What is depression?
Depression is a clinical mood disorder that causes ongoing feelings of sadness and loss of interest, amongst others. Depression is more than just feeling sad or “having the blues” though. It is a persistent feeling that you can’t just snap out of, and that has come on for no apparent reason.
Common symptoms include:
- Feeling sad, down, or empty
- Tearfulness, emptiness or feeling hopeless
- Outbursts of anger, irritability, or frustration
- Withdrawing from friends or family, social isolation
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities like hobbies, sports or sex
- Low energy and fatigue, tiredness
- Trouble with concentration
- Anxiety, agitation and restlessness
- Physical symptoms, such as aches and pain, headaches
- Symptoms of anxiety are commonly found in people with depression, as they are often found together
Like anxiety, depression is a fairly common experience in our society, with 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men experiencing depression in Australia.
Can acupuncture treat depression?
Acupuncture has been shown in recent research to be an effective treatment for depression, either as a stand-alone treatment, or in combination with other therapies. Evidence has shown that people who are being treated with anti-depressant medications and acupuncture get better faster than if they were being treated with just anti-depressants.
Acupuncture can also be used alongside other treatments for depression such as counselling, psychotherapy, light therapy or Mindfulness Based support.
Benefits of acupuncture for depression
- Improved quality of life
- Better sleep
- Improvements with chronic pain levels
- Improved mood
- Fewer side effects
- Quick response
What is an acupuncture treatment for depression like?
Your acupuncture session will last about an hour, with the needles in for 25-30 minutes. In your initial appointment I’ll ask about how all aspects of depression are affecting you, including mentally, physically and emotionally. I’ll ask about other aspects of your health and lifestyle, so I can better assess your whole picture of health, allowing me to treat you more effectively.
Acupuncture points for depression can be found all over the body, though the majority that I use will be on the arms and legs. I also use ear acupuncture, which is a more recent development, but can be effective for the symptoms of depression. I’ll get you to lie down on the massage table while I painlessly insert the needles, and then leave you to rest for 25-30 minutes, and let the needles do their work.
Will I feel less depressed after acupuncture?
Everyone has a different experience while getting acupuncture, though most people report feeling calm and relaxed after a treatment. Initially you will feel the most benefit from acupuncture in the first 24-48 hours, so keep an eye out for improved mood, better energy and a more positive outlook. As you have more treatments, these positive effects will last longer and longer.
Is acupuncture a safe treatment for depression?
The acupuncture needles I use are very fine, about the thickness of a human hair, and so they are essentially pain free when being inserted. You may feel a slight pinch as they go in, and then the area may feel warm, or you may feel a heaviness in that area. Or you may feel nothing.
Acupuncture has been shown in the research to be a safe treatment for depression, and is well tolerated when done by a trained professional. It is safe to have when you are taking anti-depressant medications.
Acupuncture for depression: resources and references
Black Dog Institute – https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/clinical-resources/depression/what-is-depression
Bosch, P., van den Noort, M., Staudte, H. & Lim, S. (2015), Schizophrenia and Depression: A systematic review of the effectiveness and the working mechanism behind acupuncture. Explore, 11 (4), 281-291.
Chan, Y.Y., Lo, W.Y., Yang, S.N., Chen, Y.H. & Lin, J.G. (2015). The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 176, 106-117.
Health Direct – https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/depression
MacPherson, H., Vickers, A., Bland, M., Torgersen, D., Corbett, M., Spackman, E., Saramango, P., Woods, B., Weatherly, H., Sculpher, M., Manca, A., Richmond, S., Hopton, A., Eldred, J. & Watt, I. (2017). Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Programme Grants for Applied Research, 5, (3).
Ormsby, S.M., Dahlen, H.G. & Smith, C.A. (2017). Women’s experiences of having depression during pregnancy and receiving acupuncture treatment: A qualitative study. Women and Birth, 2017, Nov.15, 1-10.
Spackman, E., Richmond, S., Sculpher, M., Bland, M., Brealey, S., Gabe, R., Hopton, A., Keding, A., Lansdown, H., Perren, S., Torgersen, D., Watt, I. & MacPherson, H. (2014). Cost-effectiveness analysis of acupuncture, counselling and usual care in treating patients with depression: the results of the ACUDep trial. PLoS ONE, 9 (11), DOI: 10.137/journal.pone.0113726.