Depression:  is it best to take the meds or go down the Alternative Therapy route?  There have been a number of articles with contradictory information published recently on the best way to treat depression.  So here’s my take:

The meds

The largest review of drugs examined 522 trials, involving 21 types of medication over four decades.  Their conclusion? At least a million more Britons should be put on antidepressants, as all were found to be effective. Here is the research paper itself. This is a shortened, more user-friendly version, a far easier read (yes, I’ve read both).

Whilst I love evidence, I have to question why so many studies had been funded but weren’t published until it suited the powers who benefited from them?  And why all studies published showed successful results with meds  – but there didn’t appear to be any studies that didn’t support meds  (it’s VERY unusual for studies to all come to the same conclusion).  Oh, and don’t forget, all the original studies were funded.  Often by the companies that produce the tablets.  Hmmm…..

The Alternative

On the other hand,  a recent article in the Guardian critised the approach to “automatically” medicate and stressed the need to “consider context” ie, take people’s lives into account when treating anxiety and depression.  Rather than seeing depressions as  “just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain” (low serotonin) ie your brain not working properly, the author highlighted the need to look at cause.  For example, many of the symptoms of a study in the 1970s that were diagnosed as depression were in fact grief. This, and other root causes such as loosing a job, being stuck in a job you hate, or the effect of loneliness require different solutions as a tablet alone may not be the answer (as the underlying cause is still there).  

Both interesting viewpoints. Interestingly, Acupuncture always looks for the underlying cause of the problem – whatever the problem.  Only by treating the root cause do you allow healing to occur.

How does Acupuncture treat depression?

Firstly, by understanding that no two people, or  bouts of depression, are the same.  Each is unique and only by listening and getting to the bottom of the problem can you find the most appropriate solution.  Secondly, by crafting the best treatment for that particular situation: each treatment is unique, and no two are the same. Different types of Acupuncture will treat slightly differently.  As a Five Element practitioner I use points that have a particular relevance to the Spirit, or emotions.  With names such as “Body Pillar”, “Fly and Scatter” and “Bright and Clear” there are a host of points that start to remind the person what normal feels like – and how to reach it.

And grief?  It’s a natural process to feel sadness and loss for someone – or something who is no longer there.  We should take time to acknowledge and process it.  Time is, as they say, the greatest healer.  However, if grief becomes all consuming: when you are unable to physically function because of overwhelming grief, then it’s time to seek help. Seeking help isn’t a weakness, there are moments when we all need a helping hand in life.

What’s the best option for me?

The honest answer is: it’ll depend on you.  Some people prefer to take a tablet.  Others would prefer to do anything but take one.  There’s no right or wrong approach, you will know what you feel more comfortable with.  Some people don’t make enough serotonin/don’t get a good enough uptake.  But it’s not that simple. Increasingly, people are being given a tablet to help them improve their serotonin uptake when actually the problem is circumstantial.  That’s not to say it will feel any less awful, simply that unless you get to the root cause, you won’t solve the problem.  It may ease for a while but may also return if the background circumstances haven’t changed.

There are a myriad of alternatives to tablets available, such as CBT and other talking treatments, exercise, mindfulness, gardening and acupuncture – to name but a few.  The mental health charity Mind has great information. It’s worth speaking to your GP to see what is available – and, most importantly, what resonates with you.

Acupuncturists who are members of the BAcC (such as me…) have undergone rigorous training and understand when they are in a position to help people – and when they should refer them on to other specialists (for example, if someone is suicidal, the Samaritans is the best option).  I regularly treat patients with mild to moderate depression, and they tell me how much acupuncture has helped them.

I hope you found this interesting and informative – if you’d like to know more, please get in touch.

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