Acupuncture for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Robert Moffett, Acupuncturist

Stress is a natural part of life, and we can all expect a certain level of it in our daily lives. Stress can be caused by everything from work deadlines and rush-hour traffic to the 24-hour demands of a newborn baby.

In fact, two psychiatrists (Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe) conducted studies in the late 1960s and early 1970s to learn which life events resulted in the highest stress levels. They tracked their findings in what they called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), better known today as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.  The death of a spouse and divorce top the list of 43 triggers, but even vacations and holidays have a dedicated spot on the stress scale.

Although some stress is normal, excess amounts are not, and can be debilitating. This is the case for the nearly 6 million American adults who suffer from panic disorders, which are defined as repeated, random episodes of panic attacks that cause extreme anxiety in individuals who are waiting for the next occurrence. 

Many people turn to acupuncture for anxiety and panic attacks because it can help ease or alleviate its most common symptoms. 

According to, symptoms of panic attacks can include one or more of the following:

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations or a racing heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Choking feeling
  • Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy

If left untreated, panic or anxiety disorders (with or without agoraphobia, commonly understood to be a fear of public places) can cause individuals to employ avoidance tactics such as refusing to drive, go shopping or, in extreme cases, leave their home at all.

The good news is that there are effective treatments to overcome panic attacks and anxiety disorders. One of the most common is cognitive behavioral therapy that enables the patient to examine his or her fears in a less threatening manner. Another is exposure therapy, which places the patient in a controlled and safe version of the trigger location.

In addition to mind over matter, medications are often prescribed. Although they serve their purpose and provide relief, they can also lead to secondary problems. Antidepressants, for example, require long-term use and Benzodiazepines, while intended for use during an attack, are highly addictive and can create serious withdrawal symptoms.

If the thought of going on these types of medications adds to your stress levels, you will be glad to learn that there are self-help techniques that also provide relief. Simply researching your condition (as you’re doing now) can go a long way to mentally arresting the problem. Avoiding cigarettes and stimulants – caffeine, diet pills and certain over-the-counter non-drowsy cold medications – can lessen the chances of a panic attack striking.

And mastering controlled breathing and practicing daily relaxation techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi  and meditation are calming and mood-lifting.

In addition to these self-help methods, routine acupuncture for anxiety and panic attacks can be another highly effective weapon against these debilitating conditions. According to a June 2011 literature review that appeared in the journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, “There is evidence that acupuncture is comparable with CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] … but in a setting and environment in which most patients seem to find less stressful, and are well known to access voluntarily in preference to regular medical avenues.”

Acupuncture Associates in Wilmington, NC welcomes residents of the Port City as well as the surrounding towns like Southport, Leland, Scotts Hill, Hampstead and Surf City. If you’re experiencing stress, anxiety or panic attacks contact us today so you can focus less on holiday stress and more on the joys of the Christmas season.


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Robert has over 40 years of experience treating and healing with traditional Chinese medicine. If you're experiencing pain and are in need of relief, schedule your appointment now. Robert will listen to your story, identify problem areas, and construct a treatment plan that will help you find relief.

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