By Dr Anjali Sharma
Acupuncture is very successful in treating various psychiatric disorders. Here are some of the common mental illnesses in which acupuncture has proved very helpful:
- Anxiety disorders like stress, non specific anxiety, health anxiety, social anxiety etc.
- Behavior disorders like uncontrolled anger (IED), impulsive gambling / stealing / pyromania / sex & pornography.
- Childhood disorders like attention deficit disorders (ADHD), autism etc.
- Cognitive disorders like amnesia, delirium, dementia etc.
- Dissociative disorders like depersonalization, identity disorder etc.
- Eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating etc.
- Factitious disorders like feigning sickness.
- Mental disorders due to medical condition and sickness
- Mental retardation and poor development, specific or general.
- Mood disorders like depression, mania, bipolar disorder etc.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder like cue attacks, situational attacks, spontaneous attacks etc.
- Personality disorders like anti social /avoidant / paranoid personality
- Phobic disorders like phobia of animals, accidents, water, crowded place etc.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Psycho social disorders like isolation, problem with social group or occupation.
- Psychosomatic disorders like psychosomatic pain, conversion disorder, hypochondriasis, body dismorphic disorder etc.
- Schizophrenia with delusions, hallucinations etc
- Sexual & gender identity disorders like exhibitionism, fetishism, disorders of sexual desire / function, painful sex, impotence / erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation etc.
- Sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep walking, nightmares etc.
- Substance abuse (alcohol/drugs/nicotine)
Acupuncture : An ‘old’ new hope for treatment of depression.
Depression is a mental disorder characterized by low mood, low self esteem, loss of interest, loss of pleasure, pessimism and in severe cases suicidal tendencies. It has flared up as major problem for the modern world because of complex and fast changing scenarios. A typical example is recent recession affecting the world which has caused a large number of patients of depression. So what is depression ?
According to National Institute of Mental Health everyone occasionally feels blue or sad, but these feelings are usually fleeting and pass within a couple of days. When a person has a depressive disorder, it interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most who experience it need treatment to get better.
There are several forms of depressive disorders.
Major depressive disorder, also called major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once–pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person's lifetime, but more often, it recurs throughout a person's life.
Dysthymic disorder, also called dysthymia, is characterized by long–term (two years or longer) but less severe symptoms that may not disable a person but can prevent one from functioning normally or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.
Psychotic depression, which occurs when a severe depressive illness is accompanied by some form of psychosis, such as a break with reality, hallucinations, and delusions.
Postpartum depression, which is diagnosed if a new mother develops a major depressive episode within one month after delivery. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of a depressive illness during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer.
Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is not as common as major depression or dysthymia. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes-from extreme highs (e.g., mania) to extreme lows (e.g., depression).
Symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors.
Research indicates that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the brains of people who have depression look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. In addition, important neurotransmitters–chemicals that brain cells use to communicate–appear to be out of balance. But these images do not reveal why the depression has occurred.
Some types of depression tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression as well. Genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of multiple genes acting together with environmental or other factors.
In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Subsequent depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.
Depression can be treated with
- Anti depressant Medication
- Electroconvulsive Therapy
- Complimentary & Alternative Treatment
Complimentary and Alternative treatment has come up significantly in recent years. Many studies have been published about their effective role in treatment of depression. One such treatment is age old Acupuncture which has already proved its effectiveness in treatment of physical disorders. Now it is proving helpful in treatment of mental disorders including depression. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine mental disorders are also reflection of imbalance in harmony of person’s energy system.
In one such study The benefit from whole body acupuncture in major depression
Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 57, Issue 1, Pages 73-81
J.Röschke concluded that acupuncture helped the patients of depression.
Human organism is made of five elements and it is necessary for these elements to remain in order and harmony for good health. These five elements have unique characteristics and therefore the depression surfacing because of disorder in one particular element will have specific features.
- Wood Element - Anger is the emotion related to Wood. Person with disorder of wood element will have disturbances of anger with shouting, tears. Suppressed anger may be a major cause. This person may have alternation of aggression and disappointment. Anger will remain buried beneath sadness.
- Fire Element – Joy is the emotion related to fire. Such person under depression will not be able to feel joy. He or she can not have satisfying relationships. They may have major heartbreaks. They may have associated heart symptoms and sleep disorders. Extreme cases may become suicidal.
- Earth Element - The emotion of earth is sympathy and empathy. They believe in need of give & take of care. When disturbed they develop insatiable desire for care and sympathy & get depressed without it. They will have associated digestive complaints.
- Metal Element - The emotion of metal is grief. When disturbed such person will get stuck in grief, will not let go & will not move forward. They will sigh often. They may also have respiratory complaints.
- Water Element – The emotion of water is fear. Such person will lack in will and courage. The feeling of inability to do things will cause depression. They feel totally helpless and sink deep. This can prove most dangerous depression. There can be associated renal disorder.
Every case of depression has peculiarities and when such peculiarities are well identified, these cases can he managed with good success rate. Working on same principle, we conducted a study on depression. 40 cases of depression were selected. They were diagnosed on the basis of element disorder and treated with acupuncture accordingly. Out of 40 cases 31 cases showed significant improvement in condition.
Acupuncture offers a useful option in management of depression. Further studies are recommended to explore its effectiveness.