Traditional about everything, experiencing symptoms of a span

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments for Generalized
Anxiety Disorder

 

According to the
Epidemiologic Catchment Area Program survey, 6.2% of adults will have been
affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) at some point in their lives.

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GAD affects women more than men, especially during midlife 1,2. GAD is diagnosed
by the following symptoms listed in Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders 5 3: excessive worry about everything,
experiencing symptoms of a span of at least 6 months, feelings of inability to
control emotions, physical or cognitive symptoms, difficulty with normal functioning,
experiencing symptoms and emotional state affecting relationships, work, etc., and
experiencing symptoms unrelated to other medical conditions (including other mental
disorders) and/or side effects from substances. Common allopathic options for
treatment include antidepressant drugs and psychological therapies such as the
commonly used cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 4. While studies have shown
that Western medicine’s CBT to be a highly effective treatment for GAD, Western
antidepressant medications often come with undesired side effects. As noted in Chinese Medical Psychiatry 5, these can include, but are not limited
to, dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, sedation, changes in blood
pressure, sexual dysfunction, gastro-intestinal complaints, and insomnia. In
the United States, more people with anxiety and depression turn to Complementary
and Alternative Medicine (CAM) interventions more frequently than conventional
medicine 6. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can offer a variety of natural,
holistic alternatives in treating GAD patients who have had little to no
success with Western treatments or patients who overall prefer holistic
treatments.

As the holistic approach
of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) focuses on how the mind and body are
interconnected, psychological treatments are just as important as treating the
physical body. Any form of emotional or physical imbalance is a result of
imbalance of yin and yang 7. In such cases, there are different methods in
treating the body to rebalance one’s mind and body. This paper will discuss the
efficacy and various methods of treatment in TCM for GAD. The first section
will introduce the different ways of diagnosing GAD from the TCM perspective.

The second section will discuss the most popular treatment, acupuncture. Third,
treatments in Chinese herbal pharmacology will be discussed. Lastly, Chinese exercise
in the form of Qigong will be introduced.

 

Diagnosis
and Treatment Principles

 

Unlike allopathic medicine, TCM treats
disease based on an individual’s pattern. There is not a “one-size fits all” form
of treatment. According to Flaws 4, there are five pattern discriminations
that lead to anxiety: heart qi vacuity and blood stasis pattern (heart-spleen
dual vacuity and qi stagnation and blood stasis), liver depression-phlegm fire
pattern, heart qi stagnation and blood stasis pattern, and yin vacuity-fire
effulgence pattern. For each of these patterns, a licensed professional would
follow the following treatment principles, respectively: “boost the qi and
nourish the heart, quicken the blood and free the flow of the vessels; course
the liver and resolve depression, clear heat and transform phlegm; quicken the
blood and move stagnation, settle the heart and quiet the spirit; fortify the
spleen and supplement the heart, nourish the blood and quiet the spirit; and
clear the heart and nourish yin, settle fright and quiet the spirit 4.”

 

Acupuncture

 

Acupuncture is the most widely studied form
of TCM of the various methods discussed in this paper. There is significant
evidence that the use of acupuncture greatly reduces anxiety symptoms for
humans 8. Evidence also shows that acupuncture has similar results as
cognitive behavioral therapy but is treated in a setting and environment that
most patients find more peaceful 8. There is still insufficient evidence when
it comes to determining how long and what dosage is required for acupuncture to
have a therapeutic effect 8.

           

Herbal
pharmacy

 

As there are individualized treatments depending on the
patient’s pattern, there are specific herbs used as treatment for the different
patterns. For example, in heart qi vacuity and blood stasis pattern, a patient would
be directed to take the Tian Wang Bu Xin
Dan (Heavenly Emperor Supplement the Heart Elixir) which includes uncooked
Rehmannia, Scrophularia, Asparagus, and Ophiopogon that enrich yin and nourish
the blood, nourish the heart, and quiet the spirit 5. According to the cases
discussed in Chinese Medical Psychiatry,
there is evidence that proper herbal treatments along with acupuncture improves
symptoms of anxiety in patients compared to patients who are left untreated or
diagnosed and prescribed the incorrect treatment 5.

 

Qi
gong

 

Multiple studies show
that mindful activities such as meditation and yoga peak interest in people
with psychological disorders 9. These types of exercises focus on mind-body
self-awareness. Qigong, a form of mindful exercise, involves breathing,
postures, state of mind and movement and is easy to learn and perform 9. Qigong
improves human physical and psychological functions and reduces stress-related
hormones, blood pressure and anxiety levels 10. Better access to exercise, lower
difficulty levels, and more relaxing exercises could potentially motivate
people with GAD to exercise more. It is common knowledge that exercise benefits
a person’s physical and mental health.

Conclusion

 

More people with anxiety prefer complementary and
alternative medicines in treating their symptoms compared to conventional
medicine. While the different methods of treatment in Chinese Traditional
medicine is proven to be as helpful in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder as
cognitive behavioral therapy, more research is necessary to better understand
and support the efficacy in treating the various patterns based on an
individual’s symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. With more research, more
people can understand the causes of disease and the effects of receiving
treatments for psychological disorders based in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Patients
and practitioners will have more knowledge on options in TCM for treatment and in
turn, make more educated decisions for themselves according to their values and
preferences.