Forty million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, and the number, among women, is rising. One in ten Americans exhibit major depression (the leading cause of disability). Acupuncture is widely accepted as a treatment for physical maladies. But what about mental health? Dr. Anahita Forati has seen many patients respond to acupuncture for conditions like anxiety and depression. She stresses that acupuncture is a supplemental treatment for mental health and should not be used as a substitute for psychiatric medications and/or talk therapy. Studies have shown that depression can be alleviated by acupuncture. In the short run, patients feel a boost from the release of endorphins. In the long run, they can enjoy relief from the root causes, or disharmony, inside the body.
According to Chinese medicine, mental illness is caused by an imbalance in the body. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) deals with Shen,or the “spirit.” Shen embodies consciousness, emotions, and thought. Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM, writes on www.acufinder.com that “This ‘spiritual radiance’ manifests as our wisdom, emotional well being, and ability to see all sides of an issue . . . It contributes to wisdom, virtue, and calmness, and maintains our whole being in order. The spirit can be harmed by external factors if we fail to maintain vitality through good habits, physical strength, and adequate nourishment. The spirit can also be harmed by internal factors, especially excessive emotions. Disharmony of Shen often manifests itself as anxiety, insomnia, lackluster eyes, muddled thinking, forgetfulness, chronic restlessness and, in severe cases, mental illness, including depression and mania. It is said that Shen can be strengthened through meditation, physical exercises such as Tai Qi and Qi Gong, and by acupuncture and herbal remedies.”
Patients report feeling calmer, more upbeat, and more energetic after treatments. One bipolar patient was able to use acupuncture to get through a difficult withdrawal period from an anti-anxiety medication, or benzodiazepine. She also got off sleep medication and reduced her daily dose of mood stabilizer and antipsychotic medication. Overall, her mood swings have moderated under Forati’s care and her quality of life has been much improved. Significantly, when she suspended treatments, her mood swings worsened until she returned to acupuncture. Certainly many components go into improving one’s mental health, including exercise and nutrition. And certainly Chinese medicine is not a cure-all for mental health issues. But the rewards of acupuncture should not be overlooked.