Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a surprisingly common mental health condition experienced by an estimated 5% of the general population. While various treatments can help address SAD, acupuncture is an underutilized but effective tool to relieve patients of this challenging mental health condition.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
People affected by SAD experience symptoms of depression during particular seasons, more commonly during the winter months, especially in parts of the world where sunlight is limited to just a few hours per day. For example, in the United States, SAD is far more common in New Hampshire than in Florida. Those who experience other mental health conditions, especially depression, are more likely to experience SAD in addition to their typical symptoms.
The symptoms of SAD are often quite similar to those experienced with other depressive disorders. They can include low mood, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, irritability, loss of interest in even favorite activities, feelings of despair, anxiety, and more. In extreme cases, people with SAD may experience suicidal thoughts, underscoring the importance of treating this condition, no matter how brief an episode.
How can acupuncture be used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
While standard treatments such as antidepressant medications, light therapy, and traditional talk therapy should not be discounted, acupuncture targets the neurochemical imbalances at the root of SAD. The primary neurotransmitters involved in SAD are thought to be melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone triggered by a lack of sunlight that causes you to feel tired. In the winter months, when there are fewer hours of sunlight and people are more prone to stay indoors because of the cold, melatonin levels in the body may increase.
Serotonin is the "feel good" chemical in the brain that regulates sleep and appetite. Sunlight contributes to serotonin production, so the same conditions that lead to more melatonin at the same time lead to less serotonin. This combination can ultimately lead to the development of SAD.
Acupuncture addresses melatonin and serotonin imbalances while regulating the production of other neurotransmitters involved in mood, sleep, and appetite, such as dopamine and cortisol. Acupuncture stimulates blood flow and energy to targeted areas of the body by inserting small, painless needles at indicated skin points.
By releasing blockages, key organs—primarily the brain, in this case—receive the blood and life force needed to adequately and appropriately produce these essential chemicals. When neurochemicals are in balance, mood balance is restored, alleviating symptoms of SAD and other mental health conditions.
Whether you are experiencing a case of the winter blues, or a full-fledged SAD diagnosis, acupuncture is a safe and effective tool for supporting mood regulation and treating mental health challenges. At Deanna Carell Acupuncture, our experienced acupuncturists have the experience and knowledge to tailor this ancient healing method to your individual needs. Contact us today to learn more about how acupuncture can help you.
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