If you're a frequent reader of these newsletters, you know that I often write about Five Element Theory, which is one of the diagnostic tools and strategies for creating an acupuncture treatment. As someone who often treats anxiety and depression, I like how Five Element Theory considers the impact of emotions. Anger, Joy (listed in this image as Over-Excited), Worry, Grief and Fear are the basic emotions, but from those we have others. Irritation. Lack of Joy. Sadness. And so on. Often times a combination of these emotions and their nuances present in anxiety and depression, which can manifest in many ways.
When thinking of mental health, thoughts immediately go to the brain, which is inherent given that the word "mental" is part of the term "mental health". For years I've heard some patients says "it's all in my head." However, according to Five Element Theory, it's not all in your head. It's in your body.
Before I go further, I want to emphasize that when treating mental health, talk therapy is extremely important. Talking with a skilled professional helps process the emotions that come from trauma and difficult experiences, but many times mental health professionals don't just talk. Sometimes breathing techniques are incorporated. Sometimes patients are guided through muscle tense and release exercises. These practices use our bodies to help process, meaning it's not all in one's head.
But to take it a step further, there are also physical symptoms that develop with these emotions, which is where acupuncture can be very helpful at treating anxiety and depression. The generalizations below are a starting point for determining how your body is impacted by emotion, but keep in mind that just because one has these symptoms doesn't mean that an emotional imbalance is presenting.
Anger—jaw tension from clenching, headaches.
Joy—laughing at inappropriate times (many people have laughed during an inappropriate time due to circumstances, but it can be a problem when it's constant and uncontrollable), chest pain (when there's a lack of joy).
Worry—stomach cramping, intestinal discomfort, abdominal tension, whole body aches.
Grief—chest pain, upper back pain.
Fear—low back pain, upper back/neck pain.
When treating anxiety and depression with acupuncture, the needles aren't all placed in the head. The entire body is treated so that a larger physical shift can occur to help relieve the physical symptoms and rebalance emotions.