Seasonal Affective Disorder
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
SAD is a seasonal pattern in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience symptoms of depression in the winter or summer. "About 5 percent of adult Americans are thought to have winter seasonal affective disorder; researchers estimate that fewer than 1 percent have its summer variant."*
What are the symptoms of SAD?
Symptoms of SAD include difficulty getting up in the morning, nausea, overeating, oversleeping, and weight gain. Additional symptoms might include a lack of energy, problems with mental tasks (like problem solving or concentrating), depression, anxiety, irritability, and a loss of libido.
What causes SAD?
Researchers are not positive what causes SAD. Some speculate that the increased production of melatonin might be the cause. "Seasonal depression in the winter seems linked to increases in the production of melatonin, a chemical that helps set the brain's daily rhythm, set off by the decrease in light."* However, that does not explain those who get depressed in the summer time when light is plentiful.
What can I do for my SAD?
Some people are able to fight off the symptoms of SAD with a variety of treatments. Others are not so lucky. Here are some things you can do to help lessen the effects of SAD:
• Light Boxes: There are light therapy boxes that mimic sunshine. Some patients have found that sitting in front of these light boxes for 30 minutes per day can help stimulate your body's circadian rhythms and feel better.
• Dawn Simulators: Similar to alarm clocks, these devices wake you up gradually by slowly increasing the intensity of light in the room.
• Talk to your Doctor: Your doctor might be able to give you certain medications that will help with SAD.
• Exercise More: Exercising can help release endorphins which will naturally improve your mood. If you can't go outside because of the snow, try a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine.
• Open a Window: Letting natural light into your home can help to lessen the effects of SAD.
• Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule: Beyond getting enough rest to begin with, sticking to a sleeping schedule can help alleviate depression.