DEPRESSION:

Depression from a Western Perspective

Depression affects approximately 18.8 million, or 9.5 percent, of the U.S. population age 18 and older during any given year. Women are affected twice as often (12.0 percent) as men (6.6 percent); 12.4 million women and 6.4 million men in the U.S. suffer from a depressive disorder each year.

Depression is defined as a persistently sad mood with a loss of interest or pleasure, changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, and agitation or physical slowing. Energy loss, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, disturbed thinking or disturbed concentration, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide may also be present. When five or more of these symptoms are present during the same two-week period, the diagnosis of a major depressive disorder or unipolar major depression may be made.

Depression and Acupuncture

Depressive disorders are amongst the most common conditions for which alternative treatments are sought. The only major studies involving acupuncture as a treatment for depression have been published in China (Chengying, 1992; Han, 1986), Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. All of these studies report that acupuncture may be effective in the treatment of depression, and in some cases, is as effective as tricyclic antidepression medication .Sobel (2000) argues that clinical depression is caused by low levels of certain brain chemicals, including the mood enhancers noradrenaline and serotonin. Acupuncture has been shown to boost serotonin levels. Clinical depression can be due to chronic excessive stress, and acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress and induce relaxation (Sobel, 2000).

There have been numerous studies published which indicate that acupuncture can be of help in the management of clinical depression. For example, one group of researchers at the University of Arizona in the United States found that acupuncture seemed to be as effective as antidepressant medication or psychotherapy (Sobel, 2000). In yet a further study published in the Journal of Psychological Science, a group of women suffering from clinical depression were treated with either acupuncture or no treatment for 8 weeks. Results showed that 64% of those receiving acupuncture said their symptoms had disappeared, and the remission rate of those receiving the acupuncture was nearly double that of those receiving no specific treatment (Sobel, 2000).

-Gilli Stuppel, L.Ac
Licensed Acupuncturist, Childbirth Doula, Herbalist, Naturopath