Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder & Acupuncture, Houston, TX

Questions about acupuncture for mental health issues are one of the most common inquiries I receive after questions about pain.

Acupuncture can help with depression, anxiety, stress and bi-polar disorder. So in terms of various mental health issues, yes, acupuncture can frequently help.

I caution to say that acupuncture is not in lieu of continuing or being in therapy. I do not take patients off of their Western medication if they’re already on it. Medication is a discussion between the patient and their doctor. Acupuncture, and in many cases Chinese herbal formulas, work just fine in conjunction with Western medication as the mechanism of action is quite different. They can complement each other beautifully.

When a patient comes in with a Western diagnosis of depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder, my job is to determine what the underlying problem(s) are from a Chinese medical perspective. For example, if someone presents with anxiety along with insomnia, excessive worrying, hypervigilance and internalizing feelings, the strategy might be to balance the heart and kidney channels. However, if the main complaints include depression, irritability, sleep disruptions and digestive problems, the approach might focus on smoothing the liver channel.

Usually, a patient will present with a combination of the above plus more. After a thorough evaluation, a point selection is chosen based on the most disruptive concerns working our way in to the deepest and most chronic issues. We as human beings are rarely uni-dimensional, therefore it is more complicated than I have described. However, it gives you an understanding that the treatment strategy is quite individualized.

I have treated bipolar disorder and have found that acupuncture can be stabilizing; but with bipolar, it’s really important to stay on your Western drugs and/or be in regular communication with your therapist. What the acupuncture can do is help balance and stabilize some of the mood swings: the degree, frequency and intensity of the ups and the downs. You might be able to reduce the dosage of some of the medications, but again, that’s between you and your psychiatrist.

Stress is a major variable in just about every health issue we have. I think that stress is the one variable in our life that cannot be controlled in a double-blind, placebo control study. So you can have everything, all variables equal, but how do you really control for stress? Stress definitely triggers mental health issues and it triggers health issues overall.

Because stress is a major factor in all of our lives, acupuncture in and of itself helps with mental health issues because it works to balance the mind, body and spirit. When we are in balance, our emotional and physical health is improved.


Acupuncture as a life line

A patient I had previously treated for back pain came to see me a couple of weeks ago. It had been more than three years since her last visit where she had reported feeling great. Since I had not seen her for quite a while, I had assumed no news is good news. Not the case.

At the time of her first visit back, she told me she was having horrible hot flashes and sweating (making her hair curl), constant stomach pain, diarrhea, (six times a day for six years). In addition, she was extremely anxious, not sleeping well, and quite frankly, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

This patient reported she had forgotten how well she felt after her last experience with acupuncture. When her stomach pain became overwhelming she did the right thing by going to her medical doctor to try and figure out what the problem could be. She went through all the possible medical tests at their disposal to find that there was no Western understanding of her stomach pain. After numerous attempts at finding the cause, she remembered the last time she felt better. She couldn’t believe she had actually forgotten.

But that’s really ok. Because you do want to rule out anything serious. Western medicine is the best in the world for diagnostics. Once everything serious had been ruled out (ie cancer, especially since she is a three time cancer survivor) it made smart sense for her to come and try acupuncture again.

It was clear to me that her stomach pain was directly affected and exacerbated by her anxiety. In Chinese medicine there is a direct link between liver channel issues and digestive issues. (There is no real equivalent in Western medicine, so doctors usually prescribe anti-depressants). So I treated her anxiety issues which was in part causing her epigastric pain. That is called treating the root to treat the branch (symptom). In addition, I treated the symptom which alleviated her diarrhea and part of the root problem. She has been diarrhea free for 2 weeks and has had her stomach pain reduced by almost 50%.

I asked her if she would be willing to share her story with you. She sent me the following almost immediately as she has been so pleased with her progress.

I am a very lucky lady! After 6 years of severe, unexplainable stomach pains, 6 doctors, 6 endoscopies and colonoscopies, too many pills to list and no one else to see to find a solution, I sought out the Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic as a desperate attempt to get help for this severe pain. I had used the Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic for back pain 3 years earlier and knew that they not only listened, was caring and compassionate, they had completely relieved my back pain. They listened yet again, asked many questions and started to work their magic. We are in our second week of treatment and the pain has already started to subside. For the first time in 6 years, I feel good. Not only is my stomach pain much better, everything feels better. My anxiety has lessoned, my back feels great, my mind is clear and my physical health seems to be much better. Had I not gone to 6 doctors with no relief, I wouldn’t have believed that they could help me this fast. The most amazing part is that everything feels better. There is nothing more important than health and this is exactly Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic’s philosophy. The better I feel, the happier they feel for me. They truly care and want to help. They are so positive, so reassuring, so compassionate and the best part, it’s painless! I actually like those little needles now. I have learned that they are my friend! I am forever grateful to have found the Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic and I will continue to go twice a week until I feel that the pain is completely gone. When this happens, I will continue to go back for maintenance forever! Life and my health is so much better because of Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic! I am a lucky lady! ~Dana~