Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine & Depression
Everybody gets the blues from time to time. However, 17 million Americans suffer from clinical depression each year. Two-thirds of these are women. Clinical depression is a disease which can have devastating effects on one’s family, relationships, and career.
What is Depression?
The term “depression” encompasses several different medical diagnoses: Depression - Dysthmia - Bipolar Disorder - Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D.
Although each of these conditions vary from person to person, they all include some of the following symptoms:
- A persistent sad or empty mood
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Problems with sleep
- Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities
- Changes in appetite and eating
- Difficulty concentration, remembering, making decisions
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Crying at the drop of a hat
- Bodily aches and pains which do not respond to treatment
Although new anti-depressant drugs, such as Prozac and Zoloft, have brought some relief to millions of patients, these drugs do
have unpleasant side effects in many patients. In addition, these drugs do not cure depression; they only manage its symptoms. Few patients relish the idea of staying on such medication their whole lives.
Chinese Medicine and Depression
Chinese medicine has been treating depression successfully for more than 2,000 years with various combinations of acupuncture, herbs, diet, and other low or no cost home therapies.
In Chinese medicine, there are six major patterns of depression. These mostly have to do with the Chinese ideas of the liver, spleen, and kidneys. Then a patient comes to an acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese medicine complaining of depression, the practitioner will first decide which combinations of these patterns the patient exhibits. Based on that individualized pattern diagnosis, the practitioner will then craft a personalized treatment plan encompassing all aspects of the patient’s life.
Does it work?
Recently, the National Institutes of Health funded a study on the effects of acupuncture on depression in women. The results of this study showed that acupuncture was at least as effective as either drugs or psychotherapy and there are no side effects!
When acupuncture is combined with Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese dietary therapy, and various other lifestyle modifications (tailored to the individual person), the effects are even greater. In addition, Chinese medical treatment for depression does not just alleviate the symptoms of depression but seeks to find, and then eradicate the root cause of the disease.
Can one combine Western and Chinese Medicine?
Absolutely. In many cases, such a combination is the best and quickest way of treating depression.
Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, can be used to lessen or eliminate the side effects of Western anti-depressants, while a certain amount of psychotherapy can help the Chinese treatment go faster.
Anyone currently on anti-depressants and wants to get off these by using Chinese medicine should discuss this with their prescribing physician and work out a withdrawal schedule in concert with their Chinese medical practitioner. Patients with bipolar disorder typically need to stay on their Western medication.
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