Anxiety and depression seem commonplace in our society – if you’re reading this article, you probably know someone who has suffered with either (or both). According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about 5% of Canadians are affected by an anxiety disorder, and around 8% of Canadians will experience major depression at some point in their lives. There are a variety of different treatment options for these illnesses, from talk therapies like CBT to medication to experimental treatments. Treatments for anxiety and depression are usually multi-faceted, especially when you experience both – the illnesses feed into each other, and into themselves.
Anxiety and depression don’t have to be chronic, nor do they have to fit tightly into their strict medical terminology in order to affect you. You might feel them after significant life changes, like losing a loved one, changing jobs, or moving to a different city. You might not want to tackle these challenges with medication (though talking to your doctor is always a good idea) – acupuncture may be able to help.
Pain & Depression
Harvard Health has an article that delves into the connection between pain, anxiety and depression. In short, it’s another vicious cycle – chronic pain can aggravate mental illness, and those same illnesses can make you perceive the pain as more severe. With pain, perception is reality (we feel it, after all), so more perceived pain is more pain, which subsequently feeds into the anxiety or depression.
Acupuncture can help relieve pain – it’s been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to do exactly that for millenia. In TCM, acupuncture is thought to reduce pain because it removes blockages to allow life energy, or qi, to flow. Modern science speculates that acupuncture may reduce pain because it causes the body to release endorphins. There is evidence that acupuncture is an effective treatment, but the quality of evidence is low – that means we need more studies in order to prove it. Anecdotally, however, acupuncture has helped many patients – talk to them, and they’ll tell you about how it’s improved their lives.
Those who find acupuncture improves their pain symptoms may also find it reduces pain-related anxiety and depression. What’s more, acupuncture may help you relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression themselves, even if they aren’t coupled with pain.
Acupuncture & Mental Health
There are a number of potential benefits acupuncture can have for your mental health. There’s evidence that acupuncture may moderately lower the symptoms of depression, according to one meta-study; that evidence is said to be low quality, which means the studies had flaws, a lack of follow-up, a too-small sample size, or other problems. This, of course, doesn’t mean that the evidence is no good – it really means we need more studies. What’s good about acupuncture, be it for pain or for your mental health, is that there’s a very low rate of complication – in other words, you’ve got almost nothing to lose, so you might as well try it. Acupuncture treatment can help temper some of the physical manifestations of grief. As well, grief can be helped through routine, or through trying something new, and a new routine of acupuncture treatments can ease the anxiety and depression that often comes with grief.
Acupuncture & Other Therapies
As we mentioned at the top, one of the biggest challenges in treating anxiety and depression is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. These illnesses are often experienced differently by each individual, and contributing factors that vary from wealth and social connections to access to care can all change what types of treatments will be beneficial. One of the advantages of acupuncture is that it can be integrated with other treatment plans with relative ease – there aren’t very many contraindications, meaning that using acupuncture along with medications, talk therapy, or other treatment options won’t typically result in health problems that wouldn’t arise from any of the treatments alone.
Of course, when it comes to tackling mental illness, your habits and environment play key roles. While undergoing treatments like acupuncture, you should always try to ensure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping enough. These things can be difficult to do when you’re depressed or suffering from anxiety; simple steps can really help. When you can’t do anything else in a day, take a shower. Talk to a friend. Some days, you might not feel up to making your appointment – let us know, and we’ll help in any way we can.
When pursuing acupuncture along with any other treatments, it’s important to have all of your medical professionals communicating with one another. You might have a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a counsellor, a naturopath, an acupuncturist, a pharmacist, and a swath of other folks on your team. You might have far fewer folks than that. No matter who it is, or what your treatment plan is, it’s important to keep everyone abreast of changes in your state, or changes in your treatment plan.
This is all to say that if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, give us a call. You don’t need to have a clinically diagnosed illness to enjoy the benefits of acupuncture, and we know it can be difficult to consult with a psychiatrist. We encourage you to seek out the help of mental health professionals, and we encourage you to try acupuncture, either as a stand-alone treatment or as part of a treatment plan. Keep in mind, we’re not mental health professionals, so we can’t diagnose for you. What we can do is provide a treatment that’s been used for thousands of years, one that we truly believe can help many folks alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
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