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Acupuncture and Depression – In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated that 16.1 million people aged 18 or above in the US had experienced at least one massive instance of depressive occurrences within the previous 12 months. This is a significant chunk of the 250 million-strong adult population of the country.

Within the same frame of time, 3 million adolescents in the 12-17 bracket also experienced at least a single major depressive incident. These figures have a heavy lean toward those who actually go out to seek help or at least acknowledge that they are depressed, which means that the picture could be even direr. 10-15% of the population will experience the disorder over the course of their lives.

What is Depression?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) as a mood disorder that is very common in the general population. It affects how the individual goes about their life in terms of their thought processes, social activities, eating and sleeping. Richards, C. Steven; O’Hara, Michael W. (2014) postulate that the fact that most people don’t see it as a disorder makes depression even more lethal. 60% of those who commit suicide are noted to either have been depressed or suffering from a related mood disorder.

What causes Major Depressive Disorder?

Scientists do not point out to an exact cause of depression. However, they hold that stress and genetics can increase an individual’s chance of developing the disorder. Hormonal imbalance has also been fingered as a major culprit. Alcohol, steroids and conditions such as cancer are trigger agents as well, albeit to a lesser extent (Levinson, DF – 2006).

Symptoms of the Condition

· Loss of interest in activities that initially brought about a sense of satisfaction
· Random bouts of irritation
· Mood swings
· Suicidal feelings
· Low self-worth
· Too little/too much sleep
· Unexplained fatigue

Western Medical Treatments for Major Depressive Disorder

1.  MedicinesA patient needs a prescription from a doctor for these medications, because every person experiences depression in their own way. Common anti-depressants include Prozac, Paxil and Celexa. When looking to begin this type of remedy, a patient needs to consider factors such as the side effects attached to a specific drug as well as the cost implications of going for the various medications.

2.  PsychotherapyThis is the very first treatment administered to most MDD patients. It is a simple procedure that seeks to understand the causes behind the person’s condition. Also known as talking therapy, this form of treatment hinges on the exploration of the self, aided by a professional, where patients seek to understand their triggers better. Carried out with individuals or groups, its ultimate goal is to give the patient a sense of control over their thoughts, moods and actions – or lack thereof. If a patient is beyond this kind of assistance, they are passed along to more intensive forms of treatment.

3.  Electroconvulsive therapyECT is a relatively complex procedure that involves the passage of controlled electricity currents through the brain. The currents trigger a chain reaction which ends with the patient experiencing seizures. The seizures alter the chemical map of the brain, leading to relief. The process has been known to be very effective in mentally ill patients.

A study dubbed Prolonging Remission in Depressed Elderly (PRIDE) found that the process works well in patients above 60 years of age. However, its effect in preventing a depressive relapse were only telling when the subjects took ECT alongside an antidepressant. It also only worked well for these elderly patients if they had a history of successful MDD treatments. The effect of ECT on new patients was, to a large extent, constrained.

4.  Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)This is in most cases reserved for women, who are far more prone to depression than men (12% to 9%). HRT is used to deal with mood swings and has in the past come in handy for women looking to overcome the rigors of menopause, as per Mersin U. Tip Fak., Psikiyatri AD., Mersin (2003).

Acupuncture and Depression – Research

A study was conducted by Allen et al. (2006), with the test subjects being all female. The objective was to understand how women respond to acupuncture and the extent to which its use can be depended upon. A significant portion of the subjects evaluated revealed some interesting results. The groups that underwent both treatment and non-focused forms of acupuncture showed improvements. However, the treatment acupuncture lot experienced way more relief than did the second group.

In 2014, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine gave more insights into this subject. The test group involved had electro-acupuncture administered at least 5 days a week for six weeks. The control group went with Prozac. In the initial stages, the responses from those using acupuncture and those on the medication were the same. However, in the second and fourth weeks, it was discovered that there was a spike in the rates of improvement for those on acupuncture, with their symptoms dwindling dramatically.

A second study in the same journal indicates that acupuncture is helpful when it comes to the sexual aspects of depression (low sex drive). After 12 weeks of administration to acupuncture, the subjects indicated that they felt livelier, sexually triggered more likely to entertain issues relating to intimacy even when other signs of depression existed. This is a tremendous breakthrough, seeing as the link between MDD and sex drive has always been incredibly hard to decipher.

Kurland HD (1976) reports a study in which 3 patients were put under electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and electro-acupuncture (EAT). The subjects had previously never responded to conventional medication and therapies, and their conditions were severe. ECT was found to lift the symptoms of depression, but this came at a cost – confusion and significant memory loss. However, when electro-acupuncture was administered alongside ECT, there were profound results.

What’s more, the patients found themselves experiencing less side effects, and memory loss ceased to be an issue. The two procedures worked by triggering a chain of events that led to the change in the biological activities of serotonin and norepinephrine. There is another widespread belief out there that acupuncture tailored to a specific MDD patient works by initiating electrical activity and blood flow within the patient.

At Boca Raton Acupuncture, we have had tremendous success helping our patients recover from depressive episodes. Along with the synergistic help of Chinese herbal medicine and sound nutrition, acupuncture has been proven to help boost mood. Consultations are always free, so start living life the way you should, today!

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  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • Healthline
  • NCBI
  • Scientific American
  • Allen JJB. Schnyer RN. Hitt SK. The efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of major depression in women. Psychol Sci. 1998;9(5):397–401
  • Allen JJ. Schnyer RN. Chambers AS. Hitt SK. Moreno FA. Manber R. Acupuncture for depression: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;67(11):1665–1673.
  • Kellner CH et al, the CORE/PRIDE Work Group. A Novel Strategy for Continuation ECT in Geriatric Depression: Phase 2 of the PRIDE Study. Published online July 15, 2016.
  • http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16010118
  • Kurland HD. ECT and Acu-EST in the treatment of depression. Am J Chin Med. 1976;4:289-292.
  • Levinson DF. The genetics of depression: a review. Biol Psychiatry. 2006;60:84–92. [PubMed]
  • Richards, C. Steven; O’Hara, Michael W. (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Depression and Comorbidity. Oxford University Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780199797042