Acupuncture for Anxiety and Depression
The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that about 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety and/or depression. It's very likely you or someone close to you has been diagnosed or will be. Medications and psychotherapy are the conventional approaches to treatment, but there’s increasing interest in alternative therapies.
Acupuncture has been known for many years to be effective at relieving both anxiety and depression. Researchers are now discovering the two conditions are deeply related.
What have they got in common? Anxiety and depression seem at first blush almost like opposites.
Both are responses to stress. Estimates are that 85% of people diagnosed with depressive disorders also suffer from an anxiety disorder. It's as if anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin.
Researchers are discovering that the brain chemicals stress acts upon are responsive to acupuncture. These include endorphins, enkephalins, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Acupuncture increases levels of all of these, which is likely why it works for both anxiety and depression.
A person diagnosed with an anxiety or depressive disorder should discuss acupuncture with his or her doctor, along with any medications the doctor considers prescribing.
Antidepressant medications often take weeks before they produce noticeable relief. Acupuncture usually brings significant improvement much more quickly, and so can be a great help during those first weeks of the antidepressant regimen.
The meds prescribed for anxiety are generally fast-acting but are not optimal for long-term use. The risk of physical dependence – addiction – is one reason to consider transitioning to acupuncture as an exit strategy from anxiety meds.
If you're already being treated with antidepressants, acupuncture has been shown to tone down unwanted side effects like impaired sexuality.
Acupuncture is often used together with medication in patients with anxiety or depressive disorders but is appealing and effective as a monotherapy, without meds, for some patients. This option is of special interest to people who want to avoid introducing potent psychoactive medications into their systems.
Pregnant women or nursing mothers experiencing bouts of depression are finding acupuncture an attractive alternative. Patients with liver issues or other medical contraindications for meds may also (after consulting with their doctors) try acupuncture as a stand-alone, non-medical approach.
While there are no guarantees acupuncture will be effective for everyone, there’s little downside to trying it if you and your doctor agree it makes sense.
If you're in LA, come in for a visit at the Rober Youngs Century City, Los Angeles Acupuncture location