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Homeopathic Perspective: Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Nancy Gahles, DC, CHC, RSHom, NA 

 


As one season changes into another, the shift in temperature and light can be a trigger to the sensitivities of some people.  The transition from fall to winter is a time that affects people who are sensitive to cold weather and darkness.  The way in which these sensitivities manifest is characteristic and called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs as a cyclical appearance of physical, mental and emotional symptoms that resolve after the season passes. It is most common in winter although it is seen in summer as well. Women appear to be the most affected although this may be due to the fact that many of the symptoms are mood based and women are more likely to seek help for this than men.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the chief complaints in Seasonal Affective Disorder are emotional including melancholy, depression, lethargy and therefore the acronym SAD is used to reflect this state. In the practice of homeopathy, the jargon the patient uses to explain their symptoms is called rubrics.  These rubrics are all represented in the homeopathic Materia Medica and, after consultation, are researched to select the appropriate remedy for the state the patient expresses.

Rubrics for SAD are:

*Sadness, melancholy

*Feelings of worthlessness

*Hopeless

*Despair

*Sleepiness

*Lethargy

*Craving for sweets

*Craving for carbohydrates

*Company aggravates

*Desire to be alone

*Music ameliorates

*Difficulty concentrating/focusing

*Thoughts of death or suicide.

(Note should be made that if a person suggests thoughts of suicide that he/she be referred to the appropriate doctor for consultation.)

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a brilliant example of the way in which a homeopathic remedy is compatible with the symptoms, in general, and the uniqueness of the person, in particular. The homeopathic Material Medica is replete with remedies containing these rubrics.  Individualizing the nature of the person is key to finding the correct remedy.

One remedy that I find presents itself very often is Aurum Metallicum, Gold.  Gold has long been associated with the Sun due to its color, brilliance and reflective qualities. It has been associated with royalty, value of currency and all manner of halos, diadems and trappings of authority. It is no coincidence that people who need the remedy Gold are very responsible, leaders in positions of authority. They are duty bound and serious about their “charges’ and the burdens they assume in caring for them. The expectations they put upon themselves are high and thus, any fall from this position creates a feeling of depression and despair. They strive to be the best and need to feel appreciated, thus they are sensitive to the slightest contradiction or dispute which can send them into a furious rage and then a fall from this height of emotion to a feeling of worthlessness or self condemnation. This will prompt them to go into seclusion, avoiding company.

In children, after the slightest perception of rejection, one might notice the withdrawal to their room, the “Do Not Disturb” sign prominently displayed and the music blaring.

The cause of this disorder is unknown although it is generally accepted that it is due, in part, to a lack of sunlight.  Conventional treatment includes use of a light box to gain more hours of full light spectrum exposure.  While little research exists to support the effectiveness, clinical results testify to its efficacy.  According to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, "the body creates vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, and during the winter vitamin D levels drop. For this reason, it seems logical that vitamin D supplements might help people with SAD. One double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted during winter on 44 people without seasonal affective disorder found that vitamin D supplements produced improvements in various measures of mood.1  However, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 2217 women over seventy failed to find benefit.12  It has been suggested that phototherapy for SAD works by raising vitamin D levels, but current evidence indicates that this hypothesis is incorrect.2" 

More research is needed in this area yet clearly there is a distinct connection between sunlight exposure, vitamin D levels and mood disorders.

Moods that are melancholic, sad and depressive are often thought of as heartbreaking, heartsick or heartbroken. Astrology and other traditions make this association between the heart and the sun.

“In Hermetic tradition gold is held to be part of a cosmic ‘functional’ triad comprised of sun, heart and gold as corresponding, synonymous entities.  It is noteworthy that the sun rhythmically ‘pulses’ in a way that is analogous to the heart.  It contracts and expands about .002% of its diameter (or about 3 kilometers) in approximately two hours and forty minutes.” (Psyche and Substance by Edward C. Whitmont).

Thus we see a connection between the sun, the lack thereof, and heart symptoms associated with this time of year. Heart attacks, heart pathology and the sadness of a broken heart are features of SAD.

Following the attack on the World Trade Center in September, 2001, I found a direct correlation with Seasonal Affective Disorder and the remedy Aurum Metallicum as the seasons changed into winter.  One case of a Captain in the New York City Fire Dept. illustrated all the rubrics of Gold. He was in the line of fire and a leader of men. He performed admirably and according to his position and duty.  By March of 2002, depression, fatigue and a deep sadness had set in. He said, “I get a deep feeling something bad happened and I personally have thoughts about families left behind and guys I knew. It comes with the territory. I feel a desperate feeling for the people I know and the layers left behind. There’s so much to do, to help the families. I feel responsible to help. I feel guilty that I should be doing more… My spirit is wounded. Part of me died. There’s a loneliness, a devastating loss. I feel like my stamina is down…I have a few blips in focus/attention..I feel like my heart is broken.”3.

Dr. Whitmont again describes this remedy beautifully, “Gold is the earthly representation of the Sun-, thus, the human imagination has associated gold with light and warmth, vitality and good cheer. The pathology of Gold fits personalities with serious, overresponsible and depressive character.  Usually, they are active and intrinsically strong people who feel they bear heavy responsibility, their will and felt call to control people and circumstances, as over the existential limitation they encounter.”

This Captain felt significant relief from the remedy Aurum Metallicum and one month later reported, “People say, “You’re glowing , man.  For a long time, I was missing something. This whole thing has been rejuvenating. I can’t remember feeling this way. It’s been a long time.  I feel like I am at cruising altitude again!”

This person who is susceptible to changes in seasons and who responded very well to Aurum Metallicum still requires repetition of Gold when his spirits fall in the winter or after the anniversary of 9/11.  We are who we are intrinsically and although we heal, we may do so in layers and over years. Our susceptibilities can be triggered at overwhelming times or occasions and it “comes with the territory” as this Captain wisely said.  

It remains our responsibility to be vigilant to those in our care, to carefully assess the presenting symptomatology and to listen with our hearts as well as our ears to the story beneath and to the person who is telling their story. In this way, true integrative cooperation can ensue and whole health be restored to the patient.

 


References 

3. Gahles, DC, CHC, RSHom, NA, Nancy. Homeopathy Today, September 2002, Vol.22, Number 8, "Hope and Healing, How homeopathy helped 9/11 survivors…what it can do for you,"

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