Will acupuncture help with my depression and anxiety?

Q: I've been diagnosed with serious depression and anxiety for the last 14 months. I'm currently taking Venlafaxine and having EDMR therapy. But still keep having out-bursts of crying and was wondering if acupuncture would help me?

A: We are happy to say that we have been asked these questions many times before and are able to give some very positive and upbeat advice. Drawing together a couple of strands from previous answers we can say:

There is some increasingly good evidence for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of depression, as out factsheet shows http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/depression.html, as does a heavily publicised research trial by BAcC member Hugh Macpherson and colleagues published very recently http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001518

Where the depression is linked to a continuing health problem, however, the situation becomes a little more complex. We find that when someone has a chronic condition it can become a great deal more difficult to deal with the depression that this causes and the underlying depression to which this has added.

The great strength of Chinese medicine, however, is not that it treats this or that condition, but that it treats the person. This is why twenty people with headaches may be treated twenty different ways. Clearly some points will have a direct effect, but treatment is not the equivalent of an aspirin, and the practitioner will be at pains to discover why this symptom appears in you and not in someone experiencing similar external stresses. The best treatment always combines treating the symptoms within the context of their overall pattern, and the pattern is the primary factor. Indeed, in ancient times some of the older systems used to treat the people without necessarily taking any notice of individual symptoms, in the simple but effective belief that a system in balance took care of its own problems.

The best advice we can offer is that you visit a BAcC member local to you, and see if they are prepared to give up a little time without charge to discuss whether your specific presentation. Anxiety and depression are rather broad labels which cover a huge range of possibilities, and sometimes we have to say to patients that what they are dealing with requires more of a talking therapy approach than we can offer. Given that it is rare for mental and emotional issues to arise without accompanying physical changes, even where these do now generate symptoms, a practitioner of Chinese medicine may well be able to see overall patterns which give them confidence that they may be able to help.

We think that this still represents very good advice. There is also a fact sheet on anxiety in the same location, and using the 'site search' facility on our home page will generate a large number of hits for answers we have given and for news articles where celebrities and people in the media have spoken of the value of acupuncture treatment for dealing with both problems.

We are interested to hear that you are using EDMR therapy, though. In our experience this is often linked to specific events or specific situations, and our experience as traditional acupuncturists is that some of these problems can be considerably helped by the use of acupuncture. There are many ways of understanding shocks or distress in the system and its effects on the energetic balance of the individual, and some of them are amenable to treatment. A skilled practitioner, and our members all are, would take this into account into putting a treatment plan together and might well be able to achieve a degree of synergy with your other treatments to help you get out from under.

The advice we gave in the earlier answer, visiting a local BAcC member for an informal chat, holds particularly good in your case. Although a good rapport is not an essential feature of treatment it can be a crucial aspect of the therapeutic relationship when people are dealing with distressing events and background; you need to be able to trust and feel confidence in the person treating you. We hope that you manage to find someone who fits the bill.

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