Acupuncture for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Acupuncture can help Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This is the type of depression that happens at the same time each year, usually in the fall and winter. Doctors attribute seasonal depression to less sunlight. Now that we are turning the clocks back, there will seem like even less daylight as the sun will go down one hour earlier. Even though we gain an hour of daylight in the morning, we lose it at night, leaving us feeling light deprived. Add to all this that we are in the midst of a pandemic and limiting our social interactions, Seasonal Affective Disorder has the potential to be worse for people this year.

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Seasonal Affective Disorder is SAD

Fortunately, acupuncture treatment can be effective for people who suffer from symptoms of seasonal depression. But how does it work? First we must understand how acupuncturists view SAD.

Is SAD a Disorder?

Fluctuating moods occur at each change of seasons according to Chinese medicine theory. Composed of the same elements that occur in nature, our bodies are a microcosm of the natural world. Changing conditions in our world create change in our bodies. Shouldn’t our moods be expected to shift accordingly?

Spring and summer mark an expansive time of year both in nature, and for most of us, our mood. On the flip side, the contraction of the fall season sees energy going in the opposite direction. For those who prefer spring and summer’s expansive, outward flow, the inward, reflective cycle of the approaching winter season may have a more severe affect and could become Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Acupuncturists know that our energy is beginning to contract and pull inward come fall; similar to what is happening outside our front doors as the leaves turn colors and trees begin to go dormant. With the waning daylight hours and the cessation of plant growth, there is a natural desire to turn inward as fall becomes winter. As we enter the dark cold winter months, it is normal to want to conserve energy as we seek to renew ourselves for the next cycle of expansion that begins with the first buds of spring.

Grief and the Lungs

Each of the 5 organ systems of the body is assigned a season and an emotion in Chinese Medicine. Fall is associated with the Lung organ system and the emotion of grief. Because of this, it is in the fall that the lungs need more help than at other times of the year. We tend to catch more colds and flus starting in the fall and to feel the emotional effects of the season associated with grief. Acupuncturists know how to regulate the Lung organ system to help achieve strength at a time when it is most vulnerable.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Here is a list of symptoms for seasonal affective disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association.

  • Sadness
  • A Loss of interest in activities that one previously enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Changes in sleep
  • Loss of energy
  • In more severe cases, thoughts of suicide

People with depression experience many of the same symptoms. The difference is that seasonal depression symptoms are shorter in duration, ending with the change of seasons.The National Institute of Health suggests a diagnosis of seasonal depression isn’t necessary unless symptoms occur for two consecutive years. However, if these symptoms are severe, seek help immediately.

The American Psychiatric Association encourages anyone feeling severe symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts to contact a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-TALK (8255) or via online chat.

If your symptoms are manageable, you may be able to get by with natural solutions. Exercise, getting outside for more daylight, and keeping up with social activities can help.

Acupuncture Treats Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

Seasonal moods are part of our human design. It is normal for them to change as the seasons turn. Adapting to change is a sign of good health and balance. This year is different, however, because there is a collective trauma many are undergoing as our globe is experiencing a pandemic. Even the most resilient of us may be feeling unable to adapt to the change of seasons this year. When you are unable to adapt and your mood begins to affect your daily function, it could be seasonal affective disorder.

The good news? Acupuncture can help with seasonal depression. Acupuncture helps your body move into the changing season so you can ‘go with the flow’. It does this by increasing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. A series of acupuncture treatments can help people who are prone to S.A.D. adapt to the seasons more readily. People who get regular acupuncture report an overall balance in their emotional life with less severe ‘ups and downs’.

For more information on Acupuncture and Depression please visit our Treating Depression with Acupuncture page.