Q: I would like to know the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of body dysmorphia and is there a possibility to achieve a cure in the lomg run.
A: We were once asked about using acupuncture for treating anorexia, one of the more commonly experienced types of body dysmorphia, and a part of our responses was:
Chinese medicine has an entirely different conceptual framework from conventional medicine, and is based on an wide and intricate understanding of the workings of body, mind and spirit as a flow of energy, called 'qi' (pronounced ‘chee’). This flow can become blocked, stuck, weakened or excessive in response to the circumstances of life, and when this happens symptoms develop. From this background there is the potential that Chinese medicine might provide treatment options, but we have to say that our experience is that body dysmorphia which is the root of the problem is rarely addressed directly by acupuncture and it usually requires considerable counselling and careful management to encourage someone back to full health. There is no doubt that acupuncture can help along the way; especially by aiding the restoration of natural function and calming the spirit. Acupuncture should not be seen as a primary treatment for anorexia but it can be an effective complementary therapy. However, each case is unique and it is always possible to visit a BAcC member local to you to get the benefit of face to face advice.
This is probably the best that one can say. You will read a considerable amount of accounts of traditional acupuncture treating body, mind and spirit, and traditional acupuncture treating the whole person, and this can sometimes slide into an unwitting creation of an expectation that acupuncture can treat anything. This is, of course,. technically true; acupuncture treats the individual and therefore helps with anything from which they suffer. Treat is ambiguous, however. Most people hear 'cure' when they hear 'treat', and as we said in the earlier answer we believe that body dysmorphia probably requires a great deal more than acupuncture alone to address properly.
That said, it would do no harm to visit a local BAcC member and have an informal chat about what may be possible. There are some cases where the condition can be tracked back to specific causes, like low self-esteem or low confidence, which taken together with the other diagnostic soundings might offer a possible benefit. As a general comment, though, we think that what we said previously is the best advice that we can give.