Many people may find it very difficult to believe that acupuncture is considered by some to be able to help treat phobias. This article investigates if there is any point in using acupuncture for phobias. Firstly let’s compare the difference between a phobia and a fear.
Originating from the Greek word Phóbos, which means either a fear or a morbid fear, a phobia falls into the scope of anxiety disorders and is different to a fear. A phobia is an irrational fear and is defined as:
"the manifestation of intense fears towards specific situations and objects, which in reality, produces minimal to no threat."
Fear on the other hand is built into our natural survival response and is linked to the fight-or-flight response. All human beings and animals possess this instinct and it is crucial when dealing with a potential danger. It can help us escape or fight the danger that does exist in our current reality.
The Brain Plays A Starring Role
So fear is based in reality whereas a phobia is based only in the person’s perception. There are plenty of phobias that are commonly held amongst numerous people and there are also many different genres of phobias. Phobias can be social or specific. Yet like other types of anxiety and fear we know that there are several parts of the person’s brain which play key roles in the production of phobias, anxieties and fears.
Scientists study this starring role in order to understand how phobias and anxieties are created by the brain, so that they can be treated, as well as learning about the generation of new cells during a human’s life. Then it could be possible to stimulate new neuron growth for people with certain conditions, such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Amygdala And Phobias
Part of the limbic system, the amygdale is shaped like an almond and lies deep in the brain. It is thought to process and interpret incoming signals, trigger anxiety and fear responses to the rest of the brain and store emotional memories. Therefore it is currently believed that it plays a role in phobias such as spiders and flying.
Hippocampus And Phobias
It is the hippocampus that has the job of encoding threatening events into memories. Some studies have shown that the size of the hippocampus is smaller in those who served in violent combat, as well as child abuse victims.
Acupuncture And The Brain
As the brain plays a huge part in creating phobias and other types of anxiety disorders, if acupuncture can’t treat the brain then how could it have any real affect on a phobia?
Acupuncture can treat the brain as the acupuncture points relating to the brain can be found on the human body. So in other words without taking any drugs, acupuncture can stimulate a reaction in the relevant parts of the brain to start the healing process.
It is considered that acupuncture can have a positive effect on brain chemistry. At the beginning of a treatment the needles stimulate blood flow locally, which has the knock on effect of an increase in both nutrients and immune cells. During acupuncture endorphins are also released.
The treatment will generally strengthen the nervous system as well as the immune and hormonal system. It will bring the entire system back into a more balanced and healthier state of being.
Experienced qualified acupuncturists will take the time to diagnose their patients using a range of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) diagnostic tools and during this time will consider other relevant acupuncture points to needle. The root cause of the phobia plus any other knock on effects will be treated.