• Erin Dietz, L.Ac.

Acupuncture and Depression

Depression is defined as a serious medical condition where a person often feels very sad, unimportant, and/or hopeless - other symptoms of depression may be extreme apathy and unmotivation. Most people associate sadness with depression and we all deal with sadness throughout our lives. The difference between having a feeling of sadness and clinical depression is that depression can be completely debilitating for those affected by it. People who are suffering from clinical depression are unable to live normal lives and may even entertain thoughts of suicide on a regular basis. Nearly 350 million people globally suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organization and depression does not discriminate; it can affect anybody, at any age.

Conventional medicine breaks depression down into several categories, including anxious depression, melancholic depression, psychotic depression, seasonal depression, and so on. These types of depression are categorized based on their symptoms. For example, if a person suffers from depression with unusual restlessness or worry, then this would be categorized as anxious depression. A person suffering from depression accompanied by hallucinations or delusions would be diagnosed with psychotic depression. Regardless of the category or diagnosis, a person suffering from depression would typically be put on some sort of antidepressant medication, medications to mask the symptoms, and recommended to seek psychotherapy. This is the standard of care for those dealing with depression.

Eastern Medicine considers the whole person when diagnosing and treating symptoms. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the patient holistically, considering all aspects, including the mind, the body, and the environment of the person. Diagnosis of a person includes inspection and observance of the expressions, colors, appearance, smells, and any idiosyncrasies that may be prevalent. A quiet, subdued demeanor may be noted and considered when diagnosing somebody through TCM.

TCM also looks at the patient’s tongue and pulses on both wrists. These two items are the primary diagnostic tools used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in much the same way a conventional doctor takes your blood pressure, temperature, and pulse rate when you go in for an appointment. The tongue and pulses can reveal quite a bit of information about what is going on internally. Different areas of the tongue correspond to different body systems. For example, the tip of the tongue can show irregularities related to the heart and the mind. The rear of the tongue can show irregularities related to the urinary bladder and kidneys and is associated with the emotion of fear. The pulse is also broken down into six locations, three on each side, all of which correspond to a body system and the related energetic pathway.

When it comes to diagnosing depression, there is one major area that a TCM practitioner considers: the liver system. According to TCM, there are four stages that can affect the liver and lead to depression. This is not to say that other systems are not involved when somebody is experiencing depression. It merely means that the liver is probably the first area to be deeply examined.

To treat depression, a licensed acupuncturist may use several tools including acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, and possibly even mind-body practices like meditation. It all depends upon the severity of the depression, which stage is currently being experienced, and what other systems are possibly involved. To find out more or schedule an appointment, give us a call!

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