Seasonal Affective Disorder

As fall turns into winter, many people are prone to a mild form of depression that seems to lift in the warmer months of spring. 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. These set of symptoms form a condition commonly referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder affects over ten million people in the United States each year, two-thirds of which are female. While the true cause is not known according to western medicine, it is thought that decreased melatonin levels arising from the limited exposure to sunlight in the winter are involved. Other factors that may contribute to SAD include genetics, hormones, and stress.

Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Current methods of treating seasonal affective disorder in conventional western medicine involve light therapy. Light therapy is based on the theory that increasing exposure to bright lights will increase the levels of melatonin. For some cases, antidepressants are also prescribed. Most of these drugs work by increasing the actions and effects of the chemical stimulants noradrenaline and serotonin in the body. While all these treatments can control depression, they do not address the underlying causes associated with it. Furthermore, antidepressants can produce side effects such as Anxiety, palpitations, insomnia, high blood pressure, reduced libido, excessive sweating and rash.

Acupuncture and other modalities of TCM, can indeed be helpful for those who suffer from seasonal depression as they can bring the body to a more balanced state.


Dr. Peter Sheng
Cincinnati Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Care

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