Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health concerns with a major contribution to the global burden of disease. When not treated, anxiety can be aggravated to more serious and complicated health problems. Pharmacology and psychotherapy stand for the conventional treatment for anxiety disorders but these present limited efficacy, especially in the case of chronic anxiety, with high relapse rates and often causing adverse side effects. Clinical research studies render acupuncture as a valid treatment therapy for anxiety disorders without significant adverse effects. The objective of this paper is to review the literature on the effectiveness of acupuncture and electroacupuncture for the treatment of patients with anxiety disorders in order to find strong scientific evidence for its regular practice in Western culture. The systematic review of the clinical research was focused on published clinical trials (controlled, randomized and non-randomized) regarding the treatment of anxiety with acupuncture. Only clinical trials where anxiety was treated as the therapeutic target, and not as a secondary measurement or being associated with other health condition or disease, were considered. Two authors extracted the data independently and exclusion and inclusion criteria were set. The search rendered 1135 papers addressing anxiety as a primary therapeutic target. After review, 13 papers were identified to match exclusion and inclusion criteria and were selected for this analysis. Methodology, design, and quality of the research were highly variable and are discussed and compared. Overall, there is good scientific evidence encouraging acupuncture therapy to treat anxiety disorders as it yields effective outcomes, with fewer side effects than conventional treatment. More research in this area is however needed.
Keywords: Acupuncture; Anxiety; Anxiety disorders; Electroacupuncture; Systematic review.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.