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Posted on 11-12-2017

Acupuncture Treatment of  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression, is a debilitating problem that interferes with the quality of life of thousands of patients, especially during the fall, winter and early spring.

This syndrome seems to be a worldwide phenomenon and occurs cross culturally, especially in countries far from the equator. Clinical symptoms that reappear regularly with the seasonal changes include lethargy; difficulty concentrating; depression; negative thoughts; elevated cravings for carbohydrates with corresponding overeating and weight gain; hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness); tiredness in the morning; diminished libido; and decreased social interaction. Patients typically become more anxious by the end of the summer as they anticipate the coming months, during which less sunlight is present and their symptoms return.

My personal approach is to use acupuncture, herbs and lifestyle modifications to address the problem. While there are a core group of symptoms that patients share, each patient has his/her own medical history and clinical manifestations, mental or physical illnesses. If we treat the pattern that emerges - that is, individualize the treatment - best results can be obtained.

Advice for Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • With seasonal affective disorder, one may crave carbohydrates in the form of starches and sweets. If needed, consume breads, pastas and pastries made of whole grains instead of white flour. Add more protein to the diet such as nuts, lean meat, fish and small amounts of fat from cheeses or other sources; some fresh fruit; and plenty of cooked leafy vegetables, whole grains and baked vegetables such as yams or baked potatoes.
  • Exercise regularly by walking vigorously 20 minutes, 5-7 days per week, in the morning or when there is the most sunlight.
  • Work with lots of light by the windows to allow exposure to natural light.
  • Avoid overeating or gaining weight. Both will make you more tired and more sensitive and depressed.
  • Try to go to bed earlier and get up earlier when there are more daylight hours. Avoid naps during the day, which can interfere with sleep in the evening.
  • Think positive, happy thoughts. Try not to worry or be fearful. Enjoy the warmth of family, friends or any activity that brings "fire" to your life. Encourage the cultivation of joy in the patient's life.


  1. Flaws B, Lake J. Chinese Medical Psychiatry: A Textbook and Clinical Manual. Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO, 2001, p. 449.

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