Acupuncture for Anxiety and/or Depression
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
Nearly one in five American adults suffers from mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Despite the fact that pharmacological treatments are expanding, and public stigmatization of mental health is decreasing, mental health issues are trending steadily upward.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, depression and anxiety can be understood as a disturbance of the Shen, or spirit, that resides in the heart. When the Shen is disturbed, one may feel a lack of meaning in one’s life, an inability to connect to others, feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing, lack of energy, and great highs and lows. Also, if qi is stagnant in the body, not moving smoothly, the emotions may get stuck in fear, anger, or grief and sadness.
How Does Acupuncture Treat Anxiety and Depression?
TCM can treat the imbalances that are at the root of mental illness through both acupuncture and herbal medicine, which have shown to be effective in modulating mood and brain function. Acupuncture points are often located in areas of the body where there is a conglomeration of nervous system tissue, such as dense nerve branching’s. Once an acupuncture needle is inserted the nerves in the area send-off neuroactive components from the periphery to the brain along multiple pathways of the afferent nervous system. Imaging of the brain shows that these effects are sent into multiple brain regions, from the prefrontal cortex to the hypothalamus to the brainstem, thereby affecting pain sensation, cognition, mood, sleep, and a variety of other brain functions.
7 Reasons to Try Acupuncture for Depression and Anxiety.
There are many benefits to this ancient practice, including potential relief from depression and anxiety. Here are seven reasons to try acupuncture if you are looking for relief from anxiety and depression.
1. It works! Through a metanalysis of a variety of research studies on acupuncture and depression, acupuncture can significantly reduce the severity of depression, as measured by the Hamilton rating scale for depression or the Beck Depression Inventory.
2. It’s an alternative to toxic medications. There are virtually no negative side effects to acupuncture. When used as a part of a holistic approach to treating depression, it can help you heal depression naturally.
3. It releases endorphins. Have you ever heard of a runner’s high? The awesome feeling you have after exercising is also caused by endorphins. Endorphins are a hormone that act as a natural pain killer in the body. When needles are inserted into sensory nerves just below the skin’s surface, the body stimulates a response in the immune system, which increases circulation to that area of the body and triggers the release of endorphins.
4. It’s a good option for pregnant women. If you’re expecting a child, you might want to reduce or eliminate your intake of medications to prevent adverse side effects in the child. Studies show that acupuncture is an effective option for pregnant women who do not want to take medication. It also helps with post-partum depression.
5. It can reduce inflammation. Because the needles act as tiny wounds throughout the body, acupuncture prompts an anti-inflammatory response from the immune system as it combats the small invasions. There is increasing evidence that chronic inflammation keeps you depressed.
6. It is relaxing. Yep—getting dozens of tiny needles stuck in your body is actually a pleasant experience! Most patients find their acupuncture visits to be extremely therapeutic, and some even fall asleep during the session.
7. It gives you much more than a mood boost. Because acupuncture aims to make the body well, not treat specific symptoms, you’ll benefit from an overall increase in health.
What are some of the symptoms Acupuncture can relieve?
An estimated 17.5 million Americans suffer from depression and anxiety. Among those, many are seeking alternatives to anti-depressant medications.
During these shelter in place Covid-19 times, many of us are struggling with mental depression and anxiety. Regular acupuncture treatments can release Endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. An increase in these hormones could provide a natural boost to your body and brain.
• Changes in weight and appetite
• Inability to concentrate,
• Having negative thoughts and worrying about the future
• Feeling irritable, tired, or agitated
• Being unable to sleep or sleeping too much
• Chronic fatigue
• Feeling hopeless about the future
• Having thoughts of suicide
Patients leave feeling “blissed out”—and a new phrase has been coined in my office: “Acubliss.” It’s real.
Please reach out to my office, if you are interested in learning how acupuncture can help you regain your mental clarity and sense of well-being.
What the research says:
A growing body of research suggests that acupuncture may offer relief from symptoms associated with depression, to treat depression, acupuncturists target specific acupoints in the body to treat associated symptoms to release mood- and emotion-regulating hormones.
Studies suggests that acupuncture releases endorphins and may help stimulate blood flow. An increase in endorphins may provide a boost for the mind and body, which could offer relief from some depression symptoms.
According to research, acupuncture may treat depression by regulating key components in the brain and central nervous system. These include:
• Endogenous opioids and opioid receptors. These become dysregulated in mood disorders like depression.
• Hippocampus. This part of the brain can shrink in people with depression.
• Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and neuroendocrine system. These are associated with the pathophysiology of depression, or how depression may affect bodily function.
• Neuroinflammation. Inflammation can affect the HPA axis and serotonin synthesis.
• Neurotransmitters and their metabolites. These may be disrupted with depression.
Maria Mitchell L.Ac