TX Health Centre

How Acupuncture is Effective in Treating Depression

If you are feeling blue, tired, sad and unmotivated all the time, you may be experiencing a mild form of depression. However, if you are in an intense state of sadness and melancholy that disrupts your normal life and your ability to interact with society, you may be suffering from clinical depression. It is extreme, the patient suffers from constant negative thinking, be addicted to substance abuse and drives people to taking extreme measures including suicide.

Common Types of Depression

While there are different categories of depression, here are four common groupings:

  • Major depression – symptoms include sadness, irritability, loss of sleep, appetite and weight changes, hopelessness and thoughts of suicide
  • Bipolar depression – the person swings between elation and depression, and there may be periods of normalcy in between for the person who has a mild form of bipolar depression.
  • SAD – known as seasonal affective disorder, this is caused by the change in seasons, especially in winter when there is significantly less sunlight
  • Chronic depression – while the symptoms are not as severe, this low level, constant state is one of the most difficult to treat.

Conventional methods of treatment such as prescription drugs do not provide lasting relief. However, all is not lost. Acupuncture has been proven in several scientific studies1 to effectively treat depression, whether it is mild or major. With acupuncture, you are not dependent on nor are you at risk of getting addicted to prescription drugs just so that you can lead a normal life.

The World Health Organization predicts that clinical depression will be the second out of 10 leading causes of disability around the world, the first being heart disease2. While acupuncture does not recognize depression as a separate illness, it takes a holistic approach and treats the mind, body, emotions and spirit. It has proven so effective that the World Health Organisation has approved of acupuncture as a treatment for depression.

How does Acupuncture Work?

If you are depressed, Traditional Chinese Medicine views it as being caused by deficient or stagnant energy or an imbalance of yin and yang energies in our bodies. The imbalance shows itself in many different ways and is diagnosed by the acupuncturist through an observation and evaluation process. This includes pulse diagnosis, observation of skin tone, voice, moods, brightness of the eyes, the condition of the tongue and questions about symptoms and history.

During the acupuncture session, needles are inserted at pivotal points to either bring energy to deficient areas or to unlock blockages where any exist. This ensures that the life vitality is free-flowing. Dependent on the diagnosis, various different points can be treated. For some depressed patients, the focus may be on liver points for buried anger, the heart points for a lack of joy in life, the lung points for unresolved grief or the kidney points for those who are living in fear.

The internal energetic imbalance can be caused by prolonged stress which causes energy blockages or changes in brain chemistry resulting in lower levels of neutron transmitters. Acupuncture seeks to put right these imbalances by realigning the brain chemistry, and you can experience lasting relief within three to six sessions. Most importantly, there are no side effects which such as loss of libido, sleeplessness or drowsiness which you may suffer from anti-depression medication. Instead with acupuncture, you should feel more energetic, enjoy an overall sense of well-being, sleep better, feel less anxious and regain your motivation to be more active and engaged with life.

Your acupuncturist may sometimes recommend Chinese herbs or massage to support the acupuncture treatments. Chinese herbs nourish the major organs to ensure that they are functionally optimally.

1 Allen, J. J. B. (2000). Depression and acupuncture: a controlled clinical trial. Psychiatric Times Online, 22, 3.
Tian, C. H. (2002). Acupuncture treatment for depression. New England Journal of Traditional Medicine, 1, 4-7.

2 Alternative projections of mortality and disability by cause 1990-2020: Global Burden of Disease Study, Murray CJ, Lopez AD, Lancet 349: 1498-1504.