Can acupuncture help with bipolar?

Repost from my old blog from May 2015: This post reflects my thoughts and feelings at the time. I would never recommend anyone stop taking medication without the input of a doctor/psych. I am currently on medication but wasn’t when I wrote this.

Bipolar and Accupuncture??

So I was looking into ways to manage bipolar, and this came up.

There have been clinical trials of it, but while the results apparently are positive, the actual details of the studies are missing from the internet.

This study published in 2009 supports the use of acupuncture in bipolar, but the information in the abstract does not give any compelling reason why they concluded this.

This study carried out in 2001 has apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. I guess there’s just no big pharma money in acupuncture.

This study carried out in 2008 shows that the Traditional Korean Medicine style of acupuncture has been successfully used alongside conventional psychiatric intervention for management of side effects of medication, although isn’t actually aimed at the treatment of the bipolar disorder itself.

This study shows that a specific subset of acupuncture called electro acupuncture is as effective as amitriptylene (a traditional antidepressant) on both Bipolar and Major Depression.

This article shows that acupuncture can help with insomnia and some types of anxiety disorder, two things that are often comorbid (occurs at same time) with bipolar disorder.

I used to work in a pharmacy, so I have a pretty good sense that there really is no conspiracy (at that level, anyway), but it does make you wonder whether someone’s trying to keep the results out as the only study that was directly related to this has been left incomplete.  I hope it’s just that the study got discontinued due to attrition rate (people dropping out) or something equally benign.

Here is some anecdotal evidence of the use of acupuncture to treat bipolar:

Kristin Hersh

Rev. Katie Norris

Karen (no last name given)

This article is particularly interesting as it shows how Chinese medicine and Western medicine have categorized bipolar disorder slightly differently, and the author attempts to reconcile how bipolar corresponds to Chinese diagnoses. This is particularly important because the failure of an acupuncturist to treat bipolar could be because they have corresponded it to the wrong acu-points, by not categorizing it as the right thing, rather than because the method itself is invalid. If that makes sense.  It’s also interesting that Dian Kuang, the Chinese category that bipolar seems to fit into (along with schizophrenia – just read the article already), has been a treatable diagnosis in China by traditional Chinese medicine.

Here is the Bipolar Disorders Centre discussion of the advantages of alternative medicine, they refer to Margot Kidder as having “cured” her bipolar with acupuncture.

Here is the British Acupuncture Council’s discussion of the benefits of using it to treat Depression – one of the 90 ailments for which acupuncture is approved by the World Health Organization: Depression

And here they discuss anxiety, also on the list approved by WHO: Anxiety

As you can see, they don’t specifically recommend it for bipolar because of the difficulties studying it (since bipolar is such a wider set of symptoms and more of a sliding scale of severity for each individual than anxiety or depression, because it’s a more complex problem, which is why we have so many different medications and no single medication will help every bipolar patient either), but I would be willing to try acupuncture since it’s worked for other people and it’s being used in China to treat equivalent disorders.

Based on the scientific studies (and the fact that people are studying it scientifically) and the anecdotal evidence, I am going to book an appointment to try it, to find out whether it can work for me. I mean, it’s not like there’s a downside – I’m not going to get the Lamictal rash or acne or hair loss or shaky hands from accupuncture, so it’s already winning when compared to medication although I wouldn’t stop taking meds in exachange for acupuncture if I was taking any. There’s a “community accupuncture clinic” down the road where they have a sliding scale of prices which makes this potentially affordable on my low (non-existent, at the moment) income.

Would you try acupuncture?  Have you tried it?  Did it work for you?  I’d love to know your thoughts!

UPDATE 7th June: I have now tried 5 sessions, results discussed at length in this article


Author: MsAdventure

I am a twentysomething travel, photography and beauty blogger who occasionally writes about other topics. Within travel, I tend to write mostly about Europe because all the other travel bloggers seem to write about South East Asia. As a writer, I have written articles that are published in Offbeat Bride and on Buzzfeed, and as a photographer, I have taken photographs that are published in local and national news outlets in the UK. I have a blog at

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