Supporting Teens’ Mental-Emotional Health with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

Navigating the teenage and young adult years have always been challenging, but there is increasing awareness that young people are suffering unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression in recent years. Because the teenage brain is in an intensive developmental stage, teenagers can have difficulty regulating emotions and are more susceptible to anxiety and depression, among other mental health disorders. A depressed teen may show signs of irritability or defiance, restlessness or sluggishness, extreme sensitivity to criticism from peers, low confidence/self-worth, social withdrawal or isolation, difficulty focusing and concentrating, unexplained aches and pains, and/or changes in sleep and appetite. An anxious teen may exhibit any of the above behaviors, and may also experience shortness of breath, trembling, heart palpitations, generalized fear/apprehension, social anxiety and panic attacks. It is very common to have symptoms of both anxiety and depression simultaneously.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducts a biennial Youth Risk and Behavior Survey (YRBS) and the most recent data collected in 2021 was published in February of this year. This is the first survey to come out since the Covid pandemic began, and it revealed an alarming increase in mental health reporting for youth in all areas. The results are most alarming among girls and young women, who reported rates of sexual violence, sadness and hopelessness 36% more frequently than in 2011, and at nearly twice the rate of their male counterparts.

The CDC has recommended implementing programs to increase “school connectedness,” provide better access to mental health care services and resources, and adding quality mental health education to mitigate this alarming trend. However, these solutions can be slow to develop due to lack of funding, short staffing, lack of awareness and other impeding factors.

In traditional Chinese medicine, anxiety and depression are generally regarded as disturbances of the “Shen,” or the heart spirit. Loosely translated, Shen can be described as our consciousness, or the spiritual element of our psyche, which plays a vital role in a healthy, balanced mental/emotional state.

Disturbed Shen manifests in symptoms congruent with our modern Western presentation of anxiety and depression. These include: heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest tightness, insomnia, profuse dreaming, decreased appetite/digestion, fatigue, dull or ‘distracted’ look in the eyes, a racing or ruminating mind, restlessness, agitation or irritability, trembling, inability to concentrate, generalized feeling of fear and apprehension, and panic attacks. In Western terms we describe these symptoms as being associated with the “fight, flight or freeze” mode. Being in this state for prolonged periods of time can negatively affect our overall well-being, depleting our energy, immunity, concentration, productivity and much more.


In the last few years Kara has expanded her education and experience in the field of mental health, particularly among teenagers and young adults. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine offer natural and innovative treatment options for a wide range of mental health concerns. Kara has witnessed profound transformation among people of all ages she has worked with. She brings awareness, compassion, and deep personal understanding while providing safe, gentle, effective mental-emotional support to her patients.


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