Treatment of Depression with Acupuncture & TCM

What is Depression?

The term depression is commonly used to express a variety of states from a short-lived response to a traumatic or sad event to a long-standing, incapacitating state where there doesn’t appear to be a direct cause. Dysthymia refers to less severe, chronic  depression. Clinical depression or major depressive disorder (MDD) requires that a patient has at least 2 weeks of a depressed mood and more severe symptoms. Depression is also a component of various psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Depression can also be a symptom of other health conditions such as hypothyroidism.

Common Symptoms:
  • Feeling sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless
  • loss of appetite or overeating
  • lack of interest in once pleasurable activities
  • trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
  • suicidal thoughts
  • insomnia
  • low energy
  • aches and pains
  • excessive sleeping
  • digestive problems
Western Medical Treatment

Antidepressant medication in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy is the general treatment. Commonly prescribed antidepressants include SSSRI’s such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, and Luvox. The newer antidepressants Effexor and Serzone affect seratonin and norepinephrine. While Wellbutrin has more effect on norepinephrine and dopamine than serotonin.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Treatment

Depression is due to Qi stagnation, generally of the Liver, with other complicating factors. Depression is often defined as anger turned inward and how we handle anger is a function of our liver. As a general rule, the more chronic a condition, the longer it often takes to resolve. The following are common patterns:

Liver Qi Stagnation: Waking up between 2-4am. Irritability, stress, shoulder and neck tension, teeth grinding at night, frequent sighing, pms, and alternating constipation and diarrhea are common in this pattern.

Blood Stagnation: History of physical trauma or longstanding depression. Pain symptoms such as fixed headache. Insomnia, mood swings, dark circles under the eyes, and broken capillaries. Generally requires longer course of treatment.

Heart and Gall Bladder Deficiency: Easily frightened and startled. Easily unsettled by seemingly trivial events. Insomnia, low energy,timidity, and anxiety. May have crack on tongue that extends to the tip.

Heart Blood and Spleen Qi Deficiency: Common with excessive studying or mental work combined with erratic eating and sleeping habits. Accompanying symptoms of anxiety, forgetfulness, insomnia, dizziness, abdominal bloating after eating. Anemia is part of this pattern.

We recommend that with emotional disorders that TCM be used in conjunction with either traditional or nontraditional counseling. Feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression are often signs that something is legitimately out of balance in our lives and can be a call for positive changes.


Passion and anger are two sides of the same coin. A healthy expression of both in our lives is necessary for optimum health. Stifling your passions and holding on to resentments is a sure road to depression.

Also, not caring for ourselves with regular meals, adequate rest, and adequate play are all causes of emotional disharmony. Depression is a disease of lack of ability to experience pleasure and joy in life.


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