Wintertime Blues? Maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
“Wintertime is comin’ Babe, the windows are filled with frost. I tried to tell everybody, but I could not get across.”
It Takes A lot to Laugh, A Train to Cry. Bob Dylan.
I will confess to enjoying my work. The laundry list of reasons is long, and not the purpose of this missive. Suffice it to say that as winter approaches I can become a bit ‘squirrely,’ or out of sorts, and uncomfortable in my skin. And I tend to think it’s my problem alone. Then people come into my clinic, reporting varying forms of emotional disequilibrium, and I think, ‘Oh, it’s not just me. There’s something else going on.’ Thank goodness for other people.
Which brings me to the reason for this post: The exciting news is that Acupuncture treats Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD), a form of depression that occurs in relation to the season. The symptoms seem to be worst in autumn months, although they can occur in springtime, manifesting as manic episodes.
Clinical symptoms include:
▪ Depressed mood (agitated mood in children).
▪ Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities.
▪ Carbohydrate cravings with corresponding overeating and weight gain.
▪ Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness).
▪ Social withdrawal.
▪ Fatigue or loss of energy.
▪ Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
▪ Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
▪ Diminished libido.
Some slough it off as just a case of the ‘winter blues,’ or ‘the blahs.’ But SAD can turn into a more seriously debilitating form of depression if left untreated. The most commonly used form of treatment is light therapy (phototherapy).
That said, Seasonal Affective Disorder also responds well to treatment with acupuncture, and lifestyle modifications that address the problem.
There is an acupuncture point located between the eyebrows (yes, it is where the ‘third eye’ is said to be located) that stimulates the pineal gland. The pineal gland responds to light and seasonal changes. When light levels are low, the pineal gland secretes melatonin, which helps regulate sleep and mood disorders. During seasons of low light, the pineal gland constantly produces melatonin, which induces a state of drowsiness. Needling that point stimulates the pineal gland, thereby decreasing both lethargy and ‘down’ feelings. One patient laughed when I called it the Happy point, and said, with a tone that I interpreted as one of relief, that it was perfectly named.
Adding other points to the protocol as needed, I’ve had success in treating SAD. Numerous patients have reported to me that their depression has eased, and that they are less anxious, while being more energized and engaged with life in general.
Lifestyle Choices And Seasonal Affective Disorder:
▪ Try and avoid carbohydrates in the form of starches and sweets.
▪ Walk vigorously 20 minutes, 4-6 days per week, in the morning or when there is the most sunlight.
▪ Maximize exposure to natural light.
▪ Manage your weight; overeating will lead to weight gain and depression.
▪ Try to go to bed earlier and get up earlier when there are more daylight hours.
Also–and this may sound terribly gratuitous on my part–try not to worry or let fear rule you. Enjoy the warmth of family, friends or any activities that can bring light into your precious life.
Daniel (Blue Phoenix)