It is estimated that 7.8% of Americans will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point during their lifetime, with nearly 5.2 million people affected each year. Commonly, PTSD is treated with methods of talk therapy or with medication, but acupuncture is becoming a more widely recognized treatment option.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is considered a mental health condition resulting from the direct experience of trauma or bearing witness to a traumatic event. While commonly associated with those who were exposed to combat situations, PTSD can also arise in individuals who were abused or assaulted, involved in an accident or who survived a natural disaster. It can truly affect any person regardless of their age, race or gender.
What are the symptoms?
There are typically four symptoms associated with PTSD that can also manifest as other conditions.
Reliving the traumatic event - This can make the person feel as if they are going through the event again. It can be in the form of flashbacks via bad memories or nightmares. This can often lead to severe anxiety and insomnia.
Avoidance of any situation that may trigger memories of the traumatic event - This can include thinking about or talking about the event. This can often lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
A change in beliefs and feelings about oneself or others - After a trauma, the victim or bystander may experience feelings of guilt or shame. They may also develop the fear that the world isn’t a safe place or that other people cannot be trusted. This can be a major cause of both anxiety and depression.
Hyperarousal - This means that a person is always on the alert and lookout for danger. It can often manifest as jitters, racing heart and panic attacks. This can sometimes lead a person to seek out things that can calm or numb the feelings such as smoking, drinking, or drugs.
It is also common for those suffering from PTSD to develop physical symptoms such as chronic pain.
Acupuncture Improves Symptoms of PTSD
A pilot study on the effects of acupuncture for PTSD was conducted with two main objectives in mind: To develop a Chinese Medicine diagnostic and treatment protocol for PTSD and to examine the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating PTSD in a randomized controlled trial. A sample of individuals seeking out treatment for PTSD were selected to receive either acupuncture treatments or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatments. A control group of “waitlisted” individuals who received no treatment were also included in the sample. Study participants were asked to report changes in the severity of their symptoms at the end of their treatment and then three months’ post- treatment. The results showed that acupuncture did produce significant improvements in symptoms immediately following treatment and the improvements were maintained in the three months following the treatment period.
Acupuncture Provides Options
When compared to more conventional treatment methods for PTSD, acupuncture may be a more appealing choice. Unlike pharmaceuticals, it comes without unwanted side effects and may help improve the overall health of the person seeking treatment. For patients that do not want to talk about their experiences, acupuncture allows them to manage symptoms and potentially work through their trauma without having to recount it. Each person will respond differently to various forms of treatment for PTSD, but acupuncture can be included in their list of potential options.