Acupuncture – Is It Effective In Treating Mental Health Issues?

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Depression is a real mental health problem. Specialists and experts in the field, with some people who are affected by the issues, are raising awareness and finding ways to cure their depression or anxiety without medication. Seeking psychiatric help and medication costs a lot. Not to mention, these pills may have side effects on some patients. Maybe it’s time to look at other methods to cure depression and other mental health issues.

According to Jennifer Bradley, Psy.D., HSPP, Clinical Psychologist, “When we are imbalanced, we develop various types of difficulties, including psychological and/or physical symptoms, and we begin to use ineffective or damaging coping mechanisms.” That is why every year, the month of October is observed by several international campaigns which focus on raising awareness of the widespread problem of depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 25% of adults suffer from a mental health disorder. In 2004, 19 million people were suffering from depression alone. Studies also show that the price of clinical depression may exceed $47.3 billion every year, of which around $24 billion is made up of the loss of productivity and the worker being absent from the job most of the time.

The FDA estimates that the sales of antidepressants reached over $10 billion in 2005. About 50% of people who seek treatment for depression are not fully cured by psychotherapy and medication combined (for various reasons). With that, they withdraw from the therapy prematurely. Meanwhile, on people who recover, more than 33% deteriorate within the next 18 months. In a study conducted by the University of Colorado, only 20% of patients with medication has improved.

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To help get away from depression, some people turn to age-old holistic treatments like Chinese medicine. “Chinese medicine like acupuncture, herbal treatments and massage are a popular way to help people unwind and revitalize. It can be of help with depression, anxiety, stressed out muscles, headaches, lack of sleep and unbearable pain; these things many of us are familiar with,” said John Kolenda, traditional acupuncturist and the Dean of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Kolenda revealed that many patients reported a sense of improved well-being and a deep feeling of relaxation after an acupuncture massage or treatment. These discharges endorphins, a hormone within the body that acts as its natural painkiller. It improves circulation of the blood and the lymphatic fluids which bring in fresh oxygen to the human body tissues. It also eliminates waste products from inside the body and boosts recovery from sickness. It can also decrease one’s blood pressure and the stress hormone called cortisol, lessen heart rate, and relax muscle tissues. “Any relaxation strategy involves use of your self-regulation strength. This strength involves taking control of your breathing and creating a greater feeling of calmness in your body’s physiology,” says Ryan M. Niemiec Psy.D.

This is a 3000-year old soft modality that gives a safe, effective and efficient alternative antidepressant which is entirely natural. It treats symptoms of mental issues like depression and anxiety as well as the root of imbalances in the body. A blockage of Qi most commonly causes depression; vital energy in the body that regulates spiritual, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance. Physical trauma, poor diet, inherited weakness of Qi or physical, chemical and emotional stress are some factors that can cause the blockage of Qi. Acupuncture keeps this flow unblocked, and the practitioners treat patients individually, so the root of the cause is addressed instead of just prescribing pills.

A study conducted at the University of Arizona examined the responses of 34 depressed women to acupuncture, generalized acupuncture without specific points, and no treatment at all. As a result, 43% experienced a reduction in their symptoms, compared with the 22% who received general acupuncture and 14% who received no treatment. After eight weeks, over 50% of the ladies who received a specific acupuncture style were found to be no longer depressed.

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Holly Middlekauf, an Associate Professor of Medicine at the UCLA, and a team of investigators presented their research at the American Heart Association’s 2001 Scientific Session conference, which shows evidence that acupuncture can block the sympathetic nerve activity. Twenty-two patients with advanced heart failure with their blood pressure, heart rate, and sympathetic nerve activity – which regulates a person’s heartbeat and is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response – were measured after putting them to around four minutes of anxiety stimulating situations. A sympathetic nervous system activity has increased by approximately 25% because of mental stress.

After the test, the participants were separated into three clusters: those who received authentic acupuncture were treated at the points 20 minutes; those who were given sham acupuncture on non-acupuncture areas; and or no acupuncture to participants but they were led to believe that they have been provided the treatment. The mental test was reiterated after the treatment. While participants who received the sham and no needle group experienced the same increases in heart rate, blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity as the first test, patients in the first group, the authentic acupuncture team showed that there is no increase in their sympathetic nervous system activity.

“There are many effective treatments for depression that are available to you when you make the decision to get help for your depression.” Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC said. With the advancement in medicine and the treatment of mental health, it is still not enough to solve the crisis of depression. People need to explore other means at a lesser cost. Acupuncture is a natural method that might be worth a try, of course, as given by a licensed practitioner.