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Lighten Up! How to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression caused by a lack of sunlight. It is most common in the winter months when sunlight levels are low with December, January and February being the worst months for seasonal depression. Some people experience SAD in the summertime also, but this is rare. Approximately 7% of the world population suffer from serious seasonal affective disorder and 17% suffer from a mild SAD form. Seasonal affective disorder can begin at any age, but is mostly evidenced in adults.

Seasonal Affective Disorder imageJust like fibromyalgia, and ADD (attention deficit disorder), Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a hard to diagnose and it is easily overlooked. Some people just feel the winter blues. Some get sluggish and have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. But, for some it is a serious, almost debilitating form of depression. And just like with regular depression, there have been cases ending in suicide, progression into different forms of depression and psychosis including manic depression, multiple personality disorder (schizophrenia), etc...

If you have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder you may or may not know that this is the same as seasonal depression.

The Seasonal affective disorder usually leads to a lowered immune system, leaving sufferers more vulnerable to the common colds and flu of the winter season. Some sufferers also exhibit bursts of manic activity during the Spring and Summer.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder Causes?

To begin lets first define how sunlight affects production of the hormone melatonin in human`s body. When the sun leaves for the night it gives a signal to the body to start producing and releasing melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel sleepy and helps your body shut down for the night. Then in the morning when the sun comes back, the light acts as a trigger for your body to stop producing and releasing melatonin which helps you wake up. This is the body's normal process for regulating sleep cycles.

In the winter months sunlight levels are much lower with the sun coming out later and going in earlier. For some people the winter sunlight level is not enough to stop the body from producing melatonin completely which usually lead to the onset of seasonal affective disorder.

Lack of sunlight affects you physically and of course it can affect you emotionally. And otherwise, because it affects you emotionally it will eventually affect you physically. Some people simply may be more sensitive to the cold and lack of light, such as people with poor circulation.

Cabin fever can also contribute to seasonal depression. When you are locked up in the house because roads are covered in snow and ice, it is easy to feel frustrated, irritated, bored, and trapped. These feelings can easily lead to cases of seasonal affective disorder and, if left untreated, into clinical depression.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms?

As far back as 1845, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was recognised. Until now it is not fully understood how lack of sunlight affects our moods but it seems to affect the body’s chemistry leading to a variety of SAD symptoms.

Seasonal Affective Disorder imageStudies have shown that depressed people are more sensitive to temperature extremes which some researchers have related to lower levels of essential minerals and salts in the body and brain. One of these is potassium. It has been proven that low level of potassium can cause severe migraines. Another is vitamin D and sun exposure - many researchers believe that the limited sun exposure and lower levels of vitamin D can bring on seasonal affective disorder all by itself.

The symptoms of SAD will occur annually every winter—as soon as the days grow shorter and the dark hours increase. The key indicators that person has seasonal affective disorder are:

1) Trouble Sleeping: Very often the person will suffer from the sleep disorders and will have difficulty staying awake. However, despite taking naps, person will also suffer from extreme fatigue. This is because often seasonal affective disorder sufferer will experience much interrupted sleep, with many moments of wakefulness breaking up the sleep cycle. Often this seasonal affective disorder symptom will be accompanied waking up too early in the mornings.

2) Lethargic State of Mind: In many cases, in addition to the fatigue, a seasonal affective disorder sufferer may reveal signs of having trouble taking care of everyday tasks. The daily routine will be disrupted by a lack of desire to do anything, but this is typically ignored as a result of the illness.

3) Overeating: Overeating is a very common seasonal affective disorder symptom. The SAD sufferer experience cravings, primarily for foods containing sugars and other forms of carbohydrates, this usually results in weight gain and can therefore prolong the symptoms of depression.

5) Anxiety: Seasonal affective disorder results in inability to cope with stress, (often stress is related to inability to perform everyday tasks), loss or lack of libido, and decreased communications with anyone, even family and friends. The sufferer often tends to avoid social contact with almost anyone; they also experience irritability, tension and frustration about any social situations.

6) Migraines: Migraines can be quite severe and usually hit their peak with drops in barometric pressure.

If one or more of seasonal affective disorder symptoms are spotted it is strongly recommended to seek appropriate medical advice. It could be something as simple as a chemical imbalance that a small change in diet could quickly fix. Sometimes a trip to a spa for a skin treatment can be enough to offset the SAD condition. Or it could be more severe. There is no reason to let this condition go on and suffer through it.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder Treatment?

There are some things that you can y do yourself to treat SAD or a seasonal depression.

1. Ggetting outside as much as possible is important. Even if all you do is go outside to clear the walkway or just stand on the porch for a few minutes, this can help. You don't have to be in direct sunlight just natural light during the day is going to be helpful.

2. Try to do some type of outdoor exercise. If you are not much for winter sports, you can just play in the snow with your kids or walk up and down the sidewalk to be outside. Regular exercise is also important as exercise always helps to alleviate the mood.

3. Watch you diet. We all tend to eat heavier fatty foods in the winter which tends to make us more lethargic and not wanting to get out and do things we normally would on a lighter stomach.

4. It is important to plan activities with friends and family during the winter months; staying at home and just watching TV will only contribute to your feelings of bored and depressed.

5. Changing your light bulbs to the type that imitate natural light can be effective. Keep your environment as bright as possible for as long as possible; avoid turning down your lamps until it is a night time. Likewise, turn on as many lights as possible in the morning to get your body believing that the daytime is here.

6. Experts think that some people need more light than others. Light boxes come in a variety of styles and some are very portable. They are also not expensive. So, you might need a light box for seasonal affective disorder in order to keep your moods more balanced.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Light Therapy

It is unknown why seasonal affective disorder only affects only certain people but for those it does there are treatments available. Light therapy is one of the most effective options with research suggesting that 85% of SAD sufferers will benefit from this type of treatment.

Using a light box for seasonal affective disorder has been called a light therapy. Light Therapy involves using a specially designed light box and being in a close vicinity to it for about two hours a day allowing it to work with your body to balance your mood. Usually it takes about 30 minutes of relaxed time, although some will prefer to take up to 60 minutes. For example, you could put the light box in your living room for two hours every evening. What the light does is penetrate to your pineal gland and helps trigger the endorphins and serotonin production to help improve your mood.

Recent studies say that light is most effective at 2500 - 10,000 lux. There are actually full spectrum light box for seasonal affective disorder on the market. It has the right amount of lux so you don't have to worry about it. If you suffer from seasonal depression, get a light box for seasonal affective disorder and see how good it works. Picture yourself sitting at the beach or other nice place if you have trouble sitting still for that long. Many people like to use light box for seasonal affective disorder in the morning, though it hasn't been proven that there is a certain time during the day that works better.


1 Responses to Seasonal Affective Disorder

  1. maya Says:
  2. Thanks for the providing a complete dictionary for the terrible disorder namely, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a kind of mood disorder or depression disorder that affects the person afflicted only on the particular season.
    Nice sharing of a great information.


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