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Acupuncture and Mental Health

Oriental medicine considers that two type of energies run in our body, Yin and Yang. We can simply imagine these as positive and negative electric energy. The balance of positive and negative is pivotal to maintain healthy, and disruption of the balance leads to illnesses. These theories match our understanding of mental disorders from the view of molecular medicine. Imbalance of neurotransmitters, molecular signals and brain waves was found and results in anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia as well as psychiatric diseases [1]. Therefore, the therapeutic principle of oriental medicine is to rebuild the balance.

Acupuncture as a main approach of oriental medicine is effective to correct overacting or weakness of both positive and negative energies and restores the balance. By stimulating acupoints, acupuncture up- or down-regulates energy flow, clears disturbance, harmonizes connected internal organs, corrects imbalance from roots and in a holistic perspective, and therefore promotes recovery from illnesses. Basic and clinical studies prove the efficacy of acupuncture on anxiety, depression, PTSD [2-5]. Data show that acupuncture intervention has a significant treatment effect to PTSD, similar to CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), and the similar effect as sleeping pill to insomnia without side effects [6-8]. As mental disorders disturb the balance of autonomic nervous system, specifically the sympathetic-parasympathetic nervous system which dominates our respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal system, patients with mental disorder may also experience short of breath, palpitation, gastric pain, constipation and diarrhea. Acupuncture works effectively to relief those symptoms as acupuncture balances the sympathetic-parasympathetic system [1].

The current biopsychosocial model of health care integrates multiple approaches including integrative biomedicine, psychological and social sciences. Acupuncture bridges the biomedicine and psychology and continues its contribution in health care delivery.


1. Hollifiedl M. Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: conceptual, clinical, and biological data support further research. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics. 2011;17:769-779

2. Amorim D, Amado J, Machado J, et al. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for anxiety disorders: a systematic review of the clinical research. Complement Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2018;31:31-37

3. Kim SH, Jeong JH, Kim BK, et al. Acupuncture using pattern-identification for the treatment of insomnia disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Integrative Medicine Research. 2019;8:216-226

4. Oh JY, Kim YK, Park HJ, et al. Acupuncture modulates stress response by the mTOR signaling pathway in a rat post-traumatic stress disorder model. Scientific Reports. 2018;8:11864-11881

5. Engel CC, Cordova EH, Ursano RJ, et al. Randomized effectiveness trial of a brief course of acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder. Medical Care. 2014;52:s57-64

6. Hollifield M, Sinclair-Lian N, Hammerschlag R, et al. Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized controlled pilot Trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007;195:504-513

7. Kim YD, Heo I, Lim JH, et al. Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and prospective clinical trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013:2013;615857

8. Tu JH, Chung WC, Tzeng DS, et al. A comparison between acupuncture versus zolpidem in the treatment of primary insomnia. Asian Journal of Psychiatry. 2012;5:231-235.

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