How can Acupuncture help Depression? | Ondol Oriental Medicine Clinic

How can Acupuncture help Depression?


Our last blog examined anxiety and the impact this common mental health condition can have on our quality of life and functioning. This blog will look at depression to understand more about the causes and symptoms and how acupuncture can help. 

What is depression?

Everyone feels sad or down at some time in their lives. However, when these feelings last more than two weeks and you are not interested in the activities you usually enjoy, you may be depressedAccording to the Black Dog Institute [1], 1 in 16 people in Australia is affected by depression every year.

What are the common signs and symptoms of depression?

According to Beyond Blue [2], common signs and symptoms include:


  • not going out anymore
  • not getting things done at work/school
  • withdrawing from close family and friends
  • relying on alcohol and sedatives
  • not doing usually enjoyable activities
  • unable to concentrate


  • overwhelmed
  • guilty
  • irritable
  • frustrated
  • lacking in confidence
  • unhappy
  • indecisive
  • disappointed
  • miserable
  • sad


  • ‘I’m a failure.’
  • ‘It’s my fault.’
  • ‘Nothing good ever happens to me.’
  • ‘I’m worthless.’
  • ‘Life’s not worth living.’
  • ‘People would be better off without me.’


  • tired all the time
  • sick and run down
  • headaches and muscle pains
  • churning gut
  • sleep problems
  • loss or change of appetite
  • significant weight loss or gain

What are the types of depression?

Different experts categorise depression in different ways. Health Direct [3], an Australian Government health service, outlines the following types of depression. 

  1. Major depression, also known as major depressive disorder, includes melancholic depression, a severe form and has emotional and physical symptoms. 
  2. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder with a seasonal pattern. The symptoms are prevalent in winter, especially in countries with long periods of darkness.
  3. Postnatal depression occurs after the birth of a baby. It affects up to one in every five women in Australia. It is associated with the challenges and demands of parenthood as well as changes in hormones.
  4. Bipolar disorder displays extreme mood changes that impact daily life. Depression symptoms are similar to major depression, alternating with manic signs of high energy, fast speech and sometimes reckless behaviour.

What causes depression?

The causes of depression are complex, but some factors often contribute to the condition. 

  • Life events – difficult ongoing situations, for example, long-term unemployment, living in an abusive relationship, loneliness can lead to depression. 
  • Personal factors like family history, personality characteristics, illness, or drug/alcohol abuse
  • Changes in the brain – many factors affect how your brain regulates your moods. 

How is depression treated conventionally? 

There are three broad categories of treatment for depression, and often a combination works best. 

  1. Psychological – (talk therapy) seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a therapist or mental health counsellor to talk about your situation and develop strategies to change your thinking patterns and improve your coping skills. Some practical psychological approaches include 
  1. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – helps you identify thought patterns that are leading to your depression. 
  2. Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) – helps you look at your relationships and any unhelpful patterns.
  3. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) – helps you focus on the present moment rather than the past or the future. 
  4. Medical – Antidepressant medications are often prescribed in combination with other therapies. 
  5. Self Help/Alternative Therapies
  • Acupuncture 
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation and mindfulness.

How can East Asian medicine/acupuncture help with depression? 

East Asian Medicine is a holistic medical approach that emphasises the body’s integrity and environmental effects on our internal homeostasis. 

As part of this comprehensive medical system, acupuncture balances the flow of energy or life force (Qi) through pathways (meridians) in our body. Depression, like many other mood disorders, is considered an energetic imbalance in one or several of our organ systemsWhen a person suffers from depression, most likely heartspleen and the liver energy is out of balance, our vital energy is dwindling. According to TCM, each of these organs houses a specific aspect of the Spirit (Shen). If the organs are out of balance, they will not accommodate the Spirit adequately. The Spirit will wander and create disturbances or be weak and deficient. A wandering spirit or weak Spirit (Shen disturbance) can manifest in several ways, including anxiety, insomnia or depression.

Acupuncture can help restore balance in energy flow by inserting needles into specific points along these meridians. Doing so can strengthen the Spirit, and the Shen finds a ‘good home’. From a Western medical perspective, acupuncture can stimulate the central nervous system, particularly the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘rest-and-digest’-system. Through biochemical changes in the brain and other parts of the body, the treatments promote natural healing, physical and emotional well-being. 

How can Ondol Clinic help? 

Depression is a multifactorial condition that we need to approach from different angles. Besides guidance on lifestyle factors, our clinic offers gentle Japanese acupuncture, prescription of herbal medicine, supplement therapy and nutritional advice.  

In our initial consultation, we do a comprehensive assessment of your health and develop an individual treatment plan tailored to your particular situation and needs. Stress management and relaxation are an essential part of our holistic approach. Chinese herbal formulas – if needed – are made up in granulated form at our premises. 

If you have any further questions or would like more information on how acupuncture can help with depression or make a booking, please call us on 3371 0100 or visit


  1. Beyond Blue, The Facts: Anxiety
  2. Black Dog Institute Information & Resources for Depression – Black Dog Institute
  3. Health Direct MD


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