Daith Piercing for Anxiety: Does it Really Work?

Author Tracy Smith
January 26, 2021

Piercings are incredibly popular and prevalent in today’s culture. People engage in piercing for various reasons, such as self-expression, artistic appearance, or for religious and cultural purposes. One piercing trend that seems to continuously grow in popularity is daith piercing, which is believed by some to alleviate anxiety and migraines. The daith is a tiny piece of inner cartilage that folds above the ear drum and lies in one’s inner ear. While some may pierce it for style or self-expression, others do it to tap into the benefits of acupuncture.

Daith Piercing

Acupuncture seeks to reinstate health and equilibrium in the body by directing and regulating the energy of opposing forces, such as the energy of yin and yang. Acupuncture needles work to release energy that is blocked in the body. Acupuncturists and practitioners of holistic medicine target pressure points to stimulate the nervous system, which is believed to initiate a relaxation response. One of these pressure points is the daith, which is located in a region of the ear that, when stimulated, is theorized to ground and induce calm.

For daith piercing to be successful, the piercing must be located at the precise point said to have calming effects. Daith piercing is a fairly new procedure performed at tattoo and piercing establishments and is conducted with a specialized, hollow needle. Daith piercing was originally done for artistic purposes, but is now often done by individuals that seek to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and migraines. Some individuals claim that daith piercing is comparable to acupuncture.

Some have theorized that obtaining a daith piercing will put continuous pressure on the vagus nerve, which is the longest of ten nerves that stretch from the base of the brain to the rest of the body. Daith piercings are located in approximately the same location that acupuncturists use to treat migraines. Thus, it is postulated that daith piercing can be utilized to prevent anxiety and migraines since the piercing is permanent and is putting constant pressure on the vagus nerve.

Proponents of daith piercing believe that it can permanently ease and improve anxiety. However, there is currently no formalized research or clinical trials to prove that daith piercings do in fact alleviate anxiety. Western medicine attributes any anxiety reducing effects of daith piercing to be explained by a release of endorphins, enhanced blood circulation, or a decrease in muscle tension.

Other theorists hypothesize that perhaps a placebo effect is at play, meaning that daith piercing might alleviate anxiety because individuals simply believe it to do so. Despite this, research has shown that acupuncture to treat migraines and anxiety is more effective than the placebo effect. The means of piercing is somewhat similar to acupuncture, so if daith piercing is successful, it is likely because the same mechanisms are at play.

There is some risk in obtaining a daith piercing. Daith piercings are piercings of the cartilage, which can be painful. Cartilage piercing can take a longer time to heal and daith piercing is no exception. The piercings can take approximately five to twelve months to heal and have a higher propensity for infection when compared to piercings in the ear lobe. If infections are not addressed, they can lead to ear infection, hearing loss, or bacterial infection. If a daith piercing is allowed to close, it will not completely vanish, as a permanent mark will always be visible. 

As daith piercing is not clinically proven to reduce anxiety, one must weigh out the possible risks to the potential benefits. In addition, it’s worthwhile to keep in mind, that even if it does appear to relieve symptoms of anxiety, daith piecing should not be viewed as a replacement for professional counseling when it’s needed. Those whose anxiety interferes with their daily functioning are encouraged to seek professional help rather than completely relying on methods that are somewhat helpful, yet still unproven.

Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.