Depression affects 19 million Americans, or 9.5% of the population in any given one-year period. At some point in their lives, 10%-25% of women and 5%-12% of men are likely to become clinically depressed.
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by both physical and psychological symptoms that can be detrimental to one’s normal daily functioning. Depressed individuals often suffer from poor sleeping habits, crying spells, anxiety, worry, poor memory, inability to concentrate, body aches, stomach disturbances and a lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed. In extreme cases, individuals become helpless and hopeless about their lives and suicide is often considered.
Modern medicine typically treats depression with a form of psychotherapy and/or anti-depressant drugs regardless of the specific symptoms presented by the depressed patient. In the United States, the DSM-IV, a diagnostic tool for appropriately categorizing psychological disorders, is widely used in the diagnosis and treatment for depression.
About half the people who seek treatment for depression are not helped by psychotherapy and medication or withdraw from treatment too early. Of those who recover, more than one third relapses within eighteen months.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not recognize depression as a particular illness per se, but it aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to the individual using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, TuiNa (a type of medical massage), and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body.
Based on a holistic approach, acupuncture activates the body’s flow of energy and functionality, known as Qi. Though acupuncture has been traditionally taught as a preventive form of health care, it has also been proven effective in the treatment of pain and chronic conditions.
National Institutes for Health (NIH) have established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine which funds research studies in the holistic treatments. The results are hopeful. In 1998, Dr. John Allen and other researchers at the University of Arizona used acupuncture to treat a sample of women with depression. After a total of 12 sessions, 70% of the women experienced at least a 50% reduction of symptoms. This is promising, particularly because women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. This research marked the first U.S. randomized, controlled, double-blind study of acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating depression. The NIH funded study concludes, Acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in a good way.
The study findings suggest that using acupuncture alone could be as effective as other types of treatments for relieving depression symptoms typically used in Western medicine, such as psychotherapy and drugs. These results are promising and the United Nations World Health Organization has approved acupuncture as a treatment for depression. Over the years since then, Acupuncturists have successfully treated a large number of depression patients, and the positive outcome has been verified according the standards of modern medical science. Nevertheless, further clinical trials with larger samples are deemed necessary to further endorse this new hope for depression relief that can be widely implemented.