As we know, clinical depression (also called severe depression disorder, major depression disorder) is a state of sadness, melancholia or despair that has advanced to the point of being disruptive to an individual’s social functioning and/or activities of daily living. Although a low mood or state of dejection that does not affect functioning is often referred to as depression, clinical depression is a medical diagnosis and is different from the everyday meaning of “being depressed”.

Diagnosis and Symptoms
According to the DSM-IV-TR criteria for diagnosing a major depressive disorder (cautionary statement) one of the following two elements must be present for a period of at least two weeks:
–Depressed mood, or

It is sufficient to have either of these symptoms in conjunction with five of a list of other symptoms over a two-week period. These include:

–Feelings of overwhelming sadness or fear or the seeming inability to feel emotion (emptiness).
–A decrease in the amount of interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities of the day, nearly every day.
–Changing appetite and marked weight gain or loss.
–Disturbed sleep patterns, such as insomnia, loss of REM sleep, or excessive sleep (Hypersomnia).
–Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day.
–Fatigue, mental or physical, also loss of energy.
–Intense feelings of guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, isolation/loneliness, anxiety, and/or fear.
–Trouble concentrating or making decisions or a generalized slowing and obtunding (to dull or blunt, especially sensation or pain) of cognition, including memory.
–Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
–Feeling of being abandoned by those close to you.

An additional indicator could be the excessive use of drugs or alcohol. Depressed adolescents are at particular risk of further destructive behaviors, such as eating disorders and self-harm.
Treatment from western medicine
Treatment of depression varies broadly and is different for each individual. Various types and combinations of treatments may have to be tried. There are two primary modes of treatment, typically used in conjunction: medication and psychotherapy. A third treatment, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), may be used when chemical treatment fails.

Other alternative treatments used for depression include exercise and the use of vitamins, herbs, or other nutritional supplements.

Depression and Chinese medicine

Depression is similar to TCM’s Yu syndrome, Baihe disease, Zangzao, Diankuang etc. Modern medicine typically treats depression with a form of psychotherapy and/or anti-depressant drugs regardless of the specific symptoms presented by the depressed patient. In contrast, Chinese traditional medicine classify depression as different types according to different etiologies and manifestations, and treat the specific symptoms that are unique to the individual using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tui-na massage.

Main treatment principles are,
–Promote circulation of Qi and blood in meridians
–Remove stagnation of Qi and blood
–Harmonize the inner organs
–Regulate the balance of body

Since the early nineties, studies around the world have suggested that treating depression with acupuncture has a positive and holistic effect on depressed patients, particularly when used in combination with psychotherapy and herbal treatments. The United Nations World Health Organization regards acupuncture as a useful treatment method for depression.

Compiled by : Hao Chen ( Harry )