Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with Traditional Chinese Medicine

by Dawn Moeller LAc

Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as SAD, or seasonal depression) is a mild form of depression that can be related to changes in seasons. Most people notice SAD symptoms starting in the fall and increasing during the winter months, but some experience a spring/summer version. The reduction in sunlight in winter can throw off your biological clock and reduce levels of serotonin—a brain chemical that regulates your mood—and melatonin—a chemical that regulates both sleep and mood.

Along with a depressed mood, one can experience irritability, headaches, extreme fatigue and lethargy, increased appetite, carbohydrate cravings, an inability to concentrate, and decreased libido.

Traditional Chinese Medicine can be a helpful treatment for SAD. In TCM, energetic imbalances are closely associated with chemical, mental, emotional, and physical disturbances within the body. Studies have shown that acupuncture releases serotonin and noradrenaline, which are common stimulants used in the treatment of depressive disorders. Better yet, acupuncture carries no extra side effects with treatment.

Acupuncture works by balancing and harmonizing Qi. When the qi is blocked and/or depleted, depression, anxiety, and stress can occur. Regular acupuncture treatments throughout the winter months is a beneficial way to help you cope with your SAD symptoms.