Using Acupuncture to Treat Depression
Depression is one of the most common of all mental health conditions. It is estimated to affect as many as 17.3 million adults in the United States alone. That’s 7.1% of the adult population!
The most common treatment for depression is antidepressant medication. However, many people are now seeking more natural ways to manage their condition. One of these is acupuncture, an ancient Chinese therapy which uses fine needles to restore balance to the body and mind.
Acupuncture and Depression
Acupuncture differs significantly from western medicine in that it views the body and mind as being closely connected. This means that physical ailments can have a major impact on your emotions and vice versa.
Another major difference is that western medicine uses the term ‘depression’ to cover a wide variety of different symptoms, and treats them all in a similar way. Acupuncture, on the other hand, sees different types of depression as having different causes and treats each one in a unique way.
For example, each of the major internal organs (the Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys, and Liver) is associated with a different emotional state. An imbalance in any of these organs can lead to depression, but the symptoms of each will be slightly different.
Acupuncture and the Emotions
Because each organ is associated with a particular emotion, different types of depression can arise depending on which organ is primarily being affected.
The Heart (Joy)
The Heart is associated with joy. This might seem like the opposite of depression, but for some people, an imbalance in the Heart organ can manifest as an inability to experience this emotion.
Furthermore, people with conditions such as bipolar disorder may alternate between states of depression and extreme joy (mania). This kind of depression is usually a sign of an imbalance in the Heart.
The Spleen (Worry)
The Spleen is associated with worry or overthinking. An imbalance here can result in circular thinking, where one thought gets turned over again and again. This can lead not only to depression, but also to anxiety and insomnia.
The Lungs (Grief)
The Lungs are associated with grief. In Chinese medicine grief is actually seen as a healthy emotion. It means being able to let go of the past and move forward into the future.
However, people with Lung imbalances may have difficulty with this. They might find it hard to let go of past hurt and regret, and experience bitterness or resentment.
The Kidneys (Fear)
The Kidneys are associated with fear. Fear can be helpful, keeping us safe from harm. However, it can also be paralyzing and in extreme cases, such as phobias, it can stop people from living a fulfilling life. This, in turn, can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The Liver (Anger)
The Liver is associated with anger. Anger can be a useful emotion when expressed in the right way. It helps people to make positive changes and move forward from situations that are making them unhappy or unwell.
However, when the Liver in imbalanced, people can find themselves stuck in bad situations. This leads to frustration, loss of hope, and eventually, depression.
Of all of the organs, the Liver is especially affected by depression. This is because one of its roles is to circulate qi around the body. When the Liver is sick, qi gets stuck and becomes stagnant. This is one of the major causes of depression in Chinese medicine. It is also something of a vicious cycle. The more depressed a person becomes, the harder it is for their Liver to function properly. And the more the Liver is affected, the more depressed they become.
How Does Acupuncture Help Depression?
From a Chinese medicine perspective, acupuncture for depression works by restoring balance to the internal organs. This has a positive effect on both body and mind. During the first consultation, the acupuncturist will ask the patient a series of questions to determine which organ or organs are being affected. They will then tailor their treatment to meet their individual needs.
From a western medical perspective, acupuncture for depression works in a very different way. It helps to regulate the release of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin. These chemicals play a vital role in controlling a person’s mood and emotions. Therefore, by regulating them, acupuncture can cause significant shifts in the way a person feels.
Research on Acupuncture for Depression
A 2018 review of 64 studies and 7104 patients found that acupuncture might offer some benefits for depression. However, most of the studies were not high enough quality to draw definite conclusions and more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of acupuncture for depression.
However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that patients with depression find acupuncture useful. For example, the patient featured in this case study experienced significant relief after just three months of acupuncture treatment.
How Many Acupuncture Treatments Will I Need for Depression?
Unfortunately, acupuncture is not a quick fix for depression, especially if you have had the condition for a long time. It can take several weeks to notice a major difference, and several more to have a lasting effect.
The good news is that acupuncture is great for both physical and mental health. Many people find that once they have tried it, they can’t wait to come back for more! Some of the positive effects that patients report after having acupuncture include increased relaxation, better sleep, more energy, and an overall more balanced mood.
To learn more about acupuncture for depression and how it could help you, get in touch and we will be happy to answer any questions.