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Monday 23 November 2015

Stress, Depression, Anxiety and TCM treatment

Tiejun Tang

Stress, depression and anxiety are three different mental health disorders.

Stress is the most common condition, nearly everyone experiences stress at one time or another. According to the findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), nearly one-fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression.
The clinical manifestations of these three emotional disorders are different;

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. It can cause a lot of physical symptoms including: low energy, headaches, stomach upset, diarrhoea, constipation and nausea, aches, pains, and tense muscles, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia and low libido.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and sadness and loss of interest in daily activities, anger or irritability, appetite or weight changes, sleep changes, loss of energy, self-loathing and reckless behaviour.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear. The clinical symptoms vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, but generally include: Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness, sleeping disorder, cold or sweaty hands and/or feet, shortness of breath, palpitations, restlessness, dry mouth, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.

Living in modern society everybody has to face a stressful life of working or studying. Long term stress often causes depression and anxiety.  Many other reasons also can lead to depression and anxiety, including marital or relationship problems, unemployment, alcohol or drug abuse, early childhood trauma or abuse, health problems or chronic pain and family history.

TCM Perspective

Traditional Chinese medicine believes these diseases are caused by seven emotions disorder. In ancient classic text these conditions have been diagnosed as Yu Zheng. In TCM most of depression and irritable moods are due to liver qi stagnation; most of sleeping problems and palpitation are due to heart shen disturbance or heart qi deficiency; some symptoms of the digestive system are due to spleen and stomach disharmony.

Acupuncture can regulate the function of these internal organs by 

stimulating certain points on certain meridians. A systematic review and meta-analysis study suggests that acupuncture combined with antidepressant medication is effective, has an early onset of action, safe and well-tolerated over the first 6-week treatment period [1]. In depression treatment, a cost-effectiveness analysis study from UK suggests that acupuncture is cost-effective compared with counselling or usual care alone [2].

Chinese herbs also can have good effect in relieving depression and anxiety symptoms. Some antidepressant-like effects were obtained from ethanolic extract of Chinese herb Suanzaoren and Hehuan[3]. These antidepressant-like extracts come from natural herbs; they don’t have any side effects unlike synthetic antidepressants.

Generally speaking TCM can be very helpful in the treatment of stress, depression and anxiety and is therefore a better alternative option.

  1. Chan YY. The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Affect Disord. 2015 May 1;176:106-17.
  2. Spackman E. Cost-effectiveness analysis of acupuncture, counselling and usual care in treating patients with depression: the results of the ACUDep trial. PLoS One. 2014 Nov 26;9(11):e113726.
  3. Liu J. Antidepressant-like effect of the ethanolic extract from Suanzaoren & Hehuan Formula in mice models of depression. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 May 7;141(1):257-64


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