Anxiety and Depression are both very common conditions we see in our clinic. A national survey in the UK revealed that anxiety, depression and stress were among the most common reasons to seek acupuncture treatments with similar findings in USA (2). The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that depression will be the second leading contributor to the global burden of disease by 2020 (2). In Chinese Medicine there are at least 10 different patterns of disharmony specifically relating to depression alone (1). Our practitioners inspect your tongue and pulse to help make a clear diagnosis of a specific Chinese Medicine pattern of disharmony.
Acupuncture may assist with pain management and be able to assist with depression associated with depression that is related to chronic pain by managing the underlying pain, rather than treating the depression itself. In cases of depression, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in improving sleep, mood and quality of life (9).
Typical symptoms of depression can include (1):
Our practitioners understand the importance of the common two categories of depression or anxiety:
Understanding these two distinctive categories and other health findings helps guide our treatments to reach a satisfactory and individualised Chinese Medicine diagnosis.
Depression is classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as mild, moderate or severe based on the number of presenting symptoms and are considered either a single episode or major depressive disorder (2). The later being defined by a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for at least 2 weeks.
Anxiety can be classified as a constant feeling of dread, apprehension, disaster, tension or uneasiness. Anxiety disorders can be an “umbrella term” for a variety of conditions such as: phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), traumatic stress disorder or generalised anxiety disorder due to a medical condition (2).
Depression and Anxiety from a Chinese Medicine Perspective
Mental and physical health depends on the quality, volume and uninhibited movement of qi (energy) and blood. Generally all mental disorders are due to a disruption of one or more of the internal organ systems and their mental components by insufficient or stagnate qi or blood.
A lowering of vitality or functional activity describes Chinese Medicines root understanding of depression: that emotional and behavioural symptoms are manifestations of an underlying constraint, collapse or dissolution of qi that weakens and destabilises the core identity of the self (3).
Acupuncture can offer assistance in the treatment of depression when associated with pain. As with many other conditions further research is required to examine the conditions for which acupuncture may be most effective. Acupuncture can provide another choice of treatment for those suffering from anxiety or depression and an additional opportunity for those who have failed to respond adequately to other treatments especially in those cases where chronic pain is an underlying causative factor of depression, or are in circumstances where medication is contraindicated. Acupuncture may enhance the effects of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, while minimising the unwanted side effects of medications. A study conducted on 755 patients showed that both acupuncture and counselling significantly reduced the severity of depression (4).
Acupuncture in combination with other methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy, lifestyle or dietary modifications and other interventions may significantly enhance positive outcomes. If you would like to know if acupuncture can help you or be integrated into your in your current health care plan, contact our team on (07) 5515 0409 so we can help answer any questions that you may have.
Au 2015 (SR of 7 RCTs, MA of 5) (6): The findings conclude Acupressure effective in reducing anxiety; Moderate to high quality evidence (6).
Goyata 2016 (Integrative review of 19 studies including 6 RCTs; 11 high quality studies; 5 moderate) The findings concluded positive and statistically significant effects; Moderate to high quality evidence. (7)
Acupuncture plus SSRIs superior to SSRIs alone, with an early onset of action and was safe and well tolerated; EA had greater effect than manual acupuncture (Chan 2015 – SR of 13 RCTs: 1 high quality trial, 5 moderate, 7 low) (8).
Acupuncture is effective and safe for major depressive disorder, especially in improving sleep, mood and QoL by modulating and normalizing the limbic–paralimbic–neocortical network (LPNN), including the default mode network (DMN); findings conclude ‘promising evidence (Bosch 2015 - Review of SRs & MAs).
It is important to note, acupuncture does not treat the disease of Anxiety or Depression. Acupuncture may be able to assist with management of symptoms i.e pain, stress, fatigue or nausea associated with some autoimmune conditions in consultation with other treating health practitioners.
Bazzan AJ, Zabrecky G, Monti DA, Newberg AB. Current evidence regarding the management of mood and anxiety disorders using complementary and alternative medicine. Expert Rev Neurother. 2014 Apr;14(4):411- 23.
201. Au DW, Tsang HW, Ling PP, Leung CH, Ip PK, Cheung WM. Effects of acupressure on anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2015 Oct;33(5):353-9.
80. Goyata SL, Avelino CC, Santos SV, Souza Junior DI, Gurgel MD, Terra FS. Effects from acupuncture in treating anxiety: integrative review. Rev Bras Enferm. 2016 Jun;69(3):602-9.
Chan YY, Lo WY, Yang SN, Chen YH, Lin JG. The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Affect Disord. 2015 May 1;176:106-17
Bosch P, van den Noort M, Staudte H, Lim S. Schizophrenia and Depression: A systematic Review of the Effectiveness and the Working Mechanisms Behind Acupuncture. Explore (NY). 2015 Jul-Aug;11(4):281-91.