January 30, 2016

Anxiety–Restoring the Natural Dynamic

Anxiety is natural and helpful although we typically think of it as problematic and a hindrance to performance. To the contrary, if everything is working as it should, anxiety is a vital part of our instinctive feedback systems and we wouldn’t do well without it. It lies in us as a potential alarm. As we interact with the world, it ‘wakes up’ from time to time to help us navigate over the long haul and in emergencies.

A Natural Cluster of Bodily Signals

Anxiety sends bodily signals that alert us. It increases our energy and our vigilance, helping us along a continuum from the low end of novel and important events through manageable problems and finally, to threat and danger. At the low end, for example, it helps us prepare for an important event, serving as a useful reminder that the big job interview approaches, or you need to order flowers for the wedding day… or you might go into labor at any moment. Over the long haul, and as those events approach, anxiety can come and go as a normal part of your anticipation. It becomes a sort of snooze alarm that persists through your preparation phase, awakening you from time to time as a reminder that you should prepare yourself because something important is coming.

A Driving Force

A bit of anxiety puts us ‘on our toes’. It’s an essential part of our natural trouble-shooting abilities. In the big picture, it helps us survive, but in ordinary circumstances, it helps us thrive. Used well, for example, anxiety fuels the preparation and the energy we need for a spectacular performance. The extreme underbelly of that, however, can be stage fright or social phobia… some sort of debilitating manifestation of a normal mechanism gone awry.


Anxiety also tells us get out of harm’s way… this situation doesn’t feel right… that person seems volatile… another driver appears distracted and erratic… At the more extreme end of the continuum, we lay on the horn when a car is drifting dangerously close. We’re not even aware of making a decision to do that. We simply do it. The same happens in more imminently dangerous situations—we swerve to avoid being broadsided, we leap to catch the child running toward the busy street, we duck the volatile guy’s thrown punch…rocks

When the Alarm is Too Sensitive

Unfortunately, some of us have an anxiety alarm that is far too sensitive. Our anxiety mechanisms don’t discriminate between the actual car thief and the vibration of passing traffic. It over-estimates the problem and threat factor of situations. Some of us are like that—responding with alarm when simple and relaxed attention would do. Then, too, some are ‘wired’ to see threat everywhere. That distressful condition is the psychological and biological equivalent of an internal and unrelenting car alarm.

Problematic Anxiety

Problematic anxiety occurs when anxiety doesn’t serve your life, but interferes with it. Anxiety Disorders can include intrusive symptoms of:

  • Nervousness, restlessness and tension
  • Excessive worry
  • Poor sleep
  • Appetite problems
  • A sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having irrational fears
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor memory
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Feeling compelled to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Acupuncture and Treatment of Problematic Anxiety

Acupuncture can treat anxiety on several levels. It can stimulate the nervous system to produce natural opiates (endorphins) which give a sense of well-being and relaxation. It can stimulate the body’s natural healing and self-regulating mechanisms, and it can stimulate regions of the brain involved in controlling emotions.

Anecdotal evidence from patients has long substantiated these findings, but research is catching up. In fact, there is a significant body of work that finds acupuncture to be effective in reducing anxiety. In short, instead of being at the mercy of anxiety triggers, acupuncture can put your body back in control.

If you are being treated for anxiety, acupuncture can complement your already exisitng treatment plan. If you would like to discuss the use of acupuncture for your anxiety symptoms, you can call Abacus Chinese Medicine in Louisville at (502) 299-8900.

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