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Acupuncture Helps Depression And Anxiety, Study Finds

Acupuncture Helps Depression And Anxiety, Study Finds

You may have gone through a period of anxiety and depression in your life or witnessed someone close to you suffer from one or both of these illnesses. As such it may not come as a surprise to you that anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental disorders.

Many people use the conventional medication options to treat these illnesses, but there are those who find that medication does not work well for them or that they do not tolerate it well. Hence, they look for alternative treatments. Gradually acupuncture and other complementary therapies are proving to be legitimate treatments for anxiety and depression. It is important, however to consult a doctor when you seek treatment for your depressed mood or anxious thoughts.

What is Acupuncture?

The Chinese introduced acupuncture to the world as a traditional form of medicine. According to Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by correcting imbalances in the flow of energy (Qi) via channels called meridians.

It is held that five elements (water, wood, fire, earth and metal) affect the internal organs. In acupuncture the practitioner inserts needles into specific points in the body (skin) that are believed to correspond to specific organs, in order to correct energy blocks and return the organs and the body to a balanced state.

As it is believed that the mind and body interact as one, the emotions are thought to elicit a physiological response. The five elements (that influence the internal organs) are linked with five emotions: Water (fear); Wood (anger); Fire (happiness); Earth (worry); Metal (grief).

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Thus, by correcting and balancing the physical, through acupuncture, it is thought that you can also balance the emotions. Western research suggests that the needles used in acupuncture may activate natural painkillers in the brain.

Depression and Anxiety defined

‘Depressive episodes’ may be classified according to the number of symptoms that are present. When fewer symptoms are present the depression is labeled mild; when many symptoms present themselves the depression is severe; in between there is moderate depression.

Diagnoses defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) include single episode or recurrent major depressive disorder (APA, 2000). A major depressive disorder is defined as depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for at  least 2 weeks.”

Anxiety may be defined as a “‘persistent feeling of dread, apprehension and impending disaster or tension and uneasiness’”. The term ‘Anxiety disorders’ is a general term used to refer to different conditions such as: panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety, traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorder due to a general medical condition.

Acupuncture Improves Working Memory and Reduces Anxiety

In a study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, in October 2013, it was found that students who were privy to a 20-minute acupuncture session presented less anxiety and better memories (directly after the acupuncture) than students who did not have the acupuncture.

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The study which aimed to investigate whether acupuncture can improve memory and reduce anxiety involved 90 undergraduate university students. The students were randomly divided into two groups.

All of the students completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) form Y-1 (State Anxiety, SA) and Y-2 (Trait Anxiety, TA). Each student then lay on a treatment table for 20 minutes. The acupuncture group had needles inserted into select acupoints. The control group of students did not receive any acupuncture treatment. All of the students then completed the STAI form Y-1 again. (After which they completed a computerized test of working memory).

It was found that the students who received the acupuncture had lower anxiety and improved working memory.

Acupuncture Can Be As Effective As Counselling In Treating Depression

A new study headed by Hugh MacPherson from the University of York in the UK, has found that people with depression may gain benefit from acupuncture to the same extent that they gain benefit from counseling.

Researchers found that one in three patients were no longer depressed after three months of acupuncture or counseling. One in five people, who received neither treatment, showed no signs of depression after three months.

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775 people suffering from moderate or severe depression were recruited for the study. 302 were randomly assigned to receive 12 weekly acupuncture sessions; 302 received weekly counseling sessions and 151 received usual care.

People did not have to stop taking their medicine in order to participate in the study. Approximately 70 percent of people had taken antidepressants in the three months before the study.

The average depression score, on a scale from 0 to 27 was 16 at the start of the study. 16 is considered moderately severe depression.

At the end of the study (after three months) people in the acupuncture group had an average score of approximately 9; the counseling group had an average score of about 11 and the usual care group had an average score of around 13. Nine is on the higher end of the mild depression category. Eleven and 13 are considered indicators of moderate depression.

Thus, the people who received acupuncture or counseling improved to greater extents over the course of the study than those who received no treatment.

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Previous studies that looked at depression and acupuncture have been inconclusive. “Clearly acupuncture is a new option,” MacPherson said.  “This is the first evidence that acupuncture really helps.” 

Summary

Acupuncture appears to hold a lot of promise for those suffering from anxiety and depression. If you or someone you love is suffering from anxiety or depression, then acupuncture may prove to be very beneficial. Given that these illnesses touch so many people it is comforting to know that acupuncture could bring hope and a new lease on life to many sufferers.

Always remember to consult your healthcare professional if you experience depression or anxiety symptoms.

Featured photo credit: hikrcn via shutterstock.com

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Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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