Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress or a stressful situation. Generally speaking, it works as a coping mechanism, however, when it becomes excessive or irrational, it can have a debilitating effect on people, affecting them physically and psychologically.
In Western medicine, it is classified into different disorders, each with their own distinct features and symptoms. The main ones are:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
- Panic disorders.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Social phobias.
Common symptoms of G.A.D. usually include muscle tension, sweating, nausea, nervousness, irritability, tiredness and insomnia. These can occur with other depressive disorders and substance abuse. Panic attack symptoms also include shortness of breath or a sensation of choking, dizziness or headaches, chills or hot flushes, fear of dying, feelings of imminent danger and a need to escape.
Chinese medicine does not have a term that corresponds exactly to anxiety, although it regards it as being related to the Heart, Lungs, Kidneys, Spleen and Liver. As such, it is related to the corresponding emotions associated with each organ.
In TCM, the causes of anxiety are considered to be related to emotional stress, a person’s unique constitution, irregular diet, loss of blood or overwork. In the main, Chinese medicine practitioners regard anxiety as the result Heart or Kidney Yin deficiency, Heart-Blood deficiency or stasis, Lung and Heart Qi stagnation or Phlegm-Heat harassing the Heart. These can be treated with medicinal herbs such as Dang Gui, Chai Hu, Bai Shao and Renshen.
Common symptoms seen in TCM include palpitations, insomnia, irritability, mental restlessness and disturbed sleep. Commonly used formulas include Gui Pi Tang, Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan, Bu Fei Tang and Wen Dan Tang.
In most cases, Chinese medicine practitioners will combine herbal treatment with acupuncture to achieve the best possible results. Depending on the specifics of each case, practitioners may also recommend that the patient takes up meditation such as Qi Gong, mindfulness practice or other exercise such as Tai Chi in order to help them cope with the underlying stress responsible for their anxiety.
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