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Acupuncture for Mental Health (Anxiety and Depression)

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by both physical and psychological symptoms that can disrupt an individual’s daily life. Depressed people often suffer from a variety of symptoms such as poor sleeping habits, crying spells, anxiety, worry, poor memory, inability to concentrate, and stomach disturbances.

From a Chinese medicine perspective depression is largely related to the obstruction of Liver Qi. This indicates that the Qi within the body is not flowing smoothly and may result in the symptoms of depression. Concurrently or as a result of Liver Qi Stagnation, the Heart, Spleen a/or Kidney systems may also be effected. Some of the common lifestyle habits which may contribute to this are:

  • lack of exercise
  • poor dietary habits – especially fried foods and/or alcohol
  • repressed or overly expressed emotions – especially anger and/or grief

At Acupuncture San Diego we treat Anxiety and Depression with proven techniques that get results. This may incorporate a combination of acupuncture, dietary changes and supplementation.

Studies from around the world have suggested that treating the symptoms of depression with acupuncture has a positive effect on depressed patients, particularly when used in combination with psychotherapy and herbal treatments.

According to the National Institute of Health:

“Qi regulates spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance. Qi is influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang. According to traditional Chinese medicine, when yin and yang are balanced, they work together with the natural flow of qi to help the body achieve and maintain health. Acupuncture is believed to balance yin and yang, keep the normal flow of energy unblocked, and restore health to the body and mind.”
A western interpretation would be that the acupuncture points stimulate the central nervous system, releasing chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain, promoting the body’s natural healing abilities. In the words of the NIH: “Studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in a good way.”

Fine, but does acupuncture work for depression?

In 1998, the NIH’s Office of Alternative Medicine funded a study at the University of Arizona . Working with acupuncturist Rosa Schnyer, John Allen PhD devised a 16-week trial on 34 seriously depressed women. First the two worked up a standard treatment plan that targeted certain “depression points” on the body. Then they devised a dummy treatment calling for needles in nonspecific places. The acupuncturists administering the treatment had no idea whether they were using the real plan or the dummy plan.

Then the subjects were divided into three groups. The first group received the depression-specific acupuncture, the second group got the dummy treatment, and the third group was put on a wait list before being placed on eight weeks of the real thing.

Following the treatment, the depression-specific groups experienced a 43 percent reduction in their symptoms compared with a 22 percent reduction for the dummy group. More than half no longer met the criteria for clinical depression. Only five people dropped out of the study – two who moved away, one who became pregnant, and two who didn’t like the needles. The dropout rate was much lower than for studies using medications.

Two advantages of acupuncture, Dr Allen told a seminar at the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association Conference in Boston, include no language barrier (a factor for patients who have difficulty speaking English), and its low cost compared to conventional treatment. Unlike antidepressant drugs, for instance, acupuncture has no side effects. And Allen predicts that it may offer the best way yet to forestall future episodes of depression. That’s a significant worry, since people who’ve suffered one bout of depression have a 50 percent chance of enduring another.

The study findings suggest that using acupuncture alone could be as effective as other types of treatments for relieving depression symptoms typically used in Western medicine, such as psychotherapy and drugs. Results are promising and the United Nations World Health Organization has approved acupuncture as a treatment for depression.

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