Anxiety and depression can be debilitating. It can stand between you and your ability to enjoy a ‘normal’ life, in which you can function without having to battle emotions that are often exhausting and overwhelming. Chinese Medicine has its own way of viewing these conditions, so let’s take a little deep dive into the theories behind why they may manifest for someone.

The background

Chinese medical theory ties five key emotions to the five ‘Yin’ organs in the body. Very simplistically, the Lungs are affected by grief, the Heart by joy (or excessive joy), the Spleen (digestive system) by worry, the Liver by anger, and the Kidneys by fear.  An excess of an emotion can affect its corresponding organ, and vice versa, an out of balance organ system can result in a particular emotional response.  The organs in Chinese Medicine have functions attributed to them that go well beyond that of Western Medicine, and so an imbalance in an organ system does not mean that that organ is in trouble, but rather that the ‘jobs’ that the organ is responsible for will be impaired, resulting in physical and emotional disharmony.

An example of this is the digestive upsets that often accompany excessive stress and worry.  Our Spleen (and Stomach) are associated with transforming the food and water that we consume into Qi and Blood, as well as digesting information and emotions. When worry is excessive this places a strain on the Stomach and Spleen, leading to symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, bloating and loose stools.  Alternatively, if we are not nourishing our body with appropriate food and drink we can cause the Spleen and Stomach to become weak, and sometimes struggle with processing information in an appropriate manner.

Rebuilding with TCM

According to Chinese Medicine theory, anxiety and depression is caused by a deficiency in the body’s resources, namely Qi (energy) and Blood. When we are born we inherit a certain amount of constitutional Qi, called Jing, and we maintain this with the air, food and drink we ingest. Either through long-term lifestyle habits (think continuous exposure to emotional and/or physical stressors) or a major physical or emotional event, we can drain vital energies faster than they can be produced, depleting Jing and weakening the body and mind.

How this then manifests in the body, i.e. which organ systems become out of balance and hence the sorts of physical and emotional symptoms we experience, is dependent upon a host of factors, including constitutional predisposition, and the type of emotional or physical problems we are experiencing.

Whatever way anxiety and/or depression manifests for you, very often once you’re there the body’s resources are depleted to a point where changing diet and exercise habits can seem too hard, and although hugely beneficial, significant results can be slow to come which can be disheartening.  The body commonly needs a little helping hand, and Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be hugely beneficial in helping rebuild drained resources.

A positive way forward

Addressing emotional issues and trauma with a psychologist, trusted doctor or counselor, and making the necessary changes to get you moving can feel overwhelming and unattainable for a start. Acupuncture can be wonderful for helping manage the stress this can bring, and may be one way to help you through this process. However you decide to tackle this often crippling problem, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be one way to help give you the calm and clarity you need to really start moving in the right direction.