Depression is not ‘All in Your Head’. It’s a physical reality caused by the body’s inability to function as it should. If your body is physically depressed then you’ll be emotionally depressed. Once underlying issues are resolved the symptoms of depression disappear.
People typically have different combinations of problems that create depression.
Depression can present with a wound up feeling, irritability or anger, insomnia, and/or waking between 1:00 and 3:00 AM when the mind is too active to sleep. TCM attributes these symptoms to Liver Qi Stagnation; aka Stuck Energy. This can also cause a band of tightness or pain around the chest, just below the breasts. This pressure sometimes makes it difficult to take a deep breath.
The Liver channel begins on the inner side of each big toe and ends at Liver 14 on the chest. When Liver Qi runs amuck (rebellious Liver Qi) it can flow up the channel from its origins and get stuck at the end, like water behind a damn. This reverse of normal energy flow can make people tired during the day and wide awake at night. Since Liver 14 ends on either side of the stomach it can hinder the stomach energy’s normal downward flow, resulting in lack of appetite. TCM, including Acupuncture and prescribed Chinese herbal formulas, effectively treats this type of depression by freeing and redirecting the flow of energy (Qi). Exercise is also beneficial since it moves the energy in the body.
Excessive dampness can also cause depression, lethargy, foggy thinking, lack of energy and motivation. It’s often accompanied by an absence of hunger in the morning with little or no thirst. The head can feel heavy, or like it’s wrapped in a thick towel. Other times dampness can cause pressure or pain in the head, especially on the top. Signs of dampness may include a thick white coat on the tongue. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can effectively treat internal dampness. But it’s also essential to eliminate or minimize damp foods; foods that create oil or fat in the body. These include dairy, sweets, fruit and fruit juices, and too much raw food. Also nuts and seeds, including “butter” and “milk” made from these items. And anything that can be made into an oil, such as avocados and coconuts. These foods should be minimized or avoided during cold damp times of the year.
Vigorous exercise helps dispel internal dampness by increasing the flow of energy in the body; like the current in a stream moves stagnant water.
The following are best treated with prescribed nutritional supplements.
Depression with sweet or junk food cravings, joint aches and pains, lethargy, foggy thinking, and/or short term memory problems caused by an over growth of Candida in the small intestines.
Bouts of explosive anger, with alternating depression, stem from difficulty assimilating trace minerals, especially calcium, which is calming.
Mood swings throughout the day can indicate fluctuating blood sugar.
In cases of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), when a lack of sunshine makes you blue, a prescribed homeopathic to increase the production of Serotonin and Dopamine works well.
Then there’s depression accompanied by PMS or menopausal symptoms, due to hormonal imbalances. While hormonal imbalances predominately effect women they can be a problem for men as well.
Often there are various combinations of these patterns that contribute to depression.
Acupuncture usually helps patients feel better physically and emotionally during the first session. Though more sessions are necessary, as well as prescribed supplements, to address underlying issues.
Diet is always a contributing factor. If you’re not eating a nutrient rich diet, three times per day, you’re expecting your body to function with no fuel. It’s like a car that’s run out of gas you end up pushing up hill.
Digesting your food is also essential. You can fill your gas tank, but if the fuel system is defective you won’t get far.
Unless you’ve dealt with depression yourself there isn’t any way to truly understand it. How do you explain why you feel like crying when there really isn’t anything wrong, why you just want to be alone because you don’t want to impose your mood on anyone else, why you wake up and don’t want to get out of bed because what’s the point anyway, or you just don’t have the energy? How do you explain how even the smallest tasks take monumental effort, or you’re just too tired to move more than absolutely necessary? How can you explain any of this when you don’t understand it yourself? But there are answers. There are treatments. There is hope for breaking free of the black cloud hanging over your head. There’re ways to regain your energy and vitality, to enjoy life again.
Health & Happiness,
Nancy Burton, L.Ac.