Acupuncture: An Effective Treatment For Anxiety & Depression

Did you know Acupuncture benefits include more than chronic pain relief? Acupuncture is an ancient Oriental medical art and healthcare practice effective in the treatment of multiple syndromes and diseases including mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

The alarming high incidence of mental conditions affecting nearly 20 percent of the US population has patients looking for alternative options as a first choice or to complement traditional Western medical treatments.

Some facts about anxiety and depression

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an estimated 40 million people over the age of 18 are diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Although these disorders are treatable, those affected by them are six times more likely to be hospitalized in a psychiatric facility.  Frequently, those who suffer from anxiety also suffer from depression.

 

Women are twice as likely to suffer from Generalized Anxiety disorder and Depression.  The risk factors that influence the development of Anxiety and Depression include genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

Most people feel moody and sad at times, but sadness and low moods are much more intense and persistent in those who manifest the disorder. Their behavior may be reckless, and they are more likely to use alcohol and drugs.  Many people do not recognize their symptoms and therefore do not seek help until the disorder has advanced.

Depression and anxiety symptoms include:

  • Sadness and anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Worthlessness
  • Helplessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Low appetite
  • Overeating
  • Oversleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Worry
  • Agitation
  • Low self esteem

Once a person recognizes the persistence of one or more of the above symptoms and seeks help, they might see their family doctor, a counselor, or psychiatrist who will order a behavior plan and/or psychopharmacological medications. The use of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications have significantly increased along with the incidence of mental disorders in the US.   

Widely used medications for the treatment of anxiety and depression include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, (Prozac, Paxil, and Luvox are examples), and Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, known as SNRIs (Cymbalta, Effexor, Pristiq). SNRIs work the same way as SSRIs, but instead of serotonin, they increase the signaling between neurons that use epinephrine. These and other psychopharmacological drugs are greatly abused and have long-term use side effects.

Acupuncture is not just a hipster trend

You might think of acupuncture as a hipster trend. But many people looking for healthcare options with are turning to alternative medicine remedies for the treatment of anxiety and depression. While there are many herbal remedies available, the most effective treatment is acupuncture.

Promising studies have revealed biological evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that “evidence for the use of acupuncture . . . to treat anxiety disorders is becoming stronger.” 

In the US, an Acupuncturist goes through specialized training to become certified in the practice of acupuncture. There are approximately 18,000 acupuncturists in the US, half of which are in the western regions of the US where there may be as many as 1 per every 5,000 people.  

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture influences the body to heal itself and improve its function by opening the channels of energy running through the body like rivers. These channels, called meridians, take nourishment and oxygen to tissues, but when the “Qi” as it is known in traditional Chinese Medicine, does not run its homeostatic course, inflammation, pain and dysfunction set in.

First, the acupuncturist interviews patients to learn about their symptoms and lifestyle.  Then they palpate patients to determine treatment strategies. The acupuncturist will then insert fine needles into specific identified acupuncture points on the meridians that correspond to particular organs. Each organ is home to certain emotions.  For example, the liver is known to be connected with anger in traditional Chinese medicine.

Needling allows the flow of Qi as described in traditional Chinese Medicine which conducts biochemical, bioelectrical, and biomechanical signals through the connective tissues in the body.

Studies conducted at Georgetown University Medical Center showed that rats under stressful conditions who received acupuncture had lower hormone levels secreted by the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) which controls the body’s reactions to stress.

Most conditions require treatments of 8 or more sessions. Once improved, the sessions can be spaced out to a maintenance schedule. Patients who have been treated for anxiety and depression by acupuncturists report feelings of relaxation and reduced anxiety and depression as soon as the first session.


Today, acupuncture is increasingly used alone or in addition to behavioral and psychopharmacological treatments depending on each case, as there is mounting evidence of the benefits of acupuncture treatment for anxiety and depression disorders.

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