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Acupuncture to treat depression

Depression is a common and serious disorder suffered by many. It is traditionally treated with a combination of treatments, including medication, and each person's treatment plan varies. One treatment that should be considered to help treat depression symptoms is acupuncture. Known to help mental health when suffering with other disorders, like anxiety for example, it can also be helpful when managing depression long term.

Here is a Breakdown of How Acupuncture Can Help Treat Depression:

What is Depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a very common and serious mood disorder that is estimated to affect 350 million people worldwide and that number is increasing. Depression is typically seen as a state of deep, persistent sadness that disrupts one’s life and activities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, signs and symptoms of depression are felt most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks and may include the following:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

What Are the Most Common Types of Depression?

There are also different types of depression that a person may suffer from. Depression sufferers can suffer from a single episode of major depression or have recurring episodes over an extended period of time. Some common forms of depression include:

  1. Persistent Depressive Disorder – Depression that lasts for 2 or more years.
  2. Bipolar Disorder – Cycles of depression that alternate with extreme highs or manias.
  3. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Onset of depression during the winter, when there is less sunlight.
  4. Postpartum Depression – Can occur after childbirth due to hormonal changes experienced by the mother.
  5. Psychotic Depression – Depression accompanied by hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia.

Who Does Depression Most Commonly Affect & What Are Risk Factors?

Depression usually sets in during adulthood for most sufferers. However, more and more children and adolescents are being diagnosed with the condition. Risk factors for depression tend to be a combination of psychological, biological, genetic, and environmental factors. For example a major life episode, like a death or other traumatic event, in combination with the psychological and biological risks a person already possesses, can cause depression to set in. Overall, what causes depression is different for everyone and depends on a variety of different factors.

How is Depression Traditionally Treated?

Typically, from an allopathic perspective, depression is treated with psychotherapy, which can include counseling or talk therapy and anti-depressants, or a combination of both. During the initial treatment phases of depression, multiple anti-depressant medication may need to be tested until the right fit is found. As traditional treatments are being used, it can also be helpful to supplement with other treatment options. One treatment option that may not be initially considered, but can help treat depression, is acupuncture treatment.

How Can Acupuncture Treatment Help Treat Depression?

Depression is an imbalance in your brain chemistry which can stem from a variety of different causes. Naturopathic medicine has a similar view of depression as considers it to be an imbalance in our systems that ultimately lead to this disorder showing more severe symptoms. An acupuncturist will look at the organ systems and meridians, including the liver systems, heart systems and kidney systems first. Then they'll also consider lifestyle and life events that may be contributing factors in depression. Once the root causes have been identified, an acupuncturist may use a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine, like homeopathic acupuncture injections, to help treat the symptoms of depression. Acupuncture can also be a tool used to treat the side effects of common depression medications as you find an anti-depressant that's right for you.


Integrating acupuncture with psychotherapy and anti-depressant medication has proven to be an excellent combined approach for treating depression. A study from the University of York in the UK concluded that acupuncture and counseling had a strong, positive effect on depression. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that electroacupuncture was just as effective as Prozac. Overall, if you suffer from depression, it can take some time to find a combination of treatments that's a perfect match for you. Supplementing non-traditional treatment options, like acupuncture, into your treatment plan could help you manage your depression symptoms long term.


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