In this blog post, we will answer the question, “Can acupuncture help with OCD?” We will touch upon the rationale behind acupuncture. Then, we will understand the association between acupuncture and OCD and how it helps treat OCD. Finally, we will outline several considerations to be made before opting for acupuncture.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) entails obsessive, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts that evoke anxiety. To neutralize this anxiety, individuals sometimes engage in repetitive and ritualistic behaviors (aka compulsions).
Can acupuncture help with OCD?
Yes, acupuncture can help with OCD when used as an adjunct to evidence-based treatment options. It is also useful for other mental health conditions. People benefit from acupuncture for OCD when combined with conventional psychotherapy, medications, and other treatment options.
One study in 2013 conducted by Jason Bussell reported that individuals experienced reduced anxiety, apart from improved memory, after exposure to acupuncture.
Researchers have also reported that acupuncture helps in the decrease of stress hormones in your body. Such reduction can help ease several symptoms of OCD that stem from stress. Additionally, acupuncture entails almost 0 side-effects as opposed to medications and other conventional treatment options typically used for OCD.
Rationale Behind Acupuncture
Acupuncture aims to bring equilibrium to any disparity found in your body. Acupuncture entails the careful placement of needles on specific body parts. Doing so helps activate these places, which then relieves any obstructions, bringing the body back to homeostasis.
According to this Eastern therapy, human physiology is made of twelve fundamental systems, each of which comprises physical and emotional aspects. Therefore, acupuncture can have a potent influence on your mental and physical compositions.
The Chinese acupuncture method postulates that energy channels exist in your body. Every track is linked to the primary organs. By activating specific points on these channels, you can experience physical and mental benefits.
Acupuncture and OCD
At the base of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) lies anxiety. It is reported that people feel a sense of calm and relaxation after acupuncture. Such reports indicate effectiveness for people with OCD and other anxiety-provoking disorders. We will see how various organs are implicated in the treatment of OCD using acupuncture.
- Other organs
Most acupuncturists believe that OCD is associated with an imbalance in the energy of the kidneys. Chinese medicine associates kidneys with willpower. Damage to the kidneys could make us mismanage our will and exert beyond our limitations, which worsens our kidney condition.
The associated organ of kidneys is the bladder. It is believed to regulate our muscles and skin, allowing us to register outside stimuli. The bladder plays an integral role in the unconscious awareness of our external surroundings. A weakened bladder makes us overwhelmed by outside stimuli.
Damage to the bladder can elicit frequent panic attacks and drive our nervous system into a hypervigilant mode. There is trouble relaxing, exhaustion, burnout, and a tendency to engage in overexerting activities.
Some acupuncture specialists recognize the heart as the place from which to release or reduce anxiety. They also believe in improving liver functioning to help with anxiety. Some believe that the large intestine causes dissociation, while the small intestine makes people sensitive to criticism.
Moreover, they claim that some people with OCD have low spleen functioning and associated digestive problems. Others believe that the lung is involved leading to a continuous requirement for touch and use of our senses.
How Does Acupuncture Help with OCD?
Through acupuncture, the professionals toughen the parts mentioned above to bring back bodily equilibrium.
To treat OCD, they stimulate the inner ankle and the shin, both of which are associated with your kidneys and bladder, respectively. It evokes a calming sense and stimulates the circulatory system to release varicosity, if any, and discard toxic build-ups. Typically, the pressure is removed, and the urge to engage in compulsive behaviors is reduced.
Acupuncture associated with the bladder and kidneys helps relieve the pressure that could turn into obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, thereby treating only symptoms of OCD.
To get to the root of the disorder, thorough case history to understand the original trauma must be conducted. There could be a hereditary component, indicated by a family history of OCD, which mandates treatment at a deeper level in the body.
There may be some medical condition that leads to hormonal imbalance or inflammatory problems. In this case, long-term treatment is required.
It depends on each individual and the way the disorder manifests in them.
Conventional Treatment Options for OCD
Acupuncture is commonly recommended only as an adjunct to traditional interventions for OCD. Such conventional treatment options for OCD include:
Psychotherapy for OCD typically involved Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Specifically, Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), wherein you are gradually exposed to the obsession that induces anxiety, such as germs or contamination. You are then taught ways to resist performing ritualistic behaviors. Although not easy, with practice, it gets better.
Antidepressants are usually prescribed for OCD, such as clomipramine, fluvoxamine, and fluoxetine, among others.
Ensure that you take the recommended dose as the doctor prescribes medications in a way that effectively regulates your symptoms. Tampering with this dose could be harmful. In the case of side-effects, talk to your physician. They will alter the dosage or change the medication to suit you better.
Moreover, be wary of the black box warnings as they outline any adverse effects that could entail consuming the drug. If you experience any suicidal ideations, contact your doctor or the national suicide hotline. Visit www.suicide.org to know the hotline for your region.
Additionally, if you are taking any other medications or supplements, let your doctor know as there may be harmful drug interactions.
Do not stop taking your medication without discussing it with your doctor first. Abruptly ceasing to take a prescribed drug could lead to adverse consequences. Even though antidepressants are non-addictive, you may experience symptoms that resemble withdrawal (commonly called discontinuation syndrome). Further, you may experience a relapse of your OCD symptoms.
Brain stimulation therapies like Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and Transmagnetic Stimulation (TMS) are sometimes used for treating treatment-resistant OCD.
Considerations to Be Made
There are several considerations to be made before opting for acupuncture for treating OCD, such as:
- Choosing the right practitioner;
- Finding accurate tools
The right practitioner
Every individual’s disorder manifests differently; their symptoms, clinical patterns, prognosis, and the like, differ. You must understand that acupuncture works differently for everybody and in the treatment of their OCD. Consult your practitioner on how they see your disorder as oriental and conventional medicine have differences in their labeling disorders.
Moreover, there is a lack of governance and uniformity in training in many places. This limitation indicates that there may be a reduced level of protection for patients as compared to conventional treatment options. Understand the existing regulations in your region and look for practitioners with the required qualifications and training before checking out reviews.
Talk to the practitioner and ensure you feel safe and comfortable with them and their clinical setup. You have a stressful disorder to deal with; you do not need any triggering stimuli during your treatment.
Disorders like OCD are typically a cumulation of various factors. Although acupuncture may relieve symptoms and help you feel calm and relaxed, it is not a permanent fix. It can best be used as an adjunct to other forms of treatment like psychotherapy and medications.
Moreover, it is a subjective and individualized treatment. Talk to your practitioner about your disorder in detail and ensure your case history is taken to optimize the therapeutic effects while minimizing potential risks.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
In this blog post, we answered the question, “Can acupuncture help with OCD?” We touched upon the rationale behind acupuncture. We also understood the association between acupuncture and OCD and how it helps in the treatment of OCD. Lastly, we outlined several considerations to be made before opting for acupuncture.
Frequently Asked Questions: Can Acupuncture Help with OCD?
What is the ideal treatment for OCD?
Psychotherapy, along with specific antidepressants, helps with OCD. Psychotherapy for OCD entails cognitive behavioral therapy. There is also exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a commonly used aspect of CBT. Common antidepressants that are used along with psychotherapy are:
Can you treat your OCD yourself?
No, you cannot treat your OCD yourself. You need professional help. However, there are specific relaxation techniques you can understand and practice to aid in your recovery. These skills include:
Progressive muscle relaxation
Which vitamins help with OCD?
Vitamin B12 and Folate are known to be useful for treating OCD as they positively affect the neurotransmitters implicated in OCD. Zinc and selenium can also help enhance the effects of therapeutic interventions for OCD due to their antioxidant properties.
Is it possible to treat OCD without medication?
It is possible to treat OCD without medication but is typically not recommended. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is commonly administered with specific drugs for treating OCD. ERP involves gradual exposure to the anxiety-provoking object or situation until the brain registers the irrationality and does not respond with anxiety and compulsive behaviors.
What causes OCD?
OCD is caused by biological or hereditary influences, such as abnormalities in the brain’s chemical balance, structure, and function. Compulsive behaviors are learned in that they are associated with neutralizing anxiety, and hence, become repetitive and ritualistic in the face of anxiety-provoking circumstances.
What could trigger OCD?
Specific triggers depend on the type of OCD. Here is a list of a few triggers for a few types of OCD:
Contamination: hand-shaking, dirt, bodily specimen, germs, doorknobs, dusty surfaces;
Symmetry: lack of balance, incorrect placement of objects, disorganization, uncleanliness;
Sexual: socially unacceptable thoughts concerning sex, typically involving family members, religious figures, animals, and the like. These thoughts are deemed immoral, repulsive, and ego-dystonic (not in sync with their beliefs and ideologies);
Harm by accident: electrical appliances, dangerous equipment, driving in the dark; and
Harm on purpose: non-specific; people, circumstances, places
Does OCD get permanently cured?
OCD does not get permanently cured. The symptoms typically come and go over time. Most individuals with OCD require ongoing treatment.
Does OCD worsen as you grow older?
Yes, OCD worsens as you grow older, and because of this, individuals tend to forget when their condition started. Sometimes, they can remember when they initially took notice of the disturbances caused by their symptoms.
If OCD is left unchecked, what could happen?
If OCD is left unchecked, the condition could become so severe that the individuals begin to experience physical dysfunctions. They may also develop suicidal ideations.
Does the term ‘neurodivergent’ apply to individuals with OCD?
Yes, the term ‘neurodivergent’ applies to individuals with OCD apart from those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Neurodivergent characterizes conditions concerning cognitive skills. These individuals have problems with social skills.
What we recommend for OCD
If you are diagnosed with OCD then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.