Case Study: Anxiety explained through Acupuncture theory
Let’s go to this case study. This is a patient of mine, a female, 40 years old, her chief complaint was anxiety and her secondary complaint was hormonal issues. The thing that struck me the most about this individual was how much everything that was said was interpreted as, well, do I need to worry about that, should I get a test about that, do you think that means I’m going to die, am I going to be okay? There was so much anxiety around death, so much anxiety, and it would show up around her family, her children, there was this constant worry about her kids, this constant worry about her health. She would research things and she would email me and she would ask me about them and what I thought about them, and do you think I need to do this, and there was just this hypervigilance around her health.
One of the things that we really needed to work on with her was easing into the flow of life. She was so gripped and frozen with fear that there were a lot of things that she ended up not doing in her life because she just felt paralyzed, she felt like she couldn’t, she felt like every single thing that she would do was too risky, so that her safety was threatened. This comes back to those key themes of risk assessment and safety and instinct.
We’re in constant assessment anyways, but because the water again has more to do with our primal responses, what happens is that there is this constant assessment of am I safe, am I safe, am I safe, am I safe, and almost looking for areas where we might not be safe. So almost kind of like, I don’t want to say making things up, because I don’t think anyone intentionally makes things up just to make their lives miserable, but if that’s where your imbalance is, we have to really be careful because the mind will just take that stuff and run with it, and it will find all sorts of different scenarios in terms of why you’re not safe.
This is the five element theory and it’s different from the one that I just talked about in that little five element segment, which doesn’t matter, we don’t really need to go around and talk about why that’s different. But, around the cycle here, this is called the generation cycle or what’s known as the mother and son cycle, or mother and daughter, however you want to look at it. We want to be mindful of this one, we have water down here, and water generates wood.
The organs associated with wood are liver and gallbladder, we’ll get to this in a couple weeks. The liver/gallbladder system in the wood element are primarily, gosh, they’re responsible for a lot of different things, but they are primarily responsible for that week before our menstrual cycle. No hard fast rule, but as a general trend, we’re always going to look there when we’re talking about PMS. She was having all these hormonal issues and she would get even more anxious right before her cycle. She would get some breast tenderness and the she had pain and cramping also in that first part of her cycle, as well. When I felt I her pulse I confirmed this, I’m not going to go into any kind of pulse diagnosis, but what I felt was that the kidneys, the water element was quite deficient, and then the wood element was tense and not moving, so it was super, super stagnant and the wood element is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi within the entire body.
So much harmony happens within the wood element and the stability to go with the flow. What was happening was that water was so deficient because her mind was constantly usurping all of her vital reserves because of this fear response, that it wasn’t properly able to nourish wood, so the liver and gallbladder. She would also get headaches and all these different things that are associated with the wood element. She was having all these hormonal issues secondary to this anxiety.
Now the interesting thing is that hormonal issues can have a lot to do with the water element and the kidneys and urinary bladder, as well, and there is a lot of anxiety that shows up when there is a wood element or a liver/gallbladder that’s really tense and tight, we call it Qi stagnation, so things just aren’t moving. What happens is that the diaphragm can get really, really locked up and we stop breathing.
So, it’s like this double whammy of symptoms and behaviors that come into play, but this is how Chinese medicine is, we’re always looking at what’s the relationship that’s going on here, where is the disharmony within this whole cycle. What we ended up doing was some herbs for her and then acupuncture, both to get the Qi moving, but then also to nourish the water element. Over time, I haven’t seen her for a while, but over time she started to relax and she definitely started to feel much less anxious, and that she actually noticed right away. Acupuncture is so great for getting Qi moving and for helping with anxiety, so we also coupled it with some breathing techniques, and we’ll talk about those now.