Acupuncture As Another Option When Facing Depression | Paddington Clinic, Acupuncture Brisbane & Natural TherapiesPaddington Clinic

Acupuncture As Another Option When Facing Depression

24 Oct, 2012 - Acupuncture, Blog

Depression has become so widespread that antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed class of medication in the U.S. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of Americans taking antidepressants doubled. Trends in Australia are following suit. Even when depression is sub-clinical, the body’s immune system is compromised and the symptoms reduce functioning and impair work performance and social relationships.  Common symptoms of depressive disorders include: a decreased interest in most activities, insomnia, fatigue, and feeling empty and worthless. When depression is at its worst, hopelessness sets in and suicide becomes a desperate option for approximately 15% of people who suffer from severe depressive disorders. The personal and societal costs are staggering. Luckily, many people seek therapy and/or medications and now, Harvard Medical School reports that depression is one of the top 5 conditions for which people seek alternative care.

Medically, depression is believed to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain, especially low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Depression is commonly divided into three subdivisions: mild, moderate and severe. Recent published medical research has demonstrated that prescription antidepressants work best for those who have severe depression but for mild to moderate depression, antidepressants do not seem to be any more effective than a “sugar pill” or placebo. That does not mean that antidepressants are not effective, but it does suggest that there are many factors that contribute to depression, and the need for alternative solutions is strong.

STUDY ONE: In 1998, Dr. John Allen and other researchers at the University of Arizona used acupuncture to treat a sample of women with depression. After a total of 12 sessions, 70% of the women experienced at least a 50% reduction of symptoms. This is promising, particularly because women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. The NIH funded study concludes, “ Acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in a good way.”
STUDY TWO: Research concludes that acupuncture is an effective stand-alone therapy for major depressive disorder. Researchers from the Depression Clinical Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston) cited prior research as the basis for this investigation. This prior research demonstrated that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of clinical depression for patients who are non-responsive to conventional pharmaceutical antidepressant therapies. The study researched the ability of acupuncture to augment conventional antidepressant therapy and concluded that acupuncture is an effective adjunct to antidepressants for both partial and non-responders.
STUDY THREE: Additional new research concludes that acupuncture is effective in relieving depression and increases the therapeutic effect of fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Fontex).  The researchers demonstrated that acupuncture produces a “rapid effect in alleviating depressive symptoms in both clinician-rated and self-rated measures of depression.” The investigators conclude that acupuncture is effective in augmenting the antidepressant effects of fluoxetine for the treatment of moderate and severe major depressive disorder.

(Abstract for these studies may be found online here and here.)

How acupuncture works is a topic of much conjecture. From a Western medicine perspective, acupuncture can increase the levels of a number of different neurotransmitters and, theoretically, changes in neurotransmitter levels influence the length and duration of a depressive episode.

According to traditional Chinese medicine however, depression may be the result of internal imbalances from any one of your major organs, which in Chinese medicine, are associated with a particular emotion, i.e. grief, shock, anger, etc. When energy (“qi”) and blood is blocked within your body – “stagnant” we call it – depression symptoms may arise. Likewise, if you are too deficient in qi and blood, depression can also arise. By feeling your pulse and checking reflex points on your abdomen, we can assess where your particular imbalances lie and what is going on internally. There are many alternative solutions we can give you if you are in the dark and need help out.

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