I've had depression for years and I was doing a little reading about acupuncture and am hoping someone can explain how it might help me.
As a physician with his own depression problems, and as someone who has found acupuncture quite helpful for both depression and anxiety, I am currently training to place needles myself. How the method works is not clear. From traditional Chinese perspectives, the needles realign Qi, or energy, as it flows through the body's many meridians, thus healing spirit, body and mind. A Western view would be that acupuncture stimulates changes in neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in the brain. It may do one or both of these things, but it also enforces a period of calm relaxation, and increases one's body awareness, which are helpful on their own.
Critics argue that acupuncture is simply an elaborate placebo, but more and more the placebo response is being understood as the body's innate healing capacity. Thus, even if acupuncture is 'merely' a placebo, it is an effective one, and hence worth looking into. Sharon Begley has written articles, including one for Newsweek, strongly arguing that standard antidepressant medication is also 'merely' a placebo. So although many Western physicians dismiss acupuncture as nothing more than a placebo, by rights they should similarly dismiss antidepressants. But of course they don't. Why not? Because many are greatly helped by antidepressants, just as they can be helped by acupuncture. If something works, why not try it? If it helps with depression, how it works may be immaterial.
If you do try it, give it at least six weeks, just as doctors typically give antidepressant medications about that length of time to work. And the more you do in addition (exercise, meditation, therapy, fun activities, and so on), the more likely you are to get better. Good luck.
Acupuncture is purported to realign the energy fields in the body. Energy circulates the body and can become blocked which causes malfunction in the form of emotional or physical discomfort. Using needles to stimulate energy flow is how acupuncture works. Many people say it's great for depression, including me!
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