When Anxiety is the Culprit: 3 Things to Know

AnxietyWhen people ask me what I treat most often in my practice, I could answer with a long list of symptoms, syndromes, and diseases. Instead, I usually answer with one word: “stress.”

In NYC, people work hard: long hours, lots of competition, along with incredible passion and inspiration. It is, after all, “the city that never sleeps,” and often I see people who don’t either. Some play too hard, as well: not great for well-being.

Many people turn to acupuncture when they cannot get a definitive diagnosis from their doctor for whatever is ailing them. Sometimes it is sciatica or headaches that come frequently. Muscle pain is a big one. Neck and shoulder tension top the list, and the others are too numerous to name. Some patients even have vision problems that come and go.

Sometimes, a patient’s symptoms are caused by anxiety. If you suspect this is the case, here are three things to know:

1. Never assume your symptoms are from anxiety. If a health issue causes concern, see your primary care provider. It could be something that can be corrected with surgery or medication, or it might be something more serious. You never want to take the chance of ignoring something that Western medicine is good at resolving.
2. Check your stress level. I always ask patients to tell me what they think their stress level is on a scale of 1-10. Quite often, they laugh and report a number much higher! Stress can cause anxiety. It is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. If you have a lot of stress in your life, ask yourself what changes you can make to make it less so. Maybe more downtime, some regular exercise, less caffeine intake, a better diet, better relationships, trying to get on a regular schedule with meals and bedtime, or just more laughter. I have seen people make some big changes in their lives as we work together. As they change attitudes, relationships, or even jobs, symptoms can lessen or disappear completely. Acupuncture is great for treating stress. Once people get a sense of relief, they become more aware of what causes it.
3. In some cases, physical symptoms are caused by the stress that results from unresolved emotional conflicts. Dr. John E. Sarno’s book, The Mindbody Prescription, is an eye-opening read in this regard. He brings to light what many psychoanalysts have long concluded—that unconscious and conflicting emotions can cause physical symptoms. In these cases, it is important to get help from a good counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. You could even just begin by talking with a trusted friend or person you think might be able to lead you in the right direction.

Lastly, sometimes just knowing that the symptoms are caused by anxiety and not some dreaded unnamed disease is enough to help “cure” the symptoms. The anxiety might have been caused by stress that caused the symptoms that caused even more anxiety because of the worry that something is seriously wrong. The body-mind connection is complex, and we learn more about it every day. One thing is for sure. Stress can cause or exacerbate disease. It is prudent to take an inventory of all the stressors in your life and make changes if necessary. Your body will thank you for it!


  1. Linda says

    Thank you for this article. To most people, anxiety is very misunderstood. Often times, it sends people to the emergency room under the guise of a heart attack. You offer a simplistic and reassuring explanation to make anxiety sufferers aware that once diagnosed, it is treatable; and each individual has the power to change things. For the person whose life has been paralyzed by anxiety, this article can be the beginning of a road to health and happiness.

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