Daith Piercing For Anxiety: Does it Work?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated March 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Research suggests that more than 31% of US adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. While common, this type of mental health condition can be serious, potentially having significant negative effects on a person’s daily functioning, work, relationships, and overall well-being. That said, there are a variety of treatments available that may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and/or improve a person’s ability to cope with them. 

While talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are some of the most commonly cited and research-supported methods, alternative therapy types have received increased interest as well. One of these other potential treatments is the daith piercing for anxiety. Here, we’ll explore what it is, scientific research on its effectiveness, and advice for seeking professional support for anxiety symptoms.

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Learn about daith piercings for anxiety

What is a daith piercing for anxiety symptoms?

There are many different places where the ear can be pierced, and the daith is one of the less common ear piercings possible. A daith piercing for anxiety is done at the innermost cartilage fold of the ear. Since this innermost fold is somewhat difficult to reach, getting to this part of the ear necessitates a professional piercer’s use of a curved needle and incredible precision. 

The first person to perform a daith piercing is reported to be Erik Dakota. His first client for this piercing was a woman who named the piercing “da’at,” or daith, meaning knowledge. Daith piercings can usually only be performed using a specialized needle that Dakota designed. Although it was initially done for purely aesthetic purposes, some claim that this piercing also helps reduce their anxiety symptoms. Some people also use it to treat migraines. There is anecdotal and limited scientific evidence suggesting its potential benefits for those who experience migraines.

Why the daith? Acupuncture and the vagus nerve

Some believe that getting certain ear piercings like the daith may help with anxiety symptoms because the ear contains several acupuncture points that professional acupuncturists target. Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that aims to help with the flow of energy in the human body. Many holistic health professionals use pressure points in an effort to alleviate anxiety and symptoms of other health conditions. 

The daith piercing in particular, is thought by proponents to promote possible vagal modulation due to the constant pressure it may put on the vagus nerve. This nerve is a part of the parasympathetic nervous system that helps modulate blood flow to the brain, thereby affecting cognition and emotional control. 

Many Western doctors currently attribute the anecdotally positive results of a daith piercing for anxiety to other factors besides stimulation of the vagus nerve, such as the stimulation of endorphin release, a reduction of muscle tension, or improved circulation. 

Research on daith ear piercings

Most of the information on the use of daith piercings for anxiety is anecdotal, since there have not yet been any US clinical trials that have produced scientific evidence to support its potential symptom-relieving effects. 

Supporters of this piercing point to scientific studies on acupuncture of the ear. For instance, one study tested how ear acupuncture affected the stress levels of healthcare workers. Its findings suggest that auricular acupuncture may be effective in reducing stress and anxiety among this population. Theoretically, daith piercings may produce the same effects that acupuncture does. Nevertheless, more studies will need to be carried out on the application of daith piercings specifically in order for many mental health or medical professionals to endorse it.

Considering the placebo effect

Some people do not believe that daith piercings work for anxiety, pointing instead to the placebo effect—meaning that a treatment works only because one believes it is working. However, this does not necessarily mean that daith piercings for anxiety do not work. Until sufficient scientific studies have been completed, it’s not possible to say definitively whether this method reliably works or not.

Risks associated with a daith piercing for anxiety

As with any other, a daith piercing comes with risks that an individual should consider before getting one. First, it can be painful to get the piercing, and it takes time to heal completely—anywhere from five to 12 months. If you decide to take the jewelry out someday, it could leave a mark even once the piercing has closed, which may bother some people.

Also note that because the daith is a cartilage piercing, it may have a greater chance of infection than standard lobe piercings. An untreated infection could lead to meningitis, facial paralysis, and hearing loss in extreme cases. It’s also possible to experience toxic shock syndrome, sepsis, or other complications from a piercing, particularly when the equipment used was not properly cleaned.

You might consider consulting a healthcare provider before getting a daith piercing to discuss the potential risks for you personally. For instance, they may tell you to avoid getting one if you take blood thinners or have diabetes, an autoimmune condition, or hemophilia.

Preventing infection after getting a daith piercing

To reduce the risk of infection from a daith piercing for anxiety, you might consider the following tips:

  • Get your piercing and other piercing help at a licensed shop.

  • Ensure the piercer is knowledgeable and licensed to do daith piercings specifically.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the piercing.

  • Use cold compresses to reduce any swelling.

  • Clean the piercing daily as directed by your piercer.

  • Keep the wound dry and avoid activities such as swimming for as long as your piercer says to—usually several weeks at minimum.

  • Avoid removing the jewelry until the wound heals completely—usually between six months and a year.

Learn about daith piercings for anxiety

How therapy can help with anxiety

Currently, the most effective method for addressing anxiety, according to a wealth of studies on the topic, is some form of talk therapy, sometimes in combination with medication. A therapist can equip you with strategies for shifting distorted thoughts, managing stress, and developing healthy habits. You might also ask about their experience with other treatments for anxiety, such as piercings.

If the thought of calling therapy offices to check availability and make appointments and then commuting to each session adds to your stress or anxiety, you might consider online therapy instead. Through a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist after completing a brief questionnaire. Then, you can meet with them virtually via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of your home.

A growing body of research indicates that online therapy may be a powerful tool for people experiencing anxiety symptoms. For example, one study from 2021 suggests that therapy is “no less efficacious” when delivered virtually than when delivered in person.

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Takeaway
A daith piercing is a type of ear cartilage piercing that, if done at the right point, is purported to help relieve symptoms of anxiety by putting pressure on vagal afferent fibers. There’s currently no scientific evidence to support this claim, though there is some research to suggest that ear acupuncture may help in reducing stress and anxiety in some populations. Currently, the anxiety-reducing method supported most significantly by research is psychotherapy, sometimes in combination with medication. If the thought of arranging in-person therapy causes more anxiety, meeting with a provider online may be a more convenient or comfortable option. 
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