Understanding and Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

How is SAD diagnosed?

Symptoms to look out for

Who is likely to get SAD?

  • It has been said too, that the closer a person lives to the equator, the less likely you will develop SAD. So a person living in places like California or Florida might not have symptoms and then start experiencing SAD symptoms when they move
    away to places that are not so temperate. One in every ten people are said to develop this SAD pattern during their lifetime. It affects 9.5% of people living in northern Finland and 9.9% of people in Alaska, but only affects 1.4% in sunny Florida, researchers say. This year’s winter in Moscow, people enjoyed just 6 minutes of sunshine in December compared to the 18 hours that they normally enjoy.
  • Research shows that women are actually four times more likely to have this problem over men.
  • The rates of SAD are also high for those who do night time and evening shift over those who do it during the day. Those people who work for extended periods without the sun in their lives like miners or those in submarines; are more likely to feel the effects of SAD.
  • Sometimes alcohol abusers or people with mood disorders are also at greater risk of developing SAD.
  • Strangely enough, there is a fascinating difference between people who are classified as having traditional depressive symptoms and those who have SAD symptoms when it comes to eating. Those with SAD are known to want to eat more, and they are inclined to gain weight with increased cravings for sweets and carbohydrates, whereas those who suffer from depressive symptoms usually have decreased appetite.
  • Research has taken place from the National Institute of Mental Health which believes that SAD occurs because people don’t have enough light. This led to the development of phototherapy, or light therapy, which has been shown to be very successful in treating those with SAD, 80% of whom noted that many of their symptoms were less after they were succumbed to as little as 4 days of full-on light therapy for just 2 hours a day. In hardware stores, you can find these full spectrum light bulbs with strengths of a minimum of 2500 lux.
  • Light therapy appears also to help people to reduce their appetite by reducing their cravings for food.
  • Light therapy was also known to elevate the moods of people with SAD and to improve their sleeping habits. It is unfortunate though, that those who have to stop using the light therapy after a couple of days start experiencing the same symptoms again. It is proven that consistency is needed to get relief from the symptoms. People need to make a point of being outside to expose themselves to natural sunlight when it is available in the winter months.
  • If you have SAD in winter you will probably feel like oversleeping; your appetite will change, with cravings for food with high carbs. You can possibly gain weight, and you will probably feel tired with low energy all the time. SAD in summer, sometimes known as “summer depression” could include trouble with sleeping, a poor appetite, anxiety, and weight loss.

It is still not known what really causes SAD

  1. When your biological clock (circadian rhythm) is disrupted. With reduced levels of sunlight, particularly in the fall and winter, SAD can “set in.” This is because decreased sunlight can disrupt the internal clock.
  2. Serotonin levels drop off: The neurotransmitters of your brain drop, and this can affect your mood and play a role in bringing on SAD. Reduced sunlight is known to cause a drop in serotonin which can trigger off depression.
  3. Melatonin levels are known to change: Changes in the seasons can disrupt the balance of the body’s levels of melatonin, and this can play a role in mood and sleeping patterns.

Are there risk factors to SAD?

  • You have a family history: People with SAD might well have family who has experienced SAD or other types of depression.
  • You have either had bipolar disorder or major depression. SAD can get worse if you have had any of these conditions.
  • You live far from the equator. SAD seems to be more prevalent in people who live far north or south of the equator, and it could be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and days that are longer in the summertime.
  • You withdraw from the social scene.
  • You suffer from problems at school, college, or work.
  • There is substance abuse.
  • You can suffer from further mental issues like anxiety or eating disorders.
  • Your behavior could be suicidal or you have suicidal thoughts.

You are what you eat

The best solutions

  • Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids will help to support the nervous system, cognitive function, and hormonal balance.
  • Plenty of the B vitamins to help the nervous system function at its best and to produce healthy hormones.
  • Probiotics for healthy gut flora, as mentioned above.
    It is imperative that you follow a well-balanced diet such as an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Restorative restful sleep is completely necessary if you are searching for health and happiness.
  • Don’t stop with your exercises: For some people, it’s not easy to go to the gym even when you feel good and even worse when you feel under par. if you want to be healthy, happy, and mentally fit, exercise is very vital. Exercises are actually proven to help with all the traditional types of depression and SAD is no exception. When you are active, you increase the chemicals in the brain that make you feel good, easing up on the depressive feelings and also brain fog. Just walking 30 minutes on a treadmill for 10 days in a row can significantly reduce your feelings of depression. Research shows too, that it’s the consistency of doing exercises regularly that is more beneficial for you than the length of your exercise routine or the intensity of it — when you get the most positive results — remember to keep moving.
  • Get outside. When you see the rays of sunshine, try and sleep with your curtains open to get the sunshine in. Your body and brain will thank you for this natural tonic, and it will be even better if you can do your exercises outside as well.

Another treatment is CBT

The Lightbox

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