Treating Depression with Chinese Medicine - Alternative to SSRI’s
Depression is a multigenetic or multifactorial syndrome. The central neuron system (CNS)-orientated, single target, and conventional antidepressants are insufficient and far from ideal. Over the years, treatments for depression and anxiety have evolved into what we know today. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are a relatively new group of antidepressants that specifically inhibit the reuptake of serotonin, causing it to linger longer at the synaptic junction of two communicating nerve cells resulting in improving mood.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has historically been used to treat depression up till today, particularly in Asia. Its holistic, multidrug, multitarget nature fits well with the therapeutic idea of systems medicine in depression treatment.
Reason for alternative natural remedies
Reported side effects of SSRIs can range from mild to severe, including nausea, increased anxiety, insomnia, changes in appetite, changes in libido, and diarrhea. The risk of irregular heartbeats also comes from taking an SSRI with antihistamines. SSRIs also have an effect on blood sugar levels, meaning that patients living with diabetes and taking these medications may need to alter their dosage of diabetic medication. I do understand that my patients taking these drugs may be concerned about possible side effects and how taking these medications may affect their lives.
How Can Acupuncture Address Issues with Anxiety and Depression?
TCM practitioners believe that physical health issues are connected to a person’s emotional state (and vice versa). Practitioners of TCM view emotions as an integrated aspect of organ functions, and sometimes the root cause of disease.
TCM classifies emotions into seven categories, with each emotion corresponding to a particular organ. For example, the lungs are commonly linked to grief and the ability to let go. The seven emotions are anger, joy, fear, worry, grief, fright, and sadness. One TCM theory on anxiety is that a person can have excessive energy, also referred to as heat or energy (qi), in the head. Symptoms of anxiety akin to this idea include insomnia, racing thoughts, and excessive worry. In such a case, the treatment would consist of inserting needles into various points on the body, such as the fingers, hands, wrists, ankles, and feet, in an effort to redistribute the patient’s energy, in order to improve sleep and reduce worry.
Depression, on the other hand, can be described as stagnant energy within the body. This stagnation can create imbalances that lead to symptoms of depression, such as an inability to focus, melancholy, anger, fatigue, and a lack of inspiration. Acupuncture addresses the issue by enabling the energy to move more efficiently, balancing the organ systems and creating homeostasis. The idea is that creating balanced energy better equips a person to manage stress and steady emotions, and enables a more peaceful feeling.
Can I stop taking my medication?
TCM therapies may be helpful as independent treatments, but they can often be used to complement evidence-based treatments as well. Whatever you decide, be sure to talk to your primary care provider before starting any new course of treatment for anxiety or depression. This will help ensure that you receive safe, coordinated, and optimal care.
How Long Will It Take to Feel Results?
Healing time depends on the patient and the severity of his or her symptoms. Some patients report relief after just one session of acupuncture. Others may feel a difference within weeks or a month’s time, while still others might take up to several months to feel back to normal.