Traditional acupuncture regards illness as a sign that the body/mind is out of balance. The exact pattern and degree of disharmony is unique to each individual.

The traditional acupuncturist’s skill lies in identifying the underlying pattern of disharmony and selecting the most effective treatment.

Acupuncture has the potential to make a significant contribution to mainstream mental health services, and most importantly to the quality of life for the patient.

In cases where medication is used, acupuncture can help to reduce side effects from neuroleptics, anti-depressants, and mood stabilisers. This has the potential to allow patients to take a low dose of medication and at the same save the NHS money.

The Facts

A recent British Acupuncture Council online survey showed that with longer working hours and today’s economic and social pressures, many people are finding it hard to cope.

Conducted across the UK, the survey revealed that the top three emotional issues treated by acupuncturists are depression (18%), anxiety (12.8%) and insomnia (10.4%), with stress following closely behind.

It also placed depression in the top five health problems presenting amongst acupuncture patients, alongside back pain, fertility, headaches and skin problems.

National Guidelines on Integrated Mental Health.

Acute Anxiety 

Anxiety can be crippling in its effect upon a person’s life. It is a chemically driven event. Think of driving with your foot on the accelerator; now think how difficult it would be to drive through your town if you couldn’t respond appropriately to changing external factors – like traffic lights and other vehicles!

My experience of helping patients with acute anxiety is that acupuncture is rapid and effective in controlling heightened feelings. There is little point in engaging in conversation or probing questions at this time; just damp down the symptoms. There’ll be plenty of time to talk when the extreme states of arousal have reduced and the patient is getting a glimmer of control.

Chronic (or free floating) Anxiety

Chronic (or free floating) anxiety is more like a bad habit; or when your computer has mysteriously changed its default setting to the ‘wrong’ setting. It just can’t get back to where it ought to be without pressing the reset button.

Combining acupuncture and NLP (a conversational method of getting people to see things differently and move on) seems to be effective in helping patients move from being ‘stuck’ with anxiety, to being able and willing to let it go thereby producing a new and different response to the world. Often a great relief to the patient, their family and friends!


Depression is more complex. Some people have a kind of depression which seems to be quite unrelated to external events in their life; it’s as if a black cloud is overhead. Then one day it just seems to go of its own accord. This kind of depression is probably chemically or hormonally driven in the patient’s brain. Medication (drugs from your doctor) can help some people, and some people respond to acupuncture very well – but not all. So, it’s important to explain this at the outset.

Reactive depression is believed to be the result of one or more negative events in the patient’s life. This can often be helped with a combination of acupuncture and NLP (a kind of therapeutic conversation which can provide a different way of seeing things, and help some people to move on) also known as ‘brief therapy’.

Postnatal Depression

Chinese Medicine recognises a woman’s need to rest and nurture herself immediately after the birth of her baby and for an extended period afterwards. Modern women tend to feel they should be able to ‘get back to normal’ as quickly as possible and family members often live hundreds of miles away.

Exhaustion, hormonal imbalance, poor sleep and the negative effects of eating-on-the-run can then become overwhelming and can create or exacerbate underlying tendencies towards sadness, grief, loss, resignation and despair.

Acupuncture helps resolve post-natal depression and in conjunction with other treatments, particularly counselling, nutritional therapy and medical attention and support, it contributes to recovering from post-natal depression.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a syndrome characterized by anxiety following exposure to extreme traumatic events such as threat of personal death, personal injury, or death of loved ones.

The reaction that occurs shortly after the trauma is called acute stress disorder but if one has a delayed or recurring response it is characterized as PTSD. Common symptoms of PTSD include:

– Detachment
– Loss of emotional response
– Unable to recall aspects of trauma
– Recurrence of trauma in thoughts, dreams, flashbacks
– Exaggerated startle response

Recently, the Pentagon has been investigating the beneficial effects of acupuncture for PTSD on soldiers affected with this condition.

As per findings from recent trials, it has been found that combat veterans were relieved of their symptoms and experienced reduced depression, as well as pain. The improvements due to acupuncture were also found to be very rapid and significant.

Studies like those conducted by Dr. Hollifield at Department of Psychiatry in University of New Mexico, show that acupuncture can be used successfully as natural treatment for PTSD symptoms like depression, anxiety, insomnia as well as pain originating from psychosomatic disorders.


Hollifield M, Sinclair-Lian N, Warner TD, Hammerschlag R. Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled pilot trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007 Jun;195(6):504-13.

Pease M, Sollom R, Wayne P.  Acupuncture for refugees with posttraumatic stress disorder: initial experiences establishing a community clinic. Explore (NY). 2009 Jan-Feb;5(1):51-4.


A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as ‘a persistent fear of an object or situation’ in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.

In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.

There are three categories of phobia:

1. Social phobia: fear of other people or social situations such as performance anxiety or fears of embarrassment by scrutiny of others. Overcoming social phobia is often very difficult without the help of therapy or support groups.

2. Specific phobias: fear of a single specific panic trigger such as spiders, snakes, dogs, water, heights, flying, catching a specific illness, etc. Many people have these fears but to a lesser degree than those who suffer from specific phobias. People with the phobias specifically avoid the entity they fear.

3. Agoraphobia: a generalized fear of leaving home or a small familiar ‘safe’ area, and of possible panic attacks that might follow. It may also be caused by various specific phobias such as fear of open spaces, social embarrassment (social agoraphobia), fear of contamination (fear of germs, possibly complicated by obsessive-compulsive disorder) or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) related to a trauma that occurred out of doors.

Phobias vary in severity among individuals. Some individuals can simply avoid the subject of their fear and suffer relatively mild anxiety over that fear. Others suffer full-fledged panic attacks with all the associated disabling symptoms. Most individuals understand that they are suffering from an irrational fear, but are powerless to override their panic reaction.

In our clinic we have successfully helped patients with a wide range of phobias. Our approach uses a combination of acupuncture and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming).

We start with the patient describing their phobia ie when and where it occurs, what are the necessary triggers, what are the specific symptoms which are triggered. This simple step is usually sufficient for the patient to begin to experience their symptoms to a greater or lesser degree.

Once we are clear as to the triggers for the phobia we can switch tack and use acupuncture to dampen down the state of arousal and thereby reduce the distressing symptoms.

Finally, we use a specific ‘talking’ technique from NLP which has been shown to be particularly effective in altering the ease with which the patient had previously been able to create their particular state of distress.

If you think of a phobic response as a ‘skill’, most patients will readily agree that they are highly competent at this particular ‘skill’. The purpose of the treatment is to render them much less ‘skilled’ at producing their phobic response. Ideally, utterly incompetent, as, indeed, they once were!