Anxiety and Depression

Written by Scott Schauland, LAc

Happy woman sitting cross legged in meditation in park


Anxiety is a very common experience for most people at one point or another in their lives. It can range anywhere from a moment of distress, to severe and debilitating panic and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can be hereditary, be caused by emotions around an event, be a side effect of having another disease, be the result of use or withdrawal from a variety of drugs or medications, and it can even have no discernible cause at all.

In Chinese Medicine, there were classical disease categories related to it, such as “Vexation and Agitation” (煩燥 fán zào), the name of which implies the cause of the disease – internal heat agitating the heart. “Running Piglet” (奔豚 bēn tún) is another classical disease, which involved symptoms very similar to panic attacks. In modern Chinese Medicine, these disorders have the name of “Anxiety Disease” (焦虑症 jiāo lǜ zhèng).

Current research shows that acupuncture can be more effective than medications (such as benzodiazepines, SSRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants) in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Such medications have been found to cause an “inadequate response” in approximately 50% of patients, indicating a lack of relief from their anxiety, or undesirable side effects. That being said, it’s important to work with your prescribing physician or psychiatrist when it comes to psychiatric medication.

According to current research, when compared with placebo, talking therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has a moderate to large effect on reducing anxiety. It is generally much more effective than medication.

Acupuncture provides relief from anxiety at a level that’s comparable with talking therapy.

It’s my view that the best results come from seeing a therapist or counselor in addition to receiving Chinese Medicine treatments.

In terms of Chinese Medicine, herbal medicine should be used in combination with acupuncture for the greatest result.


Depression-like feelings are a common experience, often being a normal response to the challenges that present themselves in life. When these feelings interfere with your duties and activities of daily living, it becomes clinically relevant and worth seeking treatment for. Depression can sometimes coincide with anxiety.

Negative moods can happen due to circumstances, such as the loss of a loved one. They typically last for a while, and then gradually improve. These are more of “demoralization and grief”, and aren’t necessarily something to treat.

True depression, on the other hand, stays present for months or longer, and is a disproportional response. Depression can also be without any known cause.

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