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TCM and Anxiety: A Comprehensive Understanding

Fear and anxiety are emotions that we all encounter at some point in our lives. Our emotions are a natural response to what we perceive as threats or potentially harmful unexpected situations that have occurred in our lives.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), anxiety is recognized as a complex emotional state that has a root (ben) cause and manifests (branch-Biao). As a professional acupuncturist and expert in the field of acupuncture. This article will guide you through the TCM perspective on anxiety, its diagnosis, and treatment.

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Learning more about Acupuncture

The Nature of TCM and Anxiety

Before delving into the nuances of anxiety in TCM, it's crucial to understand the nature of anxiety itself. In Western psychology, anxiety is often described as a coping behavior, particularly when attempts to deal with a situation fail, leading to unresolved fear that transforms into anxiety.

According to Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist who studies the connection between emotions, memory, and the brain. He believed that anxiety and fear are closely related, both being reactions to harmful or potentially harmful situations. In TCM, anxiety is associated with specific patterns and imbalances within the body. These patterns can be diagnosed and treated using acupuncture and herbal medicine.

The terms that are provided in this article are the methods of how an acupuncturist diagnoses anxiety, and how your acupuncturist treats anxiety.

gathering information about anxiety
Understanding Anxiety

Let's explore some common manifestations of anxiety in TCM:

1. Fear and Palpitations (Jing Ji)

  • Clinical: Manifestation: Fear accompanied by palpitations (a fluttering or rapid heartbeat).

  • TCM Diagnosis: Typically associated with blood deficiency and empty heat.

  • Treatment Approach: Focuses on nourishing blood and calming the Shen (mind).

2. Panic Throbbing (Zheng Chong)

  • Clinical Manifestation: Persistent and constant panic accompanied by a throbbing sensation.

  • TCM Diagnosis: Often related to worry, pensiveness, and internal agitation.

  • Treatment Approach: Aims to calm Shen and address emotional factors.

3. Agitation (Zang Zao)

  • Clinical Manifestation: Visceral restlessness, constant sadness, and a tendency to weep.

  • TCM Diagnosis: Typically associated with blood deficiency and Yin deficiency.

  • Treatment Approach: Focuses on nourishing blood, tonifying Yin, and calming the Shen.

4. Rebellious Qi of the Penetrating Vessel

  • Clinical Manifestation: This manifests as emotional turmoil and restlessness.

  • TCM Diagnosis: Often attributed to phlegm heat or stagnant Qi.

  • Treatment Approach: Aims to resolve phlegm heat, promote Qi flow, and calm the Shen.

Understanding the Eight Principles

TCM employs the Eight Principles as a diagnostic framework to categorize disease patterns. These principles help acupuncturists and herbalists identify the nature of a patient's condition, whether it's cold or heat, empty or full, Yin or Yang. Understanding these principles is essential in diagnosing anxiety within the TCM framework.


  • Full Heat: Indicates an excess of heat in the body.

  • Empty Heat: Suggests heat due to deficiency.

  • Full Cold: Reflects an excess of cold.

  • Empty Cold: Implies cold due to deficiency.

Empty (Deficiency) - Full (Excess)

  • Deficiency (Def): Signifies insufficiency of anti-pathogenic Qi and corresponding symptoms of deficiency.

  • Full (Excess): Represents an excess of pathogenic factors.

Yin - Yang

The interplay of Yin and Yang influences various aspects of TCM diagnosis and treatment. Understanding the balance between these two opposing forces is crucial in determining the nature of a condition.

Heart and Anxiety

In TCM, the Heart plays a central role in emotional well-being. It's often referred to as the "Root of Life" because it controls a

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Heart Meridian

ll mental activities, including emotions, consciousness, memory, thinking, and sleep. The Heart is considered the "Emperor" of the other internal organs.

Heart Blood Deficiency, often associated with Liver blood deficiency, can manifest as anxiety, palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, and poor memory. Addressing Heart Blood Deficiency is a key component of treating anxiety in TCM.

Causes of Heart Blood Deficiency

  • Dietary factors

  • Emotional stress

  • Severe blood loss

Treatment Approaches

TCM offers various treatment approaches for anxiety, depending on the specific patterns diagnosed. Treatment may involve acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary recommendations, and lifestyle modifications.

For Heart Blood Deficiency, acupoints like HT 7, PC6, Ren 14, Ren 15, Ren 4, and BL 20 are often used to nourish blood and calm the Shen.

Understanding the intricate relationship between emotions, patterns of disharmony, and treatment approaches in TCM is essential for effectively diagnosing and managing anxiety. As a professional acupuncturist, I'm dedicated to helping individuals find balance and peace by addressing the root causes of their anxiety within the TCM framework. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, consider exploring the holistic approach offered by TCM to regain emotional well-being.


Anxiety is a common experience that can intensify due to unexpected events like the first day of work, job interviews, appointments, or any disruptions to one's sense of well-being. If you have inquiries about how acupuncture can enhance your anxiety management, please don't hesitate to reach out to Kicotan Acupuncture, where we specialize in holistic well-being.

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