It is without a doubt that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly gaining currency in the United States and abroad, as witnessed by the mounting number of patients visiting “alternative” practitioners compared to those seeking assistance from primary care physicians (Mischoulon, n.d.). This paper compares and contrasts literature on how two such therapies, namely omega-3 fatty acids and acupuncture, have been used in the treatment of psychological and mental disorders.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The presentation by Mischoulon (n.d.) notes that omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fish and other marine sources, have demonstrated promising results in the treatment of various psychological disorders including mood disorders, bipolar disorders, psychotic disorders, borderline personality disorder, and postpartum depression. In the study by Hegarty and Parker (2011), omega-3 fatty acids have been found to influence neuronal function and mood, and are therefore a promising alternative in the treatment of mood disorders due to their mechanisms of neuronal membrane stabilization and anti-inflammatory effects. These mechanisms are well illuminated in the presentation.
The article by Hegarty and Parker (2011) also reinforces the argument held by Mischoulon (n.d.), that more research studies are required before omega-3 supplementation can be safely recommended as an effective remedy for mood disorders, and hence no firm treatment or dosage recommendation is yet to be established. The two articles are also in agreement that omega-3 supplementation is often used as an adjunct therapy for depressive and bipolar disorders, although Hegarty and Parker (2011) say the supplementation is well tolerated in the body, while Mischoulon (n.d.) outlines several side-effects including stomach upsets and risk of bleeding when combined with anticoagulants.
Hegarty and Parker (2011) provide new information not available in the presentation by not only acknowledging the evidence suggesting a contributory etiological role of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency to depressive and bipolar disorders but also demonstrating that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids may have the capacity to alleviate depressive symptoms in individuals. An important implication for this information is that individuals with routine exposure to omega-3 fatty acids through their diets may develop an effective mechanism to prevent the onset of depressive symptoms and other psychological and mental disorders.
The presentation by Mischoulon (n.d.) notes that acupuncture has been used in mental health to treat depression, anxiety, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, with monoamine involvement in the acupuncture pathway and opioid pathway suggesting possible mechanisms by which the therapy can alleviate depression and anxiety.
These observations are reinforced by Hollifield, Sinclair-Lian, Warner, & Hammerschlag (2007), who suggest in their article that acupuncture may be an efficacious and acceptable non-exposure treatment option for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and impairment in individuals with DSM-IV PTSD because the effects of the therapy are mediated in part by the autonomic nervous system and prefrontal and limbic structures that are involved in the pathophysiology of PTSD.
Both articles demonstrate the need for further research studies to deal with methodological challenges involved, and also to replicate and extend the inconclusive findings that demonstrate acupuncture may be effective in the treatment of the mentioned mental and psychological disorders.
However, the article by Hollifield et al (2007) is optimistic that acupuncture treatment (procedure whereby solid needles are inserted into reasonably selected spots in subcutaneous tissue or muscle for a given period with manipulation) may be more efficacious when applied in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and its attendant modalities (e.g., psychoeducation, behavioral activation, and activity planning). Lastly, unlike in the presentation where it is evident that the therapy has been in use to treat mental and mood disorders, the article by Hollifield et al (2007) underlines that acupuncture should not be recommended as a treatment for PTSD in the absence of further corroborative studies.
Hegarty, B.D., & Parker, G.B. (2011). Marine Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders – Linking the sea and the soul. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 124(1), 42-51.
Hollifield, M., Sinclair-Lian, N., Warner, T.D., & Hammerschlag, R. (2007). Acupuncture for posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized controlled pilot trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195(6), 504-513.
Mischoulon, D. (n.d.). Complementary and alternative medicine: Applications in psychiatry. Web.