To everything, there is a season. Our physical and emotional health is no exception. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is nationally recognized during the month of December, is an example of how a change in seasons can affect our wellbeing.
Between 4 and 6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from SAD. It is more commonly observed in those who live at high latitudes (areas farther away from the equator to the north and south). Seasonal changes are generally more extreme in these regions, supporting the idea that SAD is caused by changes in sunlight availability.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur during summer with limited symptoms such as weight loss, trouble sleeping and decreased appetite. Winter symptoms tend to be more severe. They include fatigue, increased need for sleep, decreased energy levels, weight gain, increase in appetite, difficulty concentrating and increased desire to be alone.
The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine states that, "People and nature are inseparable." The winter months, which represent the height of the yin cycle and the water element, can cause those whose constitution tends toward yin to feel the effects of this season more acutely. Energetic imbalances, which are associated with emotional and physical disturbances in the body, can become more pronounced after a change in weather and sunlight. Western medicine currently treats seasonal affective disorder with light therapy and sometimes with antidepressants. The downside to these therapies is that they carry side effects such as eyestrain, headache, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, palpitations, high blood pressure and reduced libido. Also, these therapies do not address the underlying problems, but merely offer symptom relief.
Acupuncture, which has shown promising results treating depression by releasing serotonin and noradrenaline-norepinephrine, has no side effects. Together with a treatment plan created by a licensed acupuncturist, acupuncture can improve balance of mood and energy, relieving the patient from the burdens of a depressed, unbalanced system.
To learn more about Chinese medicine and Seasonal Affective Disorder, please visit the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine at www.PacificCollege.edu.