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Holistic Treatment Approach For Mood Disorders: Depression And Anxiety

As a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner we take the holistic approach with just about everything! The wellbeing of your body, mind and spirit are essential and these three things make up who you are. It sounds great in theory, doesn’t it? However, too often we tend to focus on the body and neglect the other two or vice versa. TCM recognises the importance of the mind and spirit as well as the body.

So let me jump straight to it, when it comes to treating mood disorders like depression or anxiety conditions your treatment options do not have to end at taking prescription medication.

Here’s something surprising that doesn’t get told very often: your mood can be affected by the biochemistry of your body! This is both from a Western medical AND TCM perspective.

To reiterate this, I came across a really great article by Therese Borchard who wrote ‘10 Nutritional Deficiencies That May Cause Depression’, which lists the possible nutritional deficiencies that can leave you feeling blue. The top three deficiencies she mentions are omega-3 for brain function including memory and mood, the lack of vitamin D linked to depression and dementia and magnesium which helps with relaxation and destressing.

From a TCM point of view depression and anxiety are thought to arise from either disharmony between the organs (TCM organs, NOT your western medical organs) or deficiency of vital substances such as Blood, fluids and Qi-energy. There are literally over a dozen different types of patterns of disharmony that affect your mood!

Here are some common patterns seen in depression and anxiety*:

  • Liver Qi stagnation – depression, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, frustration, nervous tension, rib-side pain, bloating, premenstrual tension and a feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency – depression, brooding, slightly obsessive thinking, anxiety, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, poor memory, palpitations, dizziness, dull-pale complexion, pale lips, tiredness, weak muscles, loose stools, poor appetite and scanty periods
  • Heart Yin deficiency – vague anxiety worse in the evening, insomnia, poor memory, mental restlessness, dream disturbed sleep, tendency to be easily startled, palpitations, dry mouth and throat and night sweating.

So what does this all mean? Basically, the main message here is that while mood disturbances may be based on external stressors and may feel like it’s isolated to the mind, you should first check that your body is receiving all the necessary nutrients it needs through your food. Furthermore, each individual is unique and require a different treatment based on their constitution and pattern of disease. As a TCM clinician I recommend that you seek out a second opinion with a certified health practitioner. Try dietary supplementation, acupuncture or herbal medicine and see how well you respond to the treatment before turning to medication.

*Maciocia, G. 2004, Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine, Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh 

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