Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects up to 2.2 million adults in the United States.
Medical experts admit that the journey toward finding a workable treatment for moderate to severe OCD has been quite difficult.
Western OCD medication and cognitive-behavioral therapies do not always deliver the desired results and some studies have found that OCD medication can have adverse effects.
Unsurprisingly, OCD patients are seeking less conventional treatments such as acupuncture. Western empirical instruments have been used to test the effectiveness of alternative treatment methods and many findings have been positive.
What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is among the most common types of anxiety disorders. OCD patients have reoccurring thoughts and behaviors that they cannot control and that are repeated continuously.
OCD patients engage in obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors such as:
- Having recurring taboo thoughts
- Wanting things to be in perfect order
- Having an unreasonable fear of contamination
These are just a few OCD symptoms. The patient can obsessive over everything from religions to engaging in hoarding behaviors and repeatedly checking on things etc.
On a normal day, most people avoid intentional contamination and double check on things just to be sure.
However, compulsive obsessive people cannot control their thoughts or behaviors, spend a significant amount of time on these thoughts and behavior, and these behaviors and actions have a significant impact on their daily quality of life.
A tic is also common in OCD patients and usually manifests in childhood. Adults may, however, acquire a physical or vocal tic too.
OCD Risk Factors
OCD can affect adults, teenagers, and children. Most diagnoses occur at around age 19 with boys having a higher risk of early OCD onset. However, it is possible for adults aged 30 years and above to suffer from OCD.
The exact causes of OCD are still unknown but certain factors can increase the risk of this disorder. These include:
- Genetics: People with direct relatives who have OCD are at a higher risk of developing OCD.
- Brain Abnormalities: People with OCD demonstrate abnormalities in the brain’s frontal cortex and subcortical area.
- Personal Experience: Trauma from childhood or at any other time in a person’s life can increase the risk for OCD.
Acupuncture and OCD
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Chinese and alternative medicine for the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Numerous researchers have studied the effectiveness of acupuncture for OCD. Many of these studies have shown that acupuncture can help alleviate the symptoms of OCD.
In one study, patients who were resistant to conventional medicine and therapies were divided into two groups. Patients in one group received electro-acupuncture alongside conventional treatment. The control group did not receive electro-acupuncture treatment. The group that received electro-acupuncture treatment showed a significant reduction in OCD symptoms.
Notably, in up to 25% of the patients treated using electro-acupuncture, OCD symptoms had completely disappeared while in 29% of the patients, the symptoms had reduced significantly such that there was less disruption to the patient’s quality of life.
In other studies, patients received acupuncture alone while others received a combination of acupuncture and conventional therapies over an eight-week period.
Researchers found significant improvements in patients who received acupuncture only and those who received acupuncture and conventional therapies. Few changes were observed in patients who received conventional treatments only.
These and many other studies show that when used alone or in combination with conventional therapies, acupuncture can help to alleviate OCD symptoms.
How Acupuncture Works For OCD
In Chinese medicine, all the major organs of the body have a physical, emotional, and mental function.
Each of these body organs has acupuncture points and applying acupunctural pressure on these points can result in a major mental and emotional shift in the body.
OCD constitutes both a mental and physical aspect. In the context of acupuncture, OCD is viewed as an imbalance of the energy in the kidney.
The kidney constitutes the adrenal glands, which play an important role in regulating the hormonal system and the unconscious mind.
According to Chinese medicine, an individual’s blood chemistry can affect the functioning of their brain.
Body organs have specific points that affect blood chemistry. Performing acupuncture on these points can have a positive effect on the blood chemistry and brain function.
When the points in the kidney are ailing, a person may develop OCD and other symptoms such as irregular urinary and bowel output.
In more severe cases, these symptoms could manifest as paranoia, sharp lower back pain, and pain in the genital area.
In Chinese medicine, a person with a healthy kidney system will have control of their will but will lose control when the kidney system is ailing.
Additionally, the kidney system also affects the digestive system. A sick kidney system cannot adequately support digestive organs such as the stomach and pancreas, which significantly affect a person’s mental wellbeing.
When these organs no longer work properly, they can have an effect on a person’s ability to control their mental and physical boundaries so that the individual will not know when to stop as is the case with OCD patients.
The kidney system is also linked to the bladder. In Chinese medicine, the bladder helps the body to understand the external environment.
A weakened bladder can cause a person to feel overly taxed by the goings on in the external environment. This could result in symptoms such as anxiety attacks and paranoia.
In severe cases, when the bladder is completely worn out, a person may have difficulties understanding when enough is enough and may not be aware of inherent dangers.
Stress that affects other organs such as the lungs and heart can also lead to obsessive or compulsive behavior.
Acupuncture helps to boost and rejuvenate the circulatory system to minimize stress. Application of acupunctural pressure on specific acupuncture points helps to unblock areas in the circulation system that could be preventing proper flow of the blood.
In Chinese medicine, once the pressure along the acupuncture points is released, the impulse to act obsessively and compulsively can reduce significantly.
Acupuncture also entails delving into a person’s history to understand the source of the trauma. This helps to gradually eliminate the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety disorders.
OCD is a common anxiety disorder. More and more patients are opting for non-conventional treatments such as acupuncture for the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Studies have found that using acupuncture alongside conventional therapies and medication can significantly reduce OCD symptoms.
As usual, before beginning acupuncture therapy, consult with your doctor.