The days are shorter, the nights are longer, it’s already dark when you’re driving home from work — it’s no wonder that our bodies start reacting to the lack of light! For some, change of seasons can trigger depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects over ten million of us in the United States each year, two-thirds of which are female, but males may have symptoms that are more severe. For many, the symptoms start in the fall and carry on through the winter, although some people do suffer seasonal depression in the spring or early summer. While the true cause of SAD is not known, it is commonly thought that decreased melatonin levels caused from the limited exposure to sunlight in the winter are involved, as well as decreased serotonin levels which may trigger depression. Our biological clock (circadian rhythm) which lets our body know when to sleep and to be awake is also disrupted when the seasons change and may cause feelings of depression.
Other factors that may contribute to SAD include genetics, hormones, and stress. Whatever the cause, SAD causes people to suffer irritability, headaches, extreme fatigue and lethargy, increased appetite, carbohydrate cravings, an inability to concentrate, and decreased libido. Yay, change of season!!
As with other types of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder can get worse and lead to serious problems if it isn’t treated. These can include suicidal thoughts or behavior, social withdrawal, school or work problems and substance abuse. In certain conditions, medication and psychotherapy may be necessary, and the advice of a physician should be heeded.
The traditional methods of treating Seasonal Affective Disorder usually involves light therapy. Light therapy is based on the theory that increasing exposure to bright lights will increase the levels of melatonin in the body. 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. When these side effects are added to the original symptoms that weren’t pleasant to begin with, it’s understandable that people would be looking for an alternative therapy for this disorder.
Treating depression with acupuncture has a positive and holistic effect on depressed patients, and avoids the potential side effects of traditional medication. Besides the reaction to the lack of light, depression may also be the result of a “dysregulation” of the seven emotions — joy, anger, worry, contemplation, grief, fear and shock. If acupuncture is able to reestablish a balance among these emotions, the symptoms of depression are relieved.
Acupuncture can be very helpful for those who suffer from seasonal depression as they can bring the body to a more balanced state, and even prevent complications.
Besides acupuncture, it is also helpful for people to stay active — without overdoing it, and ensure that they have proper nourishment, rest, and time for introspection. It’s important to reach out and stay connected to those close to us, but it is also important to take the time to reflect inwards — as the seasons change, so do we, and there is opportunity for growth!
For more information on how acupuncture can help you attune to the seasons, check us out at www.ctacupuncture.com
Like our Facebook Page!
Give us an old fashioned call!