Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine | Anxiety, Mental Health, Stress and Depression

Acupuncture in the treatment of Anxiety, Mental health stress & depression

Stress is a natural response to the bodies various demands we place upon it. In times gone, our stress response or “fight or flight’ response provided us with energy that could save our life. Unfortunately, in our modern lifestyle our stressors are considerably higher, and more consistent than our predecessors ever experienced.


However stress and anxiety is not necessarily negative, it can mean that we meet important deadlines, it keeps us alert, helps with motivation, and so on. There is a distinction between healthy and unhealthy stress.


Our response to stress can either help or hinder our body’s ability to cope with these various stressors in our lives. Unhealthy responses to stress include negative thinking, feeling overwhelmed, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and feeling of ill health. Unhealthy stress causes the body to work much harder, and this can trigger physical and mental health issues.


Over time, ongoing stress and unhealthy responses to stress can actually be detrimental to our health.


With increased and consistent stress, our white blood cells, which defend our body against viruses, decrease. So no wonder you are sick all the time. Even if the stressor is no longer present, the body continues to keep the stress response active, just to ensure readiness in the event of danger. We like to refer to it as living on the stress cliff, ready for the other show to drop.


The result of this is that even when away from the stressor, so quitting that stressful job or leaving a bad relationship still has a marked effect on your health for sometime after the event. From a Chinese Medicine perspective this has a depleting effect on our nervous system, lymphatic organs, kidneys and adrenals, which paves the way for a wide variety of signs and symptoms.


At Balanced Life Health Care we practise the Balance Method Acupuncture system, which aims to decrease stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, thus taking your body from a fight or flight mode into a more relaxed state. Our focus is delivering an effective, personalised and detailed treatment plan, dedicated to improving your mental and emotional health.


Research into Acupuncture’s effect on Mental health


In the world of research based medicine research into Acupuncture’s ability to help mental illness is considered in its infancy, but recent reviews (2) into the current base of Acupuncture research has found that studies show that Acupuncture could have a potentially positive effect in the following mental health disorders;


  • Anxiety (5)
  • Depression (in conjunction with anti-depressants) (1, 6)
  • Insomnia (including post-stroke, peri-menopausal and post-menopausal insomnia) (7, 8)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (10,11)
  • Schizophrenia (9)


Unfortunately to date not all mental health issues have been studied. However an animal study published in the Journal of Endocrinology in March 2013 discovered stress hormones were lower in rats after receiving electric acupuncture (12), which could possibly explain why people receiving regular Acupuncture sessions appear to have a lowered perceived level of stress and anxiety.


Allied health care included Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine could have a greater place in treatment of mental illness in the future. Currently about half the people who seek treatment for depression are not helped by psychotherapy and medication, or withdraw from treatment too early. Of those who recover, more than one third relapse within eighteen months. In a study of 2,318 patients conducted by the University of Colorado, only 20 percent of the patients taking medication were found to improve as a result. This suggests that alternative treatment may be very helpful for people who suffer from depression in addition to the currently used treatments. This is an area ripe for future research similarly to the trial which showed that Acupuncture plus SSRI, had a greater effect than SSRI use alone (1).


It is important to note that Acupuncture care is not recommended for those seeking immediate assistance. If you or a loved one need immediate counselling and 24 hour support please contact Beyond Blue by calling the following number 1300 224 636 


  1. Chan YY, Lo WY, Yang SN, Chen YH, Lin JG. The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Affect Disord. 2015 May 1;176:106-17. 89.
  2. McDonald, John & Janz, Stephen. (2016). The Acupuncture Evidence Project : A Comparative Literature Review (Revised). Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association Ltd, Coorparoo
  5. Bazzan AJ, Zabrecky G, Monti DA, Newberg AB. Current evidence regarding the management of mood and anxiety disorders using complementary and alternative medicine. Expert Rev Neurother. 2014 Apr;14(4):411- 23.
  6. Spackman E, Richmond S, Sculpher M, Bland M, Brealey S, Gabe R, et al. Cost-effectiveness analysis of acupuncture, counselling and usual care in treating patients with depression: the results of the ACUDep trial. PLOS ONE. 2014;9(11):e113726.
  7. Zhao K. Acupuncture for the treatment of insomnia. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;111:217-34.
  8. Shergis JL, Ni X, Jackson ML, Zhang AL, Guo X, Li Y, et al. A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Jun;26:11-20
  9. Bosch P, van den Noort M, Staudte H, Lim S. Schizophrenia and Depression: A systematic Review of the Effectiveness and the Working Mechanisms Behind Acupuncture. Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):281-91
  10. Engel CC, Cordova EH, Benedek DM, Liu X, Gore KL, Goertz C, et al. Randomized effectiveness trial of a brief course of acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder. Med Care. 2014 Dec;52(12 Suppl 5):S57-64. 82.
  11. Engel CC, Cordova EH, Benedek DM, Liu X, Gore KL, Goertz C, et al. Randomized effectiveness trial of a brief course of acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder. Med Care. 2014 Dec;52(12 Suppl 5):S57-64.
  12. Eshkevari, L., Permaul, E., & Mulroney, SE, Acupuncture blocks cold stress-induced increases in the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis in the rat. Journal of Endocrinology, 2014, 217(1), 95-104. doi: 10.1530/JOE-12-040
  13. John J B Allen, Rosa N. Schnyer, Andrea S. Chambers, Sabrina K. Hitt, Francisco A. Moreno, Rachel Manber, Acupuncture for depression: A randomized controlled trial, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Nov 2006, Vol 67, 1665-1673