What Is The "Anxiety Piercing" And Does It Work?
Apr 26, 2023, 8 min read
Social media has brought about all sorts of trends, theories and ‘quick fixes’. Some are helpful, while others come with a distinct lack of scientific research behind them. We’re shining a spotlight on the ‘Anxiety Piercing’; what it is, how it’s done, what it can help with, and much more, as well as asking the question… does it really work?
Whether you’ve been considering getting an anxiety piercing, you already have one, or you’re just curious to learn more about what it could do for your mental health symptoms, we have all the information you need, and the science to settle the debate.
At Augmentive, we aim to provide holistic, tailored mental health support to everyone so they can live their life to the fullest, so if you have questions about the anxiety piercing or other anxiety treatments, we’re here to help.
Firstly, what is an ‘anxiety piercing’?
The ‘anxiety piercing’ is technically called a ‘daith piercing’. Unlike the more common ear piercings that go through the fleshy lobe part of the ear, this piercing goes through the thick cartilage fold where the inner part of the ear meets the outer part.
Since it’s thicker and more curved in shape, it tends to be a more difficult place to pierce, which means getting it done can cause sensitivity and possibly more pain (but this feels different for everyone).
How is an "anxiety piercing" done?
Any and all piercings should be done through a trained professional with experience. As with any procedure that involves penetrating the skin, you are at risk of infection, so you always need a steady, trained hand, sterile equipment, and advice on how to keep your piercing clean afterwards.
When you get any new piercing, you will likely have a conversation with the body piercing artist about what type of jewellery you would like inserted when you get your piercing. Keep in mind that the best jewellery options are typically hypoallergenic metals, and metals like titanium, gold or surgical steel.
You should also be offered jewellery that has a long post, meaning there will be extra room for the cartilage around your ear to swell up as it heals. This is normal, so don’t worry about it. If it looks very swollen or lasts longer than your piercing professional says it should, go back to them or visit your GP to check there is no infection.
Does an "anxiety piercing" hurt?
Even if you have an extremely high pain threshold, it’s likely you will feel a needle going through your skin. Due to the positioning of the daith piercing, the cartilage tends to make this type of piercing more tender than others since it takes a little longer — about 6 to 9 seconds. Apparently the daith piercing isn’t the most painful type of piercing you can get, but it can cause some discomfort during and after it’s done.
Remember, pain is subjective and everyone has their own threshold. If you go to a reputable piercing studio they can usually talk you through the levels of pain based on what others have said they experienced. They may even be able to give you some numbing spray or cream if you are worried about pain, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Is a daith piercing hard to care for?
Due to its positioning, the daith piercing can sometimes take longer to heal than others. It is estimated that this type of piercing can take up to 9 months to fully heal, while an earlobe piercing in comparison takes just 1 to 2 months.
If you notice a little redness or tenderness when you first get it done, that’s normal. It should start to hurt less over time, and eventually it will heal and won’t hurt at all. Try to be wary of touching or snagging your unhealed daith piercing while getting dressed or while sleeping, as this is likely to cause you additional pain.
What’s the theory behind this piercing helping with anxiety and migraines?
If you’re thinking the daith piercing might be a quick fix for your anxiety symptoms, you’re not the only one. Recently, the daith piercing has become increasingly popular, partly for its edgy, unique look, and partly because of a theory that’s spread around social media like wildfire. The theory is; by piercing this part of the ear, you can alleviate certain health concerns such as anxiety and migraines. But is there any truth to it?
Let’s start with migraines…
Since the theory has become widespread on social media, it does need to be accompanied by a healthy dose of scepticism, but the idea is that the location of the daith piercing is close to the acupuncture point that is said to help relieve migraines and headaches by blocking pain receptors in the body.
Some studies have actually found a certain amount of truth in this, because the piercing targets a pressure point that exists along the vagus nerve, which is thought to alleviate symptoms. According to one study done on patients attending the London Migraine Clinic, 30 of 42 consecutive patients reported an improvement in headaches just 1 to 4 months after receiving a daith piercing, with a three-fold increase in average symptom-free days/month from 6.4 to 19.7. In the second part of this same study, two points of stimulation were compared; the daith and the antitragus. Interestingly, the same results were not true for participants who had their antitragus stimulated, which does not have connections to the vagus nerve.
So although this is not substantial enough evidence to make any conclusions, there is at least some reason to believe that a daith piercing could help with headaches and migraines.
But what about anxiety?
Acupuncturists often call this point on the ear ‘point zero’, which apparently helps the body maintain homeostasis. Anxiety is a type of disruption in homeostasis, and although research into the effectiveness of acupuncture for various health conditions is fairly new, it has been around for thousands of years offering a range of benefits.
Still, even some acupuncturists are sceptical of the daith piercing, so without further research into this type of piercing it is impossible to say conclusively whether or not it works for anxiety. Plus, tapping into acupuncture points often requires exact precision, so the chances of a body piercing artist with no acupuncture knowledge getting this right every time are slim.
So what’s the verdict; can this piercing really help ease anxiety?
The likelihood is that any evidence suggesting daith piercings can help ease symptoms of anxiety is purely anecdotal and could be a placebo effect. While it is an acupressure point, there is no medical evidence to support the idea that putting pressure on this point will help with anxiety symptoms. In order for this to be confirmed, there would need to be a randomised controlled trial looking into the link between daith piercings and anxiety symptoms compared with other treatments.
That said, just because there aren’t enough trials out there doesn’t mean a daith piercing does not help with anxiety, only that it has not been proven. One study done in 2014 confirmed that vagal afferent fibres could help modulate mood, and in particular, experiences of fear and anxiety. If — as the aforementioned data suggests — the daith piercing does stimulate the vagus nerve, it’s not entirely out of the question to believe that it could help improve anxiety symptoms.
Another study which involved eight patients who had already undergone daith piercing found that seven of the eight patients (87%) reported mood improvements. Since mood can be linked to anxiety symptoms, this is an interesting finding. However, it is unfortunate that the number of participants is not great enough to give any conclusive results.
Could this be a placebo effect?
Yes, it could. Many medical professionals believe that the improvements those with anxiety feel after receiving a daith piercing are most likely a placebo effect, which is when our expectations of a medical procedure, medication or treatment are so powerful they make our brain believe we are experiencing effects — even when we are not.
Placebos can be incredibly powerful, so if you have experienced an improvement in anxiety after a daith piercing then there is no reason to overthink it. Whatever helps, helps! There is still a lot of talk in online communities about the positive impacts daith piercings can have, so we believe it is certainly worth further exploration.
A 2020 report titled ‘Daith Piercing: Wonder Treatment or Untested Fad?’ called for more research into the use of "anxiety piercings" as a medical treatment, so hopefully this will increase scientific interest in the phenomenon.
Other ways to help ease anxiety
Different types of anxiety require different treatments, so it’s important to find the treatment and coping mechanisms that work best for you. If anxiety is affecting your life in a really negative way, remember you can speak to your doctor about this.
If you want to relieve your anxiety at home, here are some things that might help:
- Getting regular exercise — the NHS recommends we all do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week
- Living a healthier lifestyle — try cutting out things like caffeine, alcohol and smoking to see if you feel better
- Improving your sleep — you might try going to bed at the same time every night, or keeping the temperature of your bedroom cool
- Taking part in mindfulness practices — this could be meditation, deep breathing, journaling or something else
- Medication — if you have suffered with anxiety for a while and it is affecting your daily life, you may be prescribed medication to help ease symptoms
- Therapy — At Augmentive, we offer a free 15 minute consultation to help guide you towards a specialist and a type of therapy that can help with your anxiety issues
What types of therapy help with anxiety?
There are so many different types of therapy that can address anxiety symptoms, including (but not limited to):
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) — A talking therapy that helps manage issues by addressing underlying thoughts and behaviours
- Interpersonal Therapy — A type of therapy focused on how relationships affect us, and how our mental health issues can affect relationships in return
- Psychodynamic Therapy — A type of therapy that uses self-reflection and examination to dig to the psychological roots of suffering
- EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) — A type of therapy to help people heal from traumatic incidents and emotional distress
- Art Therapy — A well-established approach to therapy facilitated by a skilled art therapist, that supports anyone with emotional distress
- Drama Therapy — A unique form of psychotherapy combining therapy and the arts to use mediums like drama, storytelling and movement to address emotional issues
- Music Therapy — A type of therapy that supports individuals to process their emotional experiences and develop coping mechanisms to improve mental health
- Dance Movement Psychotherapy — A type of therapy that uses body movement and dance as a means of expression and communication
If you would like to read more about ways to ease anxiety, here are 8 tried and tested ways to calm your mind (and 8 more that are more niche).
Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from private psychiatric assessments and reviews to broader mental health care: join us today.
If you have a question about anxiety or think you may need advice and treatment, we’re here to assist on your journey. Our free 15 minute consultation can guide you to the most relevant specialists to answer your questions and discuss next steps.