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Can acupuncture really help with deep depression?

A:  As our factsheet shows please click here


there is some evidence that acupuncture can be used alongside or instead of medication for the treatment of depression, but the results are not yet conclusive enough for us to be able to make any claims for its use as a stand-alone treatment.


Indeed, we are aware that depression is not simply a shopping list of items (loss of appetite, poor sleep, etc etc) which make up the clinical definition but usually a complex problem which spreads across all areas of someone's life, and probably means that they are going to need more than one form of support. 


The one advantage that acupuncture has is that Chinese medicine was very clear about the interaction of body mind and spirit, and saw the functions of the Organs (always capitalised to differentiate the term from the western concept of an organ) as operating on all levels. When a patient visits a practitioner, therefore, and describes a complex array of symptoms, physical, mental and emotional, from a Chinese medicine perspective these can often make sense and offer treatment possibilities as a whole, rather than requiring a tablet for x, another tablet for y, and perhaps counselling and psychotherapy.


As we said, though, depression is a complex problem, and although many of our members have counselling and talking therapy skills, the majority are not qualified to a professional standard, and we think that a patient should always be encouraged to explore this as an option alongside their treatment if the problems are complex. The same applies to medications. Many of these are essential to enable people to function well enough to hold down jobs and maintain their relationships and friendships. Our members will not encourage people to stop taking their medications, and can adjust their treatment to ensure that the effects of dealing with the medications on a physical level do not add to the problems someone has.


In Chinese medicine, though, each person is seen as unique, and the best advice we can offer is that you visit a BAcC member local to you to see what specific help they might be able to offer. 'Depression' is such a broad term that offering general advice is difficult. It is far easier to offer advice when someone can hear what exactly makes you feel depressed and tries to get a sense of what it is that actually makes you recognise that you are depressed. For every sufferer this will be unique and different, and may have an impact on how helpful acupuncture treatment may be.   



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