Everybody has experienced anxiety at some point in their lives when faced with difficult situations. However, these feelings of panic or fear usually subside when these situations are over, leaving you feeling calmer and better.
Unfortunately, some people continue to experience feelings of anxiety even after dealing with difficult situations, and this can seriously impact their daily lives. Generally these people turn to medication to find respite from this condition, but thankfully there are more natural ways to deal with it as well. One of the methods that is gaining popularity for treating anxiety is auricular acupuncture.
What Is Auricular Acupuncture?
Most people are familiar with acupuncture, the complementary medicine that originated in ancient China and which involves the use of needles to prick the skin or tissues. Auricular acupuncture, as the name suggests, involves the ears, and its roots can be traced back as far as 500 BC in China.
However, the auricular acupuncture that is practiced in modern times has more in common with the techniques first discovered in France during the 1950s by Paul Nogier, a French neurologist.
The basis of auricular acupuncture is the fact that the human ear is actually a microsystem and represents the rest of the anatomical body on the outer portion, called the auricle. According to Nogier’s theory, the auricle can actually be compared visually to an upside down fetus.
This means that the lower ear lobe represents the head, the external ear, the feet and the space in-between the body. Through the stimulation of specific spots on the ear certain conditions, such as anxiety, can then be treated.
It is by no means the only health condition that can be treated by auricular acupuncture, as reactive ear points are tied areas all over the body. Everything from chronic pain to hypertension and nausea has been successfully treated through auricular acupuncture.
When Anxiety Becomes A Problem
A certain amount of anxiety is normal, depending on the circumstances, but when it starts to negatively impact the quality of life of the person suffering from it, it is a problem. When anxiety turns into a disorder, there is more to it than simply temporary fear or worry.
Instead of going away, these feelings tend to remain present and can actually become worse over time. Everything from work and school to relationships can be affected by these feelings. Anxiety also comes in different ways, which range from generalized anxiety to social anxiety and panic disorder.
The Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Because modern life is so stressful and there are so many different types of anxiety it can be difficult to pinpoint whether everyday anxiety has crossed over into becoming a disorder. However, anyone suffering from the following symptoms is likely to have an anxiety disorder and could benefit from auricular therapy.
• Difficulty Sleeping – If anxiety causes sleep problems, such as difficulty in either falling asleep or staying asleep, it can be a disorder, especially if this persists. Another way in which anxiety can negatively impact sleep is causing it to be restless and unsatisfying.
• Muscle Tension – Anxiety disorders are known to cause muscle tension. This can be caused by constant balling of the fists, flexing of muscles or even jaw clenching.
• Excessive Worrying – Anxiety disorder can cause excessive worrying about everyday things, no matter how small or large they are. Typically these thoughts occur persistently on most days of the week for months on end and interfere with daily life.
• Digestive Issues – The physical impact of excessive anxiety includes irritable bowel syndrome, nausea and diarrhea.
• Constant Tiredness – Because of the strain caused by anxiety it can leave people feeling fatigued all the time along with other debilitating symptoms such as headaches.
Other Forms Of Anxiety
Even if anxiety isn’t bad enough to become a disorder, it can still benefit from auricular therapy. For example, most patients experience a lot of doubts and fears when scheduled for surgery at a hospital. While this is normal, it can still result in adverse postoperative outcomes.
Studies have found that performing auricular therapy on these patients caused a reduction in anxiety. While the results were comparable to body acupuncture, more people feel comfortable with auricular acupuncture. Studies have also found that auricular acupuncture is very effective for dental anxiety. The study also tested whether this could be attributed to a placebo effect, but this was not the case.
One of the best examples of how auricular therapy is able to reduce anxiety comes from a study performed on 55 healthcare volunteers. Because of the highly stressful nature of their jobs it is normal for them to operate in a state of anxiety.
For the study the operating room staff members were divided into three groups, with all of them having the same baseline levels of anxiety along with similar environmental stress. During the course of the study it was found that the use of auricular therapy was able to decrease the amount of anxiety experienced by the volunteers compared to those who did not receive the treatment.
Benefits Of Auricular Therapy For Anxiety
In addition to bringing relief from anxiety, the use of auricular therapy as a treatment has other benefits compared to medications. Typically, anti-anxiety medication can cause adverse side effects, but this is not a concern with auricular therapy.
What Methods Are Used For Auricular Acupuncture?
Like other forms of acupuncture, auricular acupuncture is done with the use of fine, sterilized needles that can be of varying lengths. These needles are then applied into the acupoints of the auricle in order to treat specific symptoms, such as anxiety. In most cases, between four and six acupuncture needles are used for the procedure. These needles are also kept in the air for up to twenty minutes.
Since the needles are only inserted into the outer part of the ear, there is no risk of them coming into contact with any of the major blood vessels. Because professionals who practice auricular acupuncture abide by the rules of working in a hygienic environment with sterile needles, there is very little risk involved with the procedure.
The Effectiveness Of Auricular Therapy For Anxiety
In most cases, patients who suffer from anxiety experience a reduction in their symptoms after their very first auricular therapy session. These benefits can then begin to diminish several days after the treatment session. Many patients report that successive treatment extends the duration and effectiveness of the anxiety relief they experience.
While there are no rules for how many auricular therapy sessions are required, most patients report a moderate reduction in their symptoms after four to six sessions, while eight to twelve sessions result in their anxiety being greatly alleviated. Most practitioners of auricular therapy tend to provide treatments up to twice a week for the first few weeks and then once a week thereafter.