Treating Generalised Anxiety Disorder with Acupuncture: What Patients Think

By Linda Johnson


The aim of this study was to identify changes experienced over a course of acupuncture treatment by a group of older women suffering with anxiety. Rather than test a hypothesis, it set out to understand the journey of the women involved in terms of development of their anxiety and its impact on their lives. Based on the needs of this study, a small series of five cases was chosen as the most suitable design. The overall study covered a ten week period including an initial consultation, five weeks of treatment, when each participant received ten acupuncture treatments, and a follow-up interview three weeks after treatment ended.

Four validated self-report tools (MYMOP, HADS, DASS42 and SF-36) and semi structured interviews were used to collect quantitative and qualitative patient information. The intention was to base findings on information provided by participants, not to act as interpreter of their words to create knowledge but to present their words as knowledge situated in their own reality.

Quantitative data showed an average improvement in the group’s mental health status of 55% and qualitative information also revealed improvements in quality of life. The multi data collection methods enabled triangulation of individualized patient data, which revealed common themes concerning the factors underpinning their anxiety, and use of constructivist grounded theory maintained the participant’s presence in the thematic narrative.

Issues about data sources, performing the dual role of researcher and practitioner and factors that influence positive outcomes in treatments are identified and discussed from the perspective of both researcher and practitioner.

The study concludes that acupuncture’s overall package of care appears to have helped the participants in this study make life changes. Evidence suggests that future research is needed to better understand the effect of factors unique to acupuncture treatment, individually and combined, on treatment outcomes.