Depression and generalized anxiety disorder are serious conditions that a person can’t just “snap out of.” They are usually characterized by nearly constant feelings of despair or worthlessness (depression), or worry (anxiety). Other common signs are difficulty in concentration or sleeping—or sleeping too much. And, while depression and anxiety are separate illnesses, they share many symptoms and may occur at the same time.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 20.9 million Americans age 18 and older suffer from some form of depressive disorder each year. And approximately 6.8 million people in the United States live with generalized anxiety disorder. Many individuals who are affected by depression may also experience symptoms of anxiety.
What Causes Depression and Anxiety
Certain chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, play a key role in regulating mood and behavior. When these chemicals become imbalanced, it can lead to depression or anxiety. People with a low level of a specific neurotransmitter called serotonin seem to be more likely to develop depression and anxiety. For some reason, anxiety is about twice as likely to appear in women as in men, and may run in the family. Many people with depression also have a family history of the condition.
Acupuncture—Non-drug Option for Depression and Anxiety
While the causes of depression or anxiety are not always known, they are treatable illnesses. There is tremendous hope and potential for recovery in most cases. With the proper diagnosis and treatment, most people will see improvement in their symptoms. For conventional medicine, the two main treatments are counseling (also called psychotherapy) and medication. Since 1996, the World Health Organization has recognized the use of acupuncture to treat a variety of medical conditions, including depression and anxiety.
Acupuncture, the ancient art of Chinese medicine, is gaining acceptance in traditional medicine as an effective way to treat various medical problems with no side effects. The modern explanation of acupuncture is based on the belief that needling strategic points on the body stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either change the pain experience or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones that help the body’s internal regulating systems. The net result is to stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities, to help the chemicals or hormones become balanced, and to promote physical and emotional well being.
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