Depression is the fourth leading cause of disability worldwide. In its most extreme form it leads to a pervading sense of fatigue, worthlessness and guilt along with weight fluctuation, a disturbance in sleep patterns and even thoughts of suicide. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that between 20% to 25% of the U.S. population will suffer an episode of major depression during the course of their lifetimes. What’s more, major depression affects children, teens, adults and even the elderly, in whom it often goes undiagnosed.
Another, more widespread form of depression is chronic depression, which includes a variety of symptoms including insomnia, indecisiveness and the inability to experience joy. Despite the incapacitation that depression, brings in its various forms, it is often manageable.
Medication, psychotherapy, exercise, acupuncture and massage are some of the proven therapies, and many patients find that by combining them, their effectiveness increases. It isn’t unusual, for instance, to find a patient who successfully combines psychotherapy with acupuncture. In fact, many psychotherapists refer their patients to clinics such as Live Well Chiropractic & Pilates in Los Angeles, for acupuncture.
Sitting in the Live Well reception room, sipping her tea with a bright smile, is a young woman named Jessica. “I’m so much better than I was three months ago,” she says. “I didn’t realize what was wrong with me until a friend suggested I see a psychotherapist. My therapist helped me understand that my feelings of hopelessness and fatigue were elements of depression. She put me on antidepressants and, after a couple of months, she referred me to this clinic for acupuncture. Now, with her help, I’m slowly weaning off the medications. It’s a gradual process but I feel very optimistic.”
Like many people, Jessica doesn’t envision herself taking psychotropic medications for months or years, and she wants to feel better naturally. What she may not realize–or even care about–is that acupuncture has been classified as an valid therapy for depression (including depressive neurosis and post-stroke depression) by the World Health Organization.
“I don’t know exactly how acupuncture works with serotonin levels,” she says, “but I know that it’s been studied in clinical trials and it proved effective. Ultimately, what matters to me is that I feel better, even when the world is a difficult place. When I’m relaxing on that treatment table and the acupuncturist is treating me, I have moments of perfect stillness. The realization that I can feel that good is something I carry with me all day. My insomnia and my ability to manage stress are both improving. And now that I have more energy, I plan to start a Pilates class next week. Of course, it’s all happening one step at a time but the important thing is, it’s actually happening and I’m in control of my mental health.” Jessica has learned that, while she may not be able to change the world, she can–with proper guidance and therapy–change how she reacts to it. And that may be just as good.