall O'Leary