With its unique view of the mind-body connection, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can play an important and useful part in the treatment of mental disorders such as depression.
In Chinese Medicine the activities and functionality of the physical body is not separated from the mind and the emotions. This means people’s thinking patterns and the way they deal with emotions will have an effect on or manifest in their physical body, and vice versa. From a Chinese Medicine practitioner’s point of view this means we can make a fairly clear connection between the signs and symptoms people present with in the clinic to an overall sense of a person’s imbalances and health, physically, emotionally and psychologically all at once. That in turn means we can help people feel better emotionally and psychologically through ‘physical’ treatments with the appropriate application of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Depression is considered an illness when a person experiences prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, inadequacy, despondency, rumination, lack of motivation and an inability to experience pleasure to the point where it interferes with normal functioning and interest in life. It usually manifests with several physical symptoms associated with appetite and digestion, sleep, energy, sex drive, concentration and/or various body aches. Withdrawal from and discomfort with social interactions can make relationships and work difficult. Thoughts of death and suicide are common too. In other words, depression can be very serious and extremely debilitating.
The state of someone’s mental health as much as their physical health is a product of the volume, quality and smooth flow of the person’s vital substances (energy and body fluids) and the balanced functioning of their internal organ systems. In Chinese Medicine the internal organs have a mental component and relates to one or more emotions. For example, the liver is connected with anger, the heart with joy, the kidneys with fear, the lungs with grief and the digestive system with over-thinking and worrying.
Depression could be classified as a multitude of different disorder patterns according to CM and depending on the individual person’s symptoms. However, in the majority of cases there is a strong component of what CM calls ‘constraint’ or ‘stagnation’, indicating a blocked flow of the energy, blood, other vital substances, thoughts or emotions. This could be the cause of an excess of sorts blocking the channels, or a deficiency of substances meaning there’s simply not enough of something to flow properly. An analogy would be a river where if there’s the right amount of water and no logs or debris blocking the flow it will be a free flowing and healthy river where flora and fauna can flourish naturally as it’s meant to.
Restrained or repressed emotions, inappropriate nutrition or sleep, genetics and trauma can all be contributing factors to imbalances, deficiencies and stagnation with depression as a result.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicines and remedial massage can all help re-balance the body and the mind by removing blockages and/or nourish the vital substances. These therapies can generally be used safely in conjunction with many antidepressant medications and psychotherapy, which are currently the most common Western medicine treatment methods used to combat depression. Unfortunately many pharmaceutical antidepressant medications can have undesirable side-effects. CM can also help alleviate these side-effects. Ideally the root causes of the imbalances causing the depression are addressed with the main aim being no medication or absolute minimum medication being required.
When free and sufficient flow is created and encouraged, the body, the mind and the soul will feel the benefits and depressive feelings can flow away.
Gardenvale Traditional Chinese Medicine