Acupuncture is used all over the world to address issues of mental health. Depression is extremely common and it varies in severity from one person to the next. Symptoms of bipolar disorder, mild to severe depression and general dysthymia are all treatable with Acupuncture and Chinese herbs. There are no side effects with Chinese medicine and in fact, patients receiving treatment for depression will see improvements in the other symptoms they may be experiencing as a result of their depression, such as insomnia, fatigue, pain or others. For those people who would like additional help in dealing with their depression, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be a safe and extremely effective therapy.

How Does Acupunture Work?

By allopathic medical standards, it is unclear how exactly acupuncture is able to effect depression. However, there is growing evidence supporting acupuncture’s effectiveness in the treatment of depression. A study done by the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona found that acupuncture was effective in reducing relapse rates of women with depression. In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, 26 women with major depression received regular acupuncture treatments for 8 weeks. At the conclusion of treatment, 17 women achieved full remission of their condition and only 4 of those women experienced a relapse of their depression symptoms six months later. This small study suggests that acupuncture, when used specifically to treat depression, produces results that are comparable to other empirically validated treatments.

It is known that when acupuncture needles are inserted into the body, endorphins are released. Endorphins act in the body as natural calming and pain-relieving agents. This helps with the emotional effects of depression, as well as the physical symptoms that can often accompany it. Acupuncture also helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby helping to relax the body and mind. But the effects of acupuncture go beyond just working on the nervous system. The physical body, the emotions and the spirit are inextricably linked. Acupuncture has long been an effective method of treating these three levels of the human being. Treatment incorporates, but is not limited to, addressing issues of neurotransmitter deficiencies; it works with the whole person to treat the physical, mental and emotional aspects of this condition.

What Can I Expect With Treatment?

For addressing a long-standing condition such as depression, the first visits are aimed at understanding your particular pattern of depression and addressing symptoms as they arise. When necessary, visits focus on decreasing any acute symptoms. The duration of treatment depends on how long you’ve been experiencing depression and its severity. Acute or more urgent symptoms can often be relieved immediately, or at the very least in the first two sessions. In general, you can expect that after 1 to 2 months of weekly visits, you will experience an overall change in your depression, as well as a change in any other symptoms you may be experiencing. Treatments are relaxing and provide an opportunity to reflect on symptoms and feelings, past or present.

What Other Tools am I Given to Ensure my Treatments are Effective?

While acupuncture can quickly resolve depression symptoms initially, in order to sustain the positive results of treatment, your acupuncturist may provide you with some diet and lifestyle modifications. Simple dietary changes can have a tremendous impact on the frequency and severity of depression symptoms. Vitamin and mineral supplementation can also be an easy way to help balance out mood swings and fatigue. If you are taking anti-depressants, your acupuncturist can prescribe Chinese herbs that work synergistically with your medications to address symptoms. If you are looking for an alternative to pharmaceuticals, Chinese herbs are a safe and effective way to continue treatment on a daily basis. Your acupuncturist will have a detailed look at your lifestyle, diet and medications and will make suggestions accordingly.