Over years of practice, I have encountered many people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders. More distressing is that a growing number of adolescents and children seem to be affected by these conditions. Although it appears to affect only one’s emotional state, depression is manifested in all areas of one’s life: physical, mental, and emotional.

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Despite intensive research,  scientists still do not know the real cause of depression. A general belief is that a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors can trigger  imbalances in brain chemicals.  These chemicals include serotonin, nor-epinephrine, and dopamine. What is not known is whether these imbalances are a result or a cause of depression.

Medications and psychological therapies are the most commonly recommended procedures.  Let me add my own recommendations: A balanced diet, the right amount and type of physical exercise, singing and laughing therapy, and MEDITATION. Also, regardless of whether it is  clinical depression or stress-induced depression, one may want to seek help from an acupuncturist.

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How can acupuncture help patients with depression and anxiety? According to Chinese medical theory, depression can be defined as “Disturbed Shen.”   What is Shen?   It can be roughly interpreted as “Spirit.” This Spirit is so delicate and powerful that without a balanced shen, we cannot be happy, healthy, or maintain a normal daily life.  Disturbed shen is most often displayed through the Heart meridian, yet the real causes may also come from the Liver, Spleen or  Kidneys.

Example 1. A person with a major blockage in the Liver meridian: This person will experience a high level of stress, frustration, or repressed anger. The liver imbalance can spill into the heart meridian, as a result, this person may experience intermittent heart pain and/or irregular heart beats. In this case, an acupuncturist may focus on pacifying the liver first. When the liver meridian is more balanced, the heart meridian will be strengthened naturally.

Example 2. A case of menopause:  Women going through menopause often experience severe mood swings along with hot flushes and night sweats.  Depression during this period is very common; a woman’s body is going through a  major upheaval which disrupts energy flows in all meridians.  Typically, a woman’s kidneys cannot provide enough support to other organs, including the heart.  In this case, priority should be given to tonify her kidneys first.  The kidneys will, in turn, strengthen her heart.

Example 3. Troubled digestive functions: A person with chronic digestive issues is more likely to be depressed than the one with healthy digestive organs.  It is common to see cranky, whining people among those with chronic digestive disorders.  The basic sustaining power of our bodies is provided through our digestive organs.  Low energy level and fatigue caused by weak digestive functions impact one’s Shen negatively. So, the most important organs to treat for this person are the stomach and spleen, along with the intestines. When the digestive functions improve, the energy flow through the heart meridian will become much stronger.

The above examples show how Chinese medicine approaches depression/anxiety issues. Most acupuncture patients feel incredibly relaxed and  peaceful after treatment. If you have not tried acupuncture, or if you want to have a really good handle on your depression/anxiety issues, you may want to visit an acupuncturist’s office.