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Anxiety and Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Physical Experience of Anxiety

If you’ve read Got Anxiety? and now you’re here – thanks for reading. Now let’s get visceral and talk about the ways in which anxiety can manifest from a purely symptomatic standpoint. The first thing to know is that anxiety is protean by nature – in other words, the subjective experience of anxiety can change quickly, and the symptoms can disappear as quickly as they arrived. Some describe their anxiety as a “hamster wheel thinking” or being “stuck in the brain” while others describe it as a Pu-pu platter of more physical symptoms that can include increased heart rate, tense muscles, shallow breathing, nausea, stomachache, headache, crab rangoon, beef teriyaki, and fried wontons. (What?! I said Pu-pu platter!)

Take a break from the hamster wheel with acupuncture.
Take a break from the hamster wheel with acupuncture.

Anxiety also varies in intensity. Some people have low-grade anxiety that they live with day to day, and some feel relatively fine until they experience what they call a panic attack. No matter how you define anxiety, the one thing that holds true is that no matter how it feels, anxiety sucks. There are solutions out there though. For instance, some people use cbd oil from organizations similar to ilcbd to acquire said oil. Furthermore, research seems to suggest that CBD can have a calming impact on the mind and body. Are you considering using CBD infused products to make your anxiety more manageable? If so, you might want to do some research into cbd water. CBD products have come a long way in recent years and can, therefore, be used in a flexible way that fits in with your lifestyle. Moreover, anxiety can have an impact on people in different ways. It’s a state of being in which calmness and peace feel like they are hiding in a cave, 3000 miles from where you live, surrounded by thistle. Which, needless to say, yet worth saying – totally blows. People have been using cannabis products to help them for some time. In fact, dispensary supplies are now varied enough to incorporate things like vapes, which might be preferred by some users. When it comes to anxiety, there is a solution out there that can help you manage these symptoms effectively. Everyone will find out what works best for them with time, but if the idea of visiting dispensary sounds like a route you would like to try, but you do not live close to one, don’t worry. This is why sites such as exist. What you can get from a dispensary is what you can get online to help with your anxiety. You never know if you don’t try.

Anxiety According to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Anxiety, from a TCM perspective, always involves the Heart and the Shen. The word “Shen” is a keyword in TCM. It indicates the activity of thinking, consciousness, insight, emotional life, and memory. In English, the closest word to Shen would be “mind.” When someone comes into the clinic looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed (and is not a squirrel), I might say “Hey, Clyde, your Shen looks bright today!” In other words, Clyde seems like his mind is free and clear, and it manifests on his face, especially in the clarity in his eyes.

In TCM, it’s also acknowledged that anxiety can come from both a known cause (i.e. PTSD in a veteran or a survivor of abuse) or an unknown cause (I feel like a chandelier is going to drop on my head and kill me even though there is no chandelier in sight), and is usually aggravated by tiredness and/or general stress. The cool thing about the way TCM treats anxiety is that it always looks for a differential diagnosis. In other words, we know that anxiety looks different according to the individual, and it’s protean nature is acknowledged within TCM.

The kind of anxiety that you are experiencing is an important differentiation in TCM

The following are some basic examples of ‘types’ of anxiety, as well as their ‘energetic’ origins.

Panic attacks are the WORST. This image seemed to be the most accurate representation of the one's I've experienced. Like this feeling of impending doom suddenly cracking the earth beneath your feet. The positive side - by talking about my experience, I learned how to manage them.  Acupuncture also greatly reduced their frequency.
Panic attacks are the WORST. This image seemed to be the most accurate representation of the one’s I’ve experienced – this feeling of impending doom suddenly exploding through into your physical reality. The positive side – by talking about my experience, I learned how to manage them – since learning breath work, I’ve haven’t had one reach the status of “full-blown.” Acupuncture also greatly reduced their frequency.

1.Heat: Agitation, restlessness, feelings of desperation, rapid movement and speech, red face, heat sensations, panic that moves in an upward direction. What it actually feels like: Some dudebag just threw kerosene on the already big bonfire that is my collective worries and now I’m off to the anxiety races – insert flaring of thoughts/obsessions/worries and occasionally, a panic attack.

2. Qi Deficiency: Preoccupation/rumination, obsessive worry, palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, poor appetite, all of things worse when tired. What it actually feels like: I am so tired. Life is too much. How can I handle this? How can I handle this? How can I handle this? I just need to sleep? I’m not sleeping. I’m not sleeping. I’m not sleeping.

3. Stagnant Qi: Feeling stuck on a thought, irritability and depression, moodiness, muscular tension, GI issues (constipation/loose stool), sensation of fullness or discomfort in heart and stomach. What it actually feels like: I want to crawl out of my skin or hop on a train to some tiny village in Mexico and never look back and I’m angry because I can’t do this and worried because I’m so angry and if I don’t go for a run tomorrow I might literally implode. And why is my neighbor blasting country music at 10pm? You know what I’m going to do – I will run him over when I leave for work tomorrow and I’ll never have to hear his stupid music again. Rahhhh!!!

4. Blood Deficiency: Insomnia, palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, poor memory, feelings of vulnerability and being overwhelmed by life. What it actually feels like: My brain is fuzzy, I need to sleep, there is just too much to do, why are people so mean, is a giant shoe going to drop down from the sky and squash me like a bug?

5. Yin Deficiency: Preoccupation/rumination, tired but restless, insomnia with sensations of heat, occasional night sweats. What it actually feels like: My kids are crazy, my partner is crazy, I’m crazy, when will I get a moment to myself, oh crap, I forgot to pay the electric bill, I need a glass of wine, oh crap, here comes a hot flash, I need to sleep, I’ll never sleep, the car needs an oil change, my parents are getting old, I need 2 glasses of wine.

Do you recognize yourself?

No? Good.

Yes? Let’s look at what we can do to help.

This is the 2nd post in a series of 3 about anxiety. If you are interested, check out the 1st post in this series – Got Anxiety? See the 3rd post, An Arsenal of Awesomeness for Anxious Times here.