Anxiety is defined as a persisting state of fear that may or may not be associated with a specific object or situation, often accompanied by physiological changes such as a fast heartbeat and rapid breathing.
Sufferers experience significant social or occupational impairment.
Contemporary Western psychiatry defines major depression as a persisting pattern of severe depressive episodes, with an episode defined as a severely depressed mood for at least two weeks, accompanied by at least four additional symptoms including:
- changes in appetite
- sleep disturbances
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- difficulty thinking
- suicidal thoughts
Major depressive disorder is also known as unipolar depression to distinguish it from
bipolar disorder, or manic depression. The cause of depression have also been used as a basis for classification, with “reactive” depression occurring as a reaction to stressful life events (also known as “minor” depression), and “endogenous” depression describing cases without an external cause but arising from changes in the brain.
Depression affects people’s lives in profound ways. It touches every aspect of the human experience—our physical well-being, our relationships with our loved ones, our work, our creativity, our spirituality.
Depression can paralyze and alienate us, making us strangers to ourselves and the world we inhabit.
The therapeutic effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of mental distress is becoming more widely known in the west.
In the context of drug addiction complicated by psychiatric disturbance, modern auricular acupuncture treatment is playing a vital role in prisons, rehabilitation centers and mental health day centers.
Depression itself is one of the 10 most frequent indications for the use of complementary and alternative medicine and ever-increasing numbers of mental health service users want access to complementary therapies.
A new pilot study by researchers at the University of Arizona confirmed that acupuncture is a promising treatment for major depression in women.*
Thirty-eight subjects who participated in the study were adult women diagnosed with mild to moderate depression. They were treated with acupuncture according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, each for her own specific pattern of symptoms. They were treated twice per week for one month and once per week for a second month, for a total of twelve sessions. After completion of acupuncture treatment for depression, 70% of women experienced at least a 50% reduction of symptoms, results comparable to the success rate of psychotherapy and medication.
This study is important because it is the first randomized, controlled, double-blinded study of acupuncture’s effectiveness for depression reported in Western scientific literature.
*The study was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Alternative Medicine. The results were published in the September 1998 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society, as “The Efficacy of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Major Depression in Women.”
The authors were John J.B. Allen, Rosa N. Schnyer, and Sabrina K. Hitt.