Acupuncture for anxiety – what it’s all about

woman with headscarf
Emerging – by a very local artist; Mary Caia

Feeling anxious? You’re not alone. Everybody experiences anxiety from time to time. Anxiety is a normal part of responding to challenges and dangers in life. Sometimes anxiety can become a persistent or debilitating experience.

Persistent anxiety can present differently in different people. Some people find themselves thinking rapidly and their mind leapfrogs from one fear into another, some take themselves to the Emergency department because they believe themselves to be experiencing a heart attack, and some need to go to the toilet – every ten minutes.

Acupuncturists are often asked “How effective is acupuncture for anxiety?” or “How many Acupuncture sessions will I need to treat my anxiety?”

Physiologically, acupuncture can treat anxiety because it interacts with and calms the sympathetic nervous system to take us out of the flight-or-fright response. Because of this many people feel calmer during their session.

But there is more to it than that. As Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners we look at the person as a whole and ask the question “Why is this person experiencing anxiety in this way?”.

What happens during the consult?                       

During your consultation, your practitioner will ask what your experience of anxiety is. This means we will ask you how it manifests physically, mentally and emotionally. We take your pulse and look at your tongue, and ask a number of seemingly unrelated questions that help us to gauge what happened to keep you stuck in a heightened state of worry, fear or negativity.

It can sometimes help to know the circumstances that led to the anxiety. But what we are really interested in is what happened, or is happening inside of you. We are interested in where the imbalance occurred to wear down your resilience and prevent you from moving forward. Out of the fight-or-flight response.

Different ways anxiety affects people

Symptoms we might monitor from week to week are broad, and can include:

  • Inability to relax, circular thinking, aversion to social situations
  • Irritability, anger, obsessive thinking, fears and phobias
  • Heart palpitations, sweaty palms, chest tightness, breathlessness
  • Insomnia, restless sleep, nightmares
  • Pain
  • Irritable bowels (diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, indigestion)
  • Urinary frequency and incontinence
  • Hair loss, fatigue, social withdrawal

acupuncture for anxiety/acupuncture for headaches

How many acupuncture sessions required to treat anxiety

We usually recommend a course of 4-6 sessions for significant improvements.

Each session usually takes between 30-45 minutes. Patients usually feel more relaxed during and immediately after each treatment. We often find that that relaxation extends for longer periods after each session.

Patients report “feeling like themselves again”. A little bit at a time, people start to access optimism and confidence. They smile more often and laugh more genuinely.

Generally, patients find that looking after themselves (eating well, exercise and setting boundaries) becomes easier when the feelings of anxiety are reduced.

How effective is acupuncture for anxiety?

Ongoing studies continue to show that acupuncture is significantly useful in reducing anxiety across a broad range of situations and conditions.  “Overall, there is good scientific evidence encouraging acupuncture therapy to treat anxiety disorders as it yields effective outcomes, with fewer side effects than conventional treatment.”¹

Studies looking at women undergoing IVF[i], patients heading into surgery[ii] and students heading into exams[iii] all benefit from acupuncture for anxiety. Results were based on anxiety surveys, heart rate, blood pressure and skin electrodermal activity. Acupuncture results were significantly better than sham acupuncture in all cases.

Special Offer – $20 0ff your initial session with any Acupuncturist at Freedom Chinese Medicine until end of August 2022. Click here to book. You must mention this offer to receive the discount.

T&C: For New Patients only. Not transferable. Not available with any other offer. Not redeemable for cash.

Written by:

Dr Heather Dowall

Acupuncturist  @ Freedom Chinese Medicine

Dr  Heather Dowall is a warm, intuitive and enthusiastic practitioner. Heather graduated from Endeavour College of Natural Health with a Health Science degree majoring in Acupuncture.

Heather is passionate about fertility and pregnancy support, pain relief, cancer support, and providing relief for anyone experiencing anxiety, depression, emotional trauma or PTSD.

Click here to book online or call us on 03) 9486 5966



1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29705474

[i] Isoyama D, Cordts EB, de Souza van Niewegen AMB, et al

Effect of acupuncture on symptoms of anxiety in women undergoing in vitro fertilisation: a prospective randomised controlled study Acupuncture in Medicine 2012;30:85-88.

[ii] Klausenitz C1Hesse T1Hacker H1Hahnenkamp K1Usichenko T1.

Auricular acupuncture for pre-exam anxiety in medical students: a prospective observational pilot investigation. Acupunct Med. 2016 Apr;34(2):90-4. doi: 10.1136/acupmed-2015-010887. Epub 2015 Oct 5.

[iii] Shayestehfar M1Seif-Barghi T2Zarei S3Mehran A3. Acupuncture Anxiolytic Effects on Physiological and Psychological Assessments for a Clinical Trial. Scientifica (Cairo). 2016;2016:4016952. doi: 10.1155/2016/4016952. Epub 2016 Apr 4.


The Paul Keating interview hyperlink:



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