Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Depression is one of the most commonly occurring mental health problems with one in four Australians experiencing depression in their lifetime. Depression can affect individuals in varying degrees of severity and at MHHG we recognise that severe depression usually requires management with pharmaceutical medications. However, herbal and lifestyle interventions are appropriate treatments for the vast majority of people with depression and anxiety disorders.

We have a responsible approach to the management of depression and refer when appropriate for severe mood disorders or when patients fail to respond appropriately to our medications. We recommend diet and lifestyle interventions such as exercise as important strategies in the management of depression, but also recognise that patients tend to experience a decline in motivation when depressed. We advise simple and manageable strategies to assist. Nutritional supplements may also be appropriate for this reason, as well as being useful therapeutic strategies for depression.

Anxiety is a common and often debilitating problem that can occur with or without depression. It is also a contributing or aggravating factor associated with many health complaints including digestive disorders (e.g. IBS), headaches and sleep disturbances. Treating anxiety as an underlying cause of these conditions is a crucial component of holistic management.

A number of herbal medicines may be prescribed for depression and anxiety management. St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is the most commonly known herb used for mood disorder, but it is by no means the only herb used in this context and herbalists at the clinic choose from a large list of herbal ‘antidepressants’, anti-anxiety herbs, relaxants and sedatives that are combined to suit each individual’s particular presentation. Unique to herbal medicine is a class of herbs that assist in supporting an individual’s ability to cope with stress, anxiety and depression. These ‘adaptogenic’ herbs are tonic in nature, and are incorporated as part of treatment with herbs used specifically for anxiety and/or depression.

Referral to counsellor, psychologists or GPs, if appropriate, is encouraged. Other therapies which may assist include massage therapy, yoga and meditation. Further support groups and services are also of enormous value. Beyond Blue is an organisation dedicated to increasing awareness of depression. The Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) is an organisation that provides telephone support, information, education and referral services for pregnant women and new mothers.  Additional information can be sourced from the psychology section of MHHG.

Acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia as research has shown it has a calming, sedative and tranquillising effect through the regulation of neurotransmitters. Some research has also demonstrated a positive outcome from acupuncture in pregnant patients with depression. Further information on acupuncture and depression and anxiety can be found at http://www.acupuncture.com.au.

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