Published on March 1st, 2017 | by Karen Schweiger,0
Seasonal Affective Disorder & Touch Therapy
If the winter season fills you with an overwhelming sense of anxiety and trepidation, you may very well suffer from some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mental disorder that is both medically recognized, and which affects millions of people on a global scale.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
You might have guessed from the given name of the medical condition itself, but Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of recurrent, clinical depression which occurs once a year during a particular season. According to Mayo Clinic’s official definition, SAD is related to changing seasons, and occurs and ends at the same time every year. This disorder usually develops at the beginning of fall, and peters out as winter comes to a close.
Research regarding this type of major depressive disorder first came to light in 1984, when a research paper was published by Norman D. Rosenthal and his associates at the National Institute of Mental Health. Drawing inspiration from his own peculiar mood slumps during the winter season, Rosenthal was able to pioneer a diagnosis and identify a cause that still stands viable today. In fact, his proposed model of phototherapy concurrently exists as the primary treatment option for individuals suffering from SAD, although alternative remedial methods, such as touch therapy, may proffer equally advantageous levels of relief and therapeutic treatment.
Both clinical depression and SAD share similar symptoms; an individual experiencing the mood disorder is likely to feel increasingly irritable, agitated, fatigued, tense, and hypersensitive regarding social interaction. Furthermore, the disorder may result in oversleeping or insomnia, weight gain or an unhealthy loss in appetite, and fluctuating emotions.
What causes SAD?
SAD stands as a primary, instinctive response toward not receiving adequate sunlight, as well as experiencing certain biological changes. As the fall and winter seasons roll into our radars, the days become shorter, and nights become longer. Due to the sun setting hours earlier than it normally does, you will receive a significantly reduced amount of sunlight on a daily basis. Rosenthal’s original theory – that the decreased availability of natural light during winter days causes circadian rhythms to alter – might still hold true when assessing this specific disorder. In essence, a circadian rhythm refers to your biological clock. Your clock is given 24 hours a day in which to carry out physiological actions. A sudden and significant change in the amount of sunlight you receive per day, or how well your body adapts to freezing temperatures, may disrupt this biological clock, resulting in feelings of agitation, restlessness, and depression.
Moreover, sunlight doles out healthy amounts of serotonin and melatonin (brain chemicals which govern mood and sleeping patterns respectively). If you only receive a few hours of weak sunlight per day, the levels of both such neurotransmitters drastically fall, resulting in psychological changes during the winter months.
You might also take into account variables such as skin hunger, and increased feelings of isolation; the holiday season carries a heavy burden for the social introverts and singletons of the world. Where it may seem as if the very earth is bursting with joy and togetherness, your loneliness may become pronounced and enabling feelings of inadequacy to surface.
For those suffering from springtime SAD, feelings of disappointment may cause the mood disorder to develop. Usually, individuals are indoctrinated with the idea that a new year translates into better social and financial standings. When such changes do not immediately occur, countless individuals experience disappointment, insufficiency, and a loss in motivation.
Though it may seem appealing to draw the blinds and huddle in a corner, cutting off human contact and allowing yourself to sink into depressive thought, try to resist the urge. It may seem easier said than done, but you may draw strength and motivation from understanding how you may not be as alienated and steeped in loneliness as you might imagine yourself to be.
Exploring touch therapy for SAD
Nearly 20% of individuals in the United States alone experience some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. How can alternative touch therapy, or even a wholesome cuddling session, help in reducing your levels of SAD? Touch therapy primarily deals with sating a very basic need for human contact and is beneficial in alleviating loneliness and promoting a connection; relieving tension and helping with relaxation; managing stress; decreases anxiety; enhances sleep quality; reduces fatigue and provides greater energy levels; improves concentration; increases circulation; strengthens the immune system; and, reduces pain.
Consider booking a session which will be tailored to your particular needs.
Karen Schweiger, owner of In Your Arms, has over 25 years of experience in the customer care industry and is a certified, professional cuddlist. See ad on page 17.