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Anxiety Disorder- Senior Physician Jiang Xue Feng

JIANG XUE FENG—Senior Physician


Anxiety disorder


Anxiety disorder (psychoneurosis) is a mental illness that’s characterized by a sense of distress. Those who suffer from it experience fear and anxiety for no apparent reason, and may also have headaches, chest fullness, palpitation, difficulty breathing, dry mouth, urinary urgency, sweating, and tremor.


TCM divides anxiety disorders into 3 types:

The phrase “anxiety disorder” does not exist in TCM terminology. However, it’s signs and symptoms are similar to those of “visceral inflammation”, “panic attack”, “palpitation”, and “insomnia” in TCM. It is generally due to Qi and blood deficiency, emotional trauma and inflammation of the “liver system” that lead to fluid stagnation and malnourishment of the “heart system”. The disorder is associated with multiple visceral systems, including heart, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and kidney. Treatment needs to bring the visceral functions back to balance based on the differential diagnosis.


TCM categories


Signs and symptoms

Other concomitants

Heart and spleen deficiency

Racing thoughts, palpitation, weakness

Dizziness, forgetfulness, sleeplessness, excessive dreaming, reduced appetite, bloating after even a small meal, pale facial complexion

Liver congestion and spleen deficiency

Attention deficit

Depressed mood, chest fullness, sleeplessness, reduced appetite, bloating, loose stool

Heart and gallbladder deficiency

Palpitation, fearfulness, easily startled, irritability, brain fog, mood swings, restlessness

Sleeplessness and excessive dreaming

Liver and kidney Yin deficiency

Untrusting, easily startled, irritability

Dizziness, tinnitus, low back and lower extremity weakness, sleeplessness, excessive dreaming, bitter taste in the mouth, dark yellow urine

Inflammation and phlegm retention

Irritability, racing thoughts, restlessness, talks a lot

Excessive dreaming, headaches, dizziness, bitter taste in the mouth, dry mouth

Blood stasis

Palpitation, irritability, untrusting

Restless sleep, headaches, sharp chest pain, chest fullness, dark circles around the eyes, bluish color of the lips


TCM treatment for anxiety disorder

See the table above for specific TCM treatment for each type of anxiety disorder. Tranquilizers used by medical doctors are more effective, yet long-term use of high dosed medications lead to dependency, and side effects, such as hormonal dysfunction and weight gain. Combining medication with herbal medicine can potentially reduce the side effects and increase efficacy. When appropriate, acupuncture is included in the treatment protocol. Acupuncture mainly focuses on the neurological and mental mechanisms. It is advised to continue the medication for up to 1-2 years after remission. This rule of thumb applies to all types of anxiety disorder.  Please seek medical advice to tapper off your medication to avoid relapse.


Case study:

Mr. C, 33. He first visited the clinic in 2012. He recalls that he was in Hong Kong in February 2012. One day, he suddenly had palpitation and trouble breathing, and was not able to sleep. When I saw him, he had thin white coating on his tongue, and his pulse was thin, yet taut and fast. I diagnosed him with anxiety disorder, the liver congestion and heart and gallbladder deficiency type. He continued TCM treatment by using Chinese medicine and acupuncture all the way up to November 2013, and we started tapering off his treatment frequency, as he was very stable. He completed all treatments in October 2014. He has not had any relapse.

It is common for patients to experience relapses during the initial period of treatment. For that reason, you should always follow your doctor’s advice. Do not discontinue treatment halfway, or reduce the dosage of medication. It typically requires one to two years of continued treatment to stabilize anxiety disorder.