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About Depression

1 in 4 Britons suffer from depression within a given year, at least 20 percent of them experience a clinical depressive syndrome where low mood is accompanied by insomnia, change in appetite, pessimism and suicidal thoughts.

It can affect people of every age, background and ethnicity. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 850 000 lives are lost to suicide caused by depression every year.

This is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities.

Depression is affecting about 121 million people worldwide and is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.

It is the leading cause of disability as measured by YLDs (Years Lived with Disability) and the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease (DALYs – the sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability calculated for all ages, both sexes) in 2000.

By the year 2020, depression is projected to reach 2nd place in the ranking of DALYs. Today, depression is already the 2nd cause of DALYs in the age category 15-44 years for both sexes combined.

Western Medical View

Western medicine attributes depression to a variety of factors, e.g. genetics, biochemistry, biography and ill health. Treatment involves anti-depressant drugs and psychological treatment. Depression can be reliably diagnosed and treated in primary care.

Chinese Medical View

Acupuncture has been proved to be an effective treatment for depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke), through clinical trials*.

In Chinese Medicine theory, human emotions are closely related to the organs. The organ predominantly associated with depression is the Liver whose main function is to store blood and maintain a good flow of Qi (the body’s essential energy) throughout the body. Unrestricted anger, seen often in a short tempered person, can directly affect the Liver, causing a stagnation of Liver’s own energy (the Liver Qi) – which is often the underlying problem in depression as well as in stress and anxiety.

As Liver Qi stagnation is the most common cause, herbs known to move the Qi and balance Liver are often used – such as Chinese angelica root, white peony root and liquorice. Treatment usually also involves acupuncture, and advice on diet and lifestyle is on offer since a change in these two aspects might be vital to a successful outcome. It is important to stress that treatment will be tailored to your individual symptoms and requirements.

A US study has shown that acupuncture achieves comparable results to current Western biomedicine in the treatment of depression. The research, funded by the US Office of Alternative Health, focused on the treatment of 33 seriously depressed women. Results showed that of those treated with acupuncture, over half experienced complete remission.

For advice on how to use Chinese Medicine for stress relief, please see our free guide: 3 Steps to Rise Above Stress. 

Lifestyle Advice

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation.

Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.


Hou DF et al. [Clinical observation of therapeutic effect of baihui (GV20)-yintang (EX-HN3) electro-acupuncture in 30 cases of post-apoplectic depression.] Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1996, 16(8):432-433 [in Chinese].

Li CD et al. Treating post-stroke depression with “antidepressive” acupuncture therapy: A clinical study of 21 cases. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture, 1994, 5(4):389-393.

Luo HC et al. Electro-acupuncture vs amitriptyline in the treatment of depressive states. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1985, 5(1):3-8.

Luo HC et al. [Clinical observation of electro-acupuncture on 133 patients with depression in comparison with tricyclic amytriptyline.] Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 1988, 8(2):77-80 [in Chinese].

Yang X. Clinical observation of needling extrameridian points in treating mental depression. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1994, 14:14-18.

Zhang B et al. A control study of clinical therapeutic effects of laser-acupuncture on depressive neurosis. World Journal of Acupuncture-Moxibustion, 1996, 6(2):12-17.