Acupuncture Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of seasonal depression that results in periodic episodes of depression, commonly during the autumn or winter months (1). Most people with SAD start to experience symptoms during autumn, and these symptoms continue throughout winter and tend to resolve by summer. The symptoms of SAD can include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the time
  • Low energy
  • Having problems sleeping (hypersomnia or insomnia)
  • Irritability (associated with anxiety)
  • Weight gain and change in appetite (particularly craving foods containing carbohydrates)
  • Feeling agitated or lethargic
  • Issues getting along with others
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection

The cause of SAD remains unknown, however it is hypothesized that it occurs as a result of reduced sunlight exposure that affects circadian rhythm and melatonin levels.

It is important not to ignore these symptoms and to seek help in treating SAD symptoms in order to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year. Acupuncture therapy is a natural and holistic treatment that can help to reduce the following symptoms of SAD:

Acupuncture for Depression

Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment to reduce the severity and symptoms of depression, which is a major component of SAD. Studies have shown that acupuncture for depression is able to successfully treat depression in the majority of cases by correcting energy imbalances through individualized treatment (2). Depression that occurs as a symptom of SAD can lead you to feel lethargic, lose interest in your daily activities and can even lead to suicidal thoughts, meaning it is important to seek treatment to resolve the symptoms of depression as soon as possible. Acupuncture for depression is a healing therapy that can treat depression alone, but it can also be used successfully in conjunction with other treatment methods (3). Acupuncture for depression also acts to relieve depressive symptoms by increasing the serum cortisol levels, which can help to counteract the changed pattern of serum cortisol levels often associated with depression (4).

Acupuncture for Insomnia and hypersomnia

People suffering from SAD often experience disturbed sleep patterns that contribute to feeling irritable and/or lethargic and being unproductive during the day. Acupuncture for insomnia is an effective way to treat insomnia by increasing sleep duration. Acupuncture for insomnia used in conjunction with medication was shown to be more effective in treating insomnia than medication alone (5). Overall sleep quality can be improved through acupuncture therapy, and is a valid non-pharmacological treatment method to improve sleep quality and pattern (6) to minimize fatigue/lethargy and maximize day time productivity.

Acupuncture for anxiety and irritability

Irritability is a common symptom of SAD and can have a negative influence on the relationships of individuals suffering from this symptom. Acupuncture for anxiety and irritability can help to reduce these symptoms and enable you to maintain strong and healthy personal relationships by providing individualized acupuncture therapy that reduces anxiety. Studies have shown that acupuncture for anxiety can decrease symptoms, is as effective as some drug therapies and comparable to cognitive-behavioral therapy for the treatment of anxiety (7).

If you are suffering from the symptoms of SAD, don’t put up with them; contact our acupuncture doctor Dr Tzu-ya Esther Huang at CityHealth today.

(1) Lurie, S. J., Gawinski, B., Pierce, D., & Rousseau, S. J. (2006). Seasonal affective disorder. American family physician, 74(9).
(2) Sudhakaran, P. (2014). Acupuncture for depression. Medical Acupuncture,26(4), 230-240.
(3) Zhang, Z.J., Chen, H.Y., Yip, K.C., Ng, R. and Wong, V.T., 2010. The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture therapy in depressive disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of affective disorders, 124(1), pp.9-21.
(4) Lee, S. C., Yin, S. J., Lee, M. L., Tsai, W. J., & Sim, C. B. (1982). Effects of acupuncture on serum cortisol level and dopamine beta-hydroxylase activity in normal Chinese. The American journal of Chinese medicine, 10(01n04), 62-69.
(5) Cao, H., Pan, X., Li, H., & Liu, J. (2009). Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 15(11), 1171-1186.
(6) Chen, M. L., Lin, L. C., Wu, S. C., & Lin, J. G. (1999). The effectiveness of acupressure in improving the quality of sleep of institutionalized residents.The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 54(8), M389-M394.
(7) Errington‐Evans, N., 2012. Acupuncture for anxiety. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics, 18(4), pp.277-284.

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