Anxiety is a complex set of symptoms.
It is not a disease in itself, but it can be very debilitating. Presentations of anxiety and depression might have unique traits in different individuals. Some report anxiety with tightening in the chest or palpitations of the heart. Others feel shortness of breath or a feeling of a lump in the throat. Some people talk of unsubstantiated fear or dread mixed with worry and a sense of panic. Some panic attacks are so severe that they mimic a heart attack and patients wind up in the cardiac wards for further investigation.
Depression is almost the opposite in its manifestation and often presents with a sense of heaviness, fatigue and a deep sense of loss or isolation.
What is the Cause?
Western medicine sees depression and anxiety as symptoms of abnormal brain chemistry. Pharmaceutical drugs are often prescribed to alter this chemistry and mimic a sense of normalcy. The question is, what actually leads to this chemical imbalance in the first place?
From the point of view of Chinese Medicine, anxiety can be caused by many factors, but the head is not the first place we look. In general, anxiety can be said to originate in the chest or abdomen. This area houses the Liver and Spleen, the Heart and the Kidneys.
The organ referred to as the Liver in Western Medicine is seen in Chinese Medicine as having a more important function in relation to emotional factors such as frustration, rage, and spiritual awareness. The Liver is responsible for the free flow of life energy (Qi) and blood throughout the body. It also provides nourishment to the nervous system. The concept of blood in Chinese Medicine has a strong relationship to consciousness and spirit, as it does in most ancient cultures. Hence, the free flow of consciousness, blood and Qi ensures a stable and moderate expression of the self.
Chinese Medicine examines many such concepts of internal imbalance. It identifies and provides treatments for numerous causes of anxiety and depression. Its deep understanding of the human condition comes from thousands of years of study. Its methods of treatment prove to be very successful indeed.
In general, any given condition at any given time may be caused not by just one, but two, three or more factors. Patterns are recognized and each factor is treated with greater or lesser attention, in accordance with the presenting condition. Individualization of treatment involves the careful selection of specific acupuncture points and a meticulous process of selecting each particular herb and the individual dose assigned at any given stage of the condition.
Chinese Medicine does not fragment the person into separate factors such as physical, chemical, hormonal, emotional or spiritual. All these expressions of the self manifest in a single united entity, and are observed as such. 5,000 years in the making, Chinese Medicine is equipped with its own method of diagnosis and arrives at a recognized Chinese Medical pattern, which it then treats in its own way. The aim is to create a harmonious state of the entire being and enable its return to normal function.
This, by no means, claims to be a ‘be all and end all treatment’. Severe depression or anxiety may require western intervention. However, while some chemical balancing may be required in severe cases, Chinese Medicine can be adopted in parallel, to attempt the eventual reduction or withdrawal from Chemical treatment, in a coordinated fashion, where Western and Chinese physicians communicate to enable the best possible outcome for patients.