Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

Can Acupuncture help with anxiety?

Can Acupuncture help with anxiety?

A typical symptom of the transition into menopause (known as Climacteric syndrome) for women in the age range of 35 and 65 is anxiety. A number of studies have found that menopausal symptoms such as irritability, excessive emotional reactions and excessive mood swings (known as emotional lability), persistent worrying and negative rumination are often symptoms of heightened anxiety brought about by Climacteric syndrome.

Previous studies about the usefulness of acupuncture with anxiety have been mixed. About a third of previous studies have found acupuncture can help with anxiety, with the rest finding that acupuncture has no effect on anxiety and depression.

A study has just been published in the Journal of Nursing by researchers and practitioners from the Federal University of Ceará in Brazil has shown some very promising results for women suffering from these Climacteric symptoms.

The study looked at 30 women between the ages of 41 and 65 with Climacteric based anxiety and emotional lability symptoms. Half of the sample were treated with acupuncture and half (15) were given a placebo acupuncture treatment, where the women thought they were receiving acupuncture, but actually were being punctured 1.2 cm away from the the internationally recognised acupunture points. The results were then compared to the recovery rates from over 320 women who did not undergo any treatment. 75% of the women in the treatment groups had histories of previous emotional problems like anxiety. They also looked at other factors which may be exacerbating anxiety levels in the women, which I will cover below.

The researchers found that acupuncture, both genuine and placebo, was clinically effective for the treatment of the women's anxiety. 93.3% of the women who had the genuine acupuncture and 86.6% of the women who had the placebo effect had a marked improvement in anxiety levels over 10 sessions.

They also found that two particular factors had a significant negative impact, promoting greater levels of anxiety and emotional lability, on women with Climacteric syndrome. These are poor marital/partner relationships and stressful professional lives.

Other studies have shown that anxiety and sleep disruption problems during menopause increases the risk of depression by 4 to 5 times.

 

References

Girão ÁC, Alves MDS, Alves e Souza ÂM et al. (2014) Acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety in climacteric: additional therapy in mental health promotion. J Nurs UFPE on line., Recife, 8(6):1538-44, June., 2014

Luca AC de, Fonseca AM da, Lopes CM, Bagnolli VR, Soares JM, Baracat EC. (2011) Acupuncture-ameliorated menopausal symptons: single-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Climateric [Internet]. 2011 Feb [cited 2013 Jan 12];14(1):140-5

Polisseni AF, Polisseni F, Fernandes LM, Moraes MA, Guerra MO. (2009) Depressão em mulheres climatéricas. HU ver [Internet]. 2009 July/Sept [cited 2012 Dec 15] ; 35(3): 183-9.

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You think too much....

You think too much....

One of the things that appears to separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to know we are thinking, what is known as meta-cognition.

Connected to this meta-cognitive ability is our capacity for reflecting on things that have happened. This ability to remember at will, and in effect go over things again, lie at the heart of one of our learning systems. Because we can go back and 're-live' a situation, we can also come to conclusions about an event and then plan what to do the next time something like this event occurs again. So image you have just had a conversation with the boss about a job he or she gave you and the boss got angry during the conversation. Under normal circumstances when we are well balanced and have things in perspective we should be able to go over the events again and work out what went wrong, even to the extent to realising that maybe we should have handled things a bit differently and it's not surprising the boss got angry, or what ever conclusion we come to.

This ability to reflect on things is a vital part of our reflexive learning processes (exploring the relationships between cause and effect). If you reflect, come to a conclusion and make a plan, and maybe even put it into action, you have engaged in learning.

This is normal and you will move on. What can occur for many people however is that they get stuck in a cycle between reflecting on what happened, or worse still on what hasn't but could happen (a projection) and coming to a conclusion. So the individual goes from reflection, to conclusion to reflection and so on, without breaking out of the reflective process and never reaching a final conclusion. This can occur in some individuals many many times where they find it hard to let go of the reflective phase of the process. This rumination particularly occurs when there are negative emotions present in the scenario and is the hallmark of depression and episodes of anxiety.

So given the situation above, the individual would keep coming back to the conversation with the boss in their head and start to feel the uncomfortable feelings of embarrassment, anger, anxiety or whatever. The emotion then blocks the progression of thinking (to conclusion) and the individual goes back to reflection and so starts another (vicious) cycle of reflection or rumination.

The problem with rumination is that every cycle of reflection can intensify the negative emotion and make the next cycle of reflection even more likely and emotionally worse.
These ruminative traps are more likely when we are feeling anxious, depressed or even stressed. OCD is also based on this process, but has become more of a habit or trait for the individual. Rumination keeps us stuck in the emotion.

Like the conclusion of my blog yesterday, going and doing/focussing on something else is the way out of this cycle, and getting some help from stress, depression or anxiety of course.

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Does 'venting' anger actually help? The research.

Does 'venting' anger actually help? The research.

There is a common belief that as far as emotions are concerned, it is better for us to let it all out, rather than keeping it bottled up inside. The 'better out than in' philosophy of emotion regulation pervades many areas of therapy as well as common understanding. But is it true of every emotion, and in particular is it true of anger?
The idea of 'letting it all out' goes back at least as far as the ancient greeks with what they called catharsis. Catharsis, or a cathartic release means letting it all out and is considered to be therapeutic by many people. The modern idea of catharsis comes from the Greek word katharsis, which literally translated means a cleansing or purging. According to catharsis theory, acting aggressively or even viewing aggression is an effective way to purge angry and aggressive feelings.

Many books and self-help gurus suggest that people vent their anger either as it arises or vent their anger by punching pillows or some other inanimate object to rid themselves of the emotion as well as the negative effects (stress) of the emotion. The question is, does venting really help with emotions like anger?

Brad Bushman from Iowa state university conducted a series of research studies where he looked at this very issue. He looked at 600 people (300 men and 300 women) in whom he provoked anger by getting another participant to unfairly criticise some work they had done. They finished the wholly negative evaluation of their work by saying "this is the worst (piece of work) I have ever seen"!

After reading the evaluation, the participants rated how much they wanted to perform each of 10 activities on a list. Included in this list of activities was "hitting a punching bag." Other activities were relatively passive, included playing solitaire, reading a short story, watching a comedy, and playing a computer game. Ratings were made on a 10-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 10 (extremely).

One third of the subjects where then allowed to punch a punch bag (and if they wanted, see a picture of the person who had criticised their work so unfairly), one third were distracted and one third did nothing.

In short the participants who were allowed to vent their anger actually became significantly angrier and more aggressive than the people who were either distracted or did nothing.

There are largely two different strategies people use when they get angry. They either turn the issue or person they are angry about over and over in their heads, thinking about it and feeling the emotions, or they distract themselves with something else. Bushman found that people who tended to ruminate or pick over the issue and think about the other person also got angrier as time went on compared to those who were given a distraction or even those who were given nothing to do.

Considering that the definition of emotional resilience is the ability to be able to bounce back to a productive emotional state as quickly as possible, rumination and venting, at least as far as anger is concerned, are not helpful strategies. You are far better distracting yourself and getting on with something else. Churning stuff over and over only makes the situation worse. 

I will talk a bit more about the effects of rumination on other emotions like anxiety and depression in my next blog.

Reference

Bushman, B.J. (2002) Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding. Pers Soc Psychol Bull June 2002 vol. 28 no. 6 724-731 doi: 10.1177/0146167202289002

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