What is Depression?
Depression used to be referred to as ‘melancholia’ – a feeling of disinterest in anything and low emotional state. Now the more modern term ‘Depression’ is used and has become a medical term. Do not get being ‘diagnosed with Depression’ and ‘feeling depressed’ confused. The difference is with Depression, the symptoms don’t go away and carry on for weeks or months. Feeling depressed say when a loved one dies is normal and healthy, but it should be a short term emotional state. In my Melbourne Acupuncture clinic I treat many people wanting try and deal with depression naturally and holistically. I feel Acupuncture is one of the safest therapies for depression, as there are no risks of drug interactions or harsh side effects. Several studies have shown that Acupuncture helps anti-depressant medications work more effectively.
Signs of Depression
There are many signs of depression, the most common symptoms of Depression are:
- A feeling of hopelessness
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Loss of appetite and disinterest in food
- Trouble sleeping or always wanting to sleep
- Self loathing and frustration
All the symptoms focus around excessive negativity, which does more than change your mood, but your whole attitude towards daily life. This can lead to not just poor health, but loss of job and disconnection from your friends and loved ones.
Am I Depressed?
If you are unsure if you are suffering depression, I suggest you visit your local GP to discuss it further and try taking the anxiety and depression questionnaire on beyondblue.org. Though I can try to help you recover from feeling depressed, only a General Practitioner or Psychologist can diagnose you with Depression. Depression as an illness doesn’t exist in Chinese Medicine, it is categorised as a ‘yu’ syndrome, which means constraint.
What Causes Depression according to Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine theory, Depression is called a ‘constraint syndrome’, meaning the free flow of Qi (your vital energy) has become blocked or knotted. This disrupted flow stops your Liver from performing its role to regulate the flow of Qi. This causes your emotions to become stagnant, leading to many of the symptoms listed above. Because of this blockage, there other symptoms you may be feeling which as an Acupuncturist I will enquire about:
- A tight feeling in the chest
- pain in the ribs
- constant sighing
- feeling of heaviness in the body
- A feeling of a lump in your throat
These are all additional symptoms of constraint Liver Qi, that not only aid my diagnosis, but help indicate which areas of your Qi flow are being more affected. This is because Depression can also lead to other pathologies in Chinese Medicine called blood stasis, phlegm retention and internal fire, which all cause their own symptoms on top of the Depression.
Excessive emotions are the most common cause of your Qi to become knotted, which if not rectified can continue to worsen and causes disharmonies in other organs. The failure of Qi to flow is what causes the lack of energy and poor concentration. As the digestion lacks nourishment, you loose your appetite, and as you Heart (spirit) becomes malnourished, your mood and attitude declines. This can also cause insomnia and palpitations.
Depression can also be caused by chronic illness which not only weakens your body but also blocks the Qi flow, which triggers off the emotions and causes further constraint.
Using Acupuncture as a Depression Treatment
The role of the Acupuncturist in clinic is to ensure the patient’s Qi flows smoothly. Many organs Qi can be involved in constraint besides the Liver, such as your heart, lungs and kidneys. As each diagnosis and treatment plan is uniquely tailored, I will also include points to address the root cause of your associated symptoms. Treating Depression is neither quick nor easy, the treatment plan can go for several months. Ongoing maintenance is advised to help prevent the
symptoms of constraint reoccurring. It is important though, that the client have lifestyle plans in place to help cope with daily stresses, which I discuss below. Research findings into Acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating depression can be viewed on the Acupuncture Evidence Report page.
Strategies for Dealing with Depression
A strong support network of friends and family I feel is key to beating depression. Some battles can’t be won alone, and having loved ones around to spot when you may need some cheering up is vital. Often they will spot the negativity in you before you see it yourself. Other useful activities I recommend to patients are:
- Join a club sport like lawn bowls, tennis etc, where you are being active and surrounded by others.
- Meditation is useful at calming the mind, many Buddhist societies offer classes for free.
- Find a hobby you enjoy, like gardening which can help your mind relax.
- Devise a plan to follow when you see a pattern of negative thoughts developing so you can break the cycle immediately.