Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder with Massage Therapy at Thrive Healing Massage
As the summer months quickly turn into fall and later into winter, many of us dread the thought of shorter days and colder weather. While those are good reasons to dislike the coming months, other people have a more serious reason to fear the long winter months ahead: Fall/Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter depression).
Massage therapy has proven to be an effective part of a multi-faceted treatment and prevention protocol to combat the many physical and emotional problems caused by winter depression. At Thrive Healing Massage in Seattle, we leverage the relaxing and healing powers of massage to treat the symptoms of winter depression, and help make the fall and winter months not seem so long.
What is Fall/Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The American Psychological Association categorizes SAD as a mood disorder that is most often found in patients suffering from major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, though it can be present in others. The DSM-IV stipulates that for a patient to be diagnosed with SAD they must meet all of the following criteria:
• Significant mood changes that lead to depression during a particular time of the year
• The remission of mood changes and depression during a particular time of the year
• The same pattern of mood changes and depression must be present for at least two years
• Seasonal mood changes and depressive periods must outnumber other periods of depression throughout a person’s life
Seasonal Affective Disorder comes in two forms, fall/winter (winter depression) and spring/summer (summer depression). Symptoms of the mood disorder include:
• Loss of Energy
• Weight gain
• Increased cravings for sweets and carbohydrates (winter depression)
• Decreased concentration and creativity
• Social withdrawal
• Insomnia (summer depression) or Oversleeping (winter depression)
Treating Winter Depression
Winter depression is typically treated using a multi-pronged protocol. The most common aspect of a treatment program is bright light therapy that exposes the patient to intense light that simulates the effect of sunshine and acts as a mood enhancer. However, research suggests that symptoms of winter depression are actually related to our biological clocks and that makes controlling the symptoms more complicated than simply shining a bright light on the problem.
Lack of sunlight affects the pineal gland, found in the brain, and causes it to increase production of melatonin. In normal levels, melatonin is a hormone that helps us sleep; however, too much has been linked to depression. To combat the increased production of melatonin, patients suffering from winter depression are often prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), an anti-depressant drug. SSRIs help regulate communication in the brain and help minimize the symptoms of depression.
Unfortunately, SSRIs don’t always work, but more importantly, many people dislike the idea of taking anti-depressants due to the possible side effects associated with the drugs.
Patients that opt for a drug-free approach to managing symptoms have a number of options available, including:
• Dietary changes that add fruits and vegetables and remove processed foods
• Avoiding caffeine, processed sugar and practicing alcohol moderation
• Regular exercise
• Bright light therapy
Massage therapy has proven to be one of the most helpful parts of treatment protocols whether they include SSRIs as part of treatment or not.
How Massage Therapy in Seattle Helps with Winter Depression
Stress reduction stress is a primary part of every depression-related treatment program and massage is one of the best ways to relax the body and reduce stress levels. Massage helps relieve stress by relaxing the muscles of the body and balancing the endocrine system.
The endocrine system regulates how the body releases hormones into your system. By balancing the system, it is thought that massage can help reduce the production of excess melatonin. As noted above, melatonin is thought to be at least partly responsible for symptoms associated with depression.
While massage therapy may or may not help regulate the production of melatonin, one thing that research has shown is that massage helps increase the production of serotonin, the brain chemical responsible for mood regulation. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with winter depression. By increasing the production of serotonin that the body makes, it helps improve mood and potentially decreases the amount of melatonin the brain is able to absorb. The combination of more serotonin and less melatonin uptake by the brain helps stabilize mood and alleviate symptoms of depression.
Treating Winter Depression in Seattle
As beautiful as the Northwest part of the United States is, the long winters and dreary days in Seattle can wreak havoc on the systems of people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Massage is a practical and natural way to combat the symptoms of winter depression. The licensed Seattle massage therapists at Thrive Healing Massage in Seattle can help you overcome your winter blues with massage as part of a comprehensive treatment approach to dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
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