Depression affects both men and women and can have many physical, mental and environmental causes. Depression can range from mild and temporary symptoms of sadness, dejection, loss of enjoyment in usual activities, fatigue, sleep and appetite disturbances, and difficulty concentrating, to more severe and long-term symptoms including feelings of worthlessness, morbid thoughts and suicidal actions.
Those who suffer from depression display symptoms that, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, are due to an internal energy imbalance caused by external stress.
Western medicine recognizes depression as a biochemical imbalance in the brain, and looks to conventional treatments such as psychotherapy and pharmaceutical drugs to provide relief. Acupuncture and Herbal treatments for depression provide a comparable alternative to such western treatments, or can be an effective complement to traditional depression treatments. Regulating the body’s natural qi, or energy, by stimulating acupuncture points on the body, helps heal and balance the central nervous system. Acupuncture to treat depression also provides relief and comfort to the spirit, so a patient experiences whole-body health. Many patients taking pharmacological prescriptions often are able to reduce, if not eliminate, the medical need for such drugs while gaining the additional health-enhancing benefits acupuncture offers.
A study at the University of Arizona, conducted by psychologist John Allen and acupuncturist Rosa Schnyer, investigated treatments for women suffering from mild to major depression. It asserted that “acupuncture [alone] may prove to be at least as effective in the treatment of depression as psychotherapy or drug therapy.” One patient treated in the study describes her experience:
“I was in a chronic state of irritable gloom. I had such a short fuse that it was scary. After the first session, I noticed an improvement, and after about three or four sessions, there was a very big improvement.”
The effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat depression is due partly to a practitioner’s ability to be precise in the placement of needles that correspond to a patient’s individual symptoms. This kind of personal care and intimate targeting of a root cause is something that mainstream medications do not have the ability to provide. This is not to say that western medicine by any means should be ruled out: convention treatments do have a success rate of 50-70%, however, only in patients who complete a regimen involving such treatments as drugs or psychotherapy. A large number of patients, on the other hand, experience no improvement as well as uncomfortable side effects.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “the Chinese practice of inserting needles into the body at specific points manipulates the body’s flow of energy to balance the endocrine system. This manipulation regulates functions such as heart rate, body temperature, and respiration, as well as sleep patterns and emotional changes.” In a study at the Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion in Beijing, the analysis of patterns in the brain waves of twenty suffering patients showed the positive effects of acupuncture treatments.
Acupuncture’s place as an alternative or complementary remedy is indispensable. On an elemental level, acupuncture solves problems that to western medicine and perspective remain undisclosed and untested. “Chinese medicine is perhaps one of the foremost therapeutic avenues that invites nature to assist in the rebalancing of the human organism. Since humankind functions on so many levels, from spiritual, to physical, to emotional, each of these strata need be addressed.” (Depression and the Five Elements, Stephanie Schneider-Guild, Acupuncture.com)