Mental Complaints and Acupuncture: A TCM Perspective

Mental complaints are related to cognitive, emotional, and social well-being and have a significant influence on how we feel, think, and behave. As we often say, you are as healthy as you feel. If you feel mentally healthy, you experience general satisfaction, you can enjoy life, you think positively, and you generally have an optimistic view of life. In this blog, we talk more about the perspective from TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) on well-being and how acupuncture helps with emotional and mental complaints.

What do we mean by emotional or mental complaints?

Emotional complaints usually relate to disturbances in someone's emotional state or difficulty in controlling emotions. Examples of emotions include excessive sadness, frequent mood swings, irritability, anger, fear, and feelings of hopelessness. Often, these complaints are initially recognized and described as physical complaints, like pain in the arm, digestive issues, or headaches. However, these kinds of complaints can also be of an emotional and/or mental nature. For instance, constant worry might result in a headache.

How does Traditional Chinese Medicine view emotional and mental complaints?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) adopts a holistic approach to health and considers mental and emotional well-being as an integral part of overall health. Humans are seen as a whole, where physical, mental, and emotional aspects are all intertwined. If you overlook any of these three elements when assessing someone, you're not seeing the whole person.

When people with complaints consult an acupuncturist, the practitioner observes and questions all three elements. Furthermore, TCM is unique in that some emotional and/or mental complaints are genuinely seen as an expression of imbalance. This imbalance might manifest as a physical complaint in some individuals, while in others, it might present as an emotional and/or mental issue. Hence, emotional and/or mental complaints, like depression, lethargy, worries, but also headaches, migraines, and tinnitus, are assessed from the perspective of the whole person.

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What's the exact relationship between the body and emotions?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, different organ systems are recognized, responsible for the overall function and balance of the body. These systems include the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. Each organ system has specific functions, including an associated emotional aspect. For instance, it's believed that the heart governs the spirit and houses the Shen (mind), while the liver is associated with emotional regulation.

TCM acknowledges that emotions are a regular part of life, but excessive or prolonged emotional states can lead to imbalances in the body. Emotions are categorized into five primary types: joy, anger, worry, sadness, and fear. When emotions become extreme or imbalanced, they can affect specific organ systems and disrupt the flow of Qi, possibly resulting in mental and physical health issues. Emotional energy adjusts to what life demands – for example, people feel differently when laid off compared to when offered a new exciting job. If emotions no longer align with daily realities, an imbalance is present. Acupuncture helps balance the energy flow, whether this imbalance manifests as physical pain or distinct emotions.

How does acupuncture help with intense emotions?

Acupuncture aims to correct an energy imbalance in the body by stimulating specific points using thin needles. By targeting the right acupuncture points, the body's energy can be balanced, which can result in a calming effect on intense emotions. Acupuncture can influence the nervous system and reduce the production of stress hormones. This leads to a feeling of relaxation and calm, thereby reducing the intensity of emotions. In this way, acupuncture contributes to improving overall health, strengthening the body, and helping to cope with intense emotions effectively.

What positive side effects are observed with acupuncture for mental/emotional complaints?

Since the goal of acupuncture is to enhance the flow of energy, and imbalances can manifest in various ways, other symptoms can also be alleviated. Improved balance is often noticeable in multiple areas. For instance, people might sleep better, experience fewer allergies, or feel more energetic. Here are common positive side effects that we often observe in patients who undergo acupuncture treatment at our clinic:

  1. Relaxation: Many people feel deeply relaxed during and after the session, helping reduce stress and tension.
  2. Improved Sleep: Acupuncture can help address sleep disorders like insomnia, promoting better sleep quality.
  3. Improved Mood: Acupuncture can bring about positive mood changes.
  4. Reduced Anxiety: Acupuncture can alleviate anxiety.
  5. Increased Energy: By restoring the body's energy balance, overall energy levels can increase.
  6. Enhanced Overall Well-being: This could result from the combined effects of pain relief, relaxation, and increased energy.

Read our blog post on acupuncture for fatigue here.

A compelling case from our clinic

A 43-year-old woman initially came in due to neck/throat complaints. She constantly felt a lump in her throat and couldn't think of anything else. She suspected it was due to stress and fears. Treatments focusing on the neck issues provided temporary relief but didn't have lasting effects. After the third session, she mentioned believing that she might be a hypochondriac. She said that any little sensation made her worried, and the issue would consume her thoughts for the entire day. She also mentioned her mother, who frequently visited the doctor with similar concerns, only to be reassured that everything was physically fine.

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We suggested focusing the acupuncture specifically on her mental issues. After the placement of various needles, she instantly felt different. She later sent a message saying she felt symptoms only on the first day after treatment, but after that, all complaints disappeared. "The day after the last session was challenging, but after that, all complaints

Would you also like to experience how acupuncture can help with both physical and mental and emotional complaints? Easily make an appointment at one of our clinics in Breukelen, Hoofddorp, Nieuw-Vennep, Rijswijk / Delft, Voorburg or Wassenaar. We are very happy to help you!